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Happy Days on DVD: Season 1 • Season 2 • Season 3 • Season 4

"Happy Days" The Fourth Season DVD Review

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Show & DVD Details

Creator/Executive Producer: Garry Marshall / Producers: Thomas L. Miller, Edward K. Milkis, Jerry Paris, Tony Marshall / Director: Jerry Paris

Repeat Writers: Joe Glauberg, Arthur Silver, Marty Nadler, Steve Zacharias, Tony Di Marco, David Ketchum, Fred Fox, Jr., William Bickley, Michael Warren, Bob Brunner

Regular Cast: Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham), Henry Winkler (Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli), Marion Ross (Marion Cunningham), Anson Williams (Warren "Potsie" Weber), Donny Most (Ralph Malph), Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham), Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham)

Recurring Characters: Al Molinaro (Alfred Delvecchio), Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero), Michael Pataki (Count Mallachi), Ken Lerner (Rocco Mallachi), Dick Van Patten (Asst. Principal Marvin Conners), Paul Linke (Bruiser), Doris Hess (Tina), Kelly Sanders (Lola), Lynda Goodfriend (Kim)

Notable Guest Stars: Ceil Cabot (Nun, Teacher), Larry Golden (Butch), Bill Idelson (Doctor), Udana Power (Louisa Corrigan), Christina Hart (Kitty), Jennifer Shaw (Cindy Kendall), Conrad Janis (Mr. Kendall), Charlene Tilton (Jill Higgins), Marc McClure (Jimmy Bradkip, Roger), Arthur Batanides (Louie), Alan Oppenheimer (Mickey Malph), Ed Peck (Sheriff Kirk), Paulette Breen (Angela Buvay), Diana Hyland (Adriana Prescott), Peter Hobbs (Mr. Dugan), Charles Galioto (Andrew "Angie" Fonzarelli), David Ketchum (Coach Pelino), Kim Lankford (Sheena Dubois), Nancy Walker (Nancy Blansky), Sally Hightower (Sylvia, Mary Lou), Pat Morita (Arnold), Jason Wingreen (Principal Haley), Danny Butch (Spike), Warren Berlinger (Sgt. Betchler), Linda Kaye Henning (Lt. Quinlan), David Zooey Hall (Herbie the Turk), Eddie Mekka (Carmine Ragusa), Erin Blunt (Wilbur), Jack Dodson (Mickey Malph), Christopher Norris (Sheila)

Running Time: 633 Minutes (24 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
Season 4 Airdates: September 21, 1976 - March 29, 1977
DVD Release Date: November 27, 2007; Clear Standard-Width Keepcase
Suggested Retail Price: $40.99; Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)

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In Season 3, after experiencing a sophomore slump that probably had more to do with CBS' Tuesday night programming than anything else, "Happy Days" returned to the types of ratings numbers it earned in its shortened first season.
In Season 4, "Happy Days" soared in popularity, becoming the #1 rated program on television with an estimated average audience of over 22 million viewers. In second place: the show's spin-off "Laverne & Shirley" in its first full-length season.

One needn't hear the boisterous studio audience's response to "Happy Days" to recognize its abundant appeal. This Garry Marshall-created 1970s ABC sitcom had something for everyone with its depiction of a middle class, middle American family of the late 1950s. Teens of either gender could relate with or at least appreciate the comedic adventures of the focal adolescent males. So could their pre-Baby Boom parents, who would have been around the same age as the young protagonists in the period portrayed and now fell into the same age bracket as the prominently featured Cunningham parents. For younger children permitted to tune in at 8:00 Eastern/Pacific on a school night, the idyllic proceedings must have seemed especially cool and accessible. Grandparents and those old enough to be them may also have found more to like here than in other popular shows of the time, having raised their own spawn in the celebrated era.

The two leads of "Happy Days", Richie (Ron Howard) and the Fonz (Henry Winkler) have a meeting of the minds at a pinball machine. Arnold's favorite band -- Potsie Weber (Anson Williams), Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), and Ralph Malph (Donny Most) -- takes on an Irish flavor for their performance at the Al O'Delvechio St. Patrick's Day Dance.

Warm, nostalgic, and ceaselessly entertaining, "Happy Days" continues in its fourth season (1976-77) to focus on Milwaukee's Cunningham family and their small circle of friends. As portrayed by top-billed Ron Howard (who grew up on "The Andy Griffith Show"), polite All-American boy Richie Cunningham remains the heart and logical center of the show.
But it is the breakout character living above his family's garage, iconically played by second-credited Henry Winkler, who is very much the real star here. I'm talking, of course, about "The Fonz." High school dropout, mechanic, rebel, and good to his core, Arthur Fonzarelli holds the utmost prominence in nearly every Season 4 episode, reflecting the personality's sky high popularity to an even greater degree than before.

Fonzie is truly one of television's all-time most fascinating characters. (Bravo named him fourth in a 100 greatest characters Thanksgiving 2004 countdown.) Surely, no fictional creation embodies "cool" quite as wholeheartedly. A protector of his friends and his own image, the Fonz is a threatening, influential hero. Living out some male fantasy without a hint of immaturity, he beckons a new girl or two or six at every snap of the fingers. Making polygamy as endearing as it can be with the Aloha Pussycats and no shortage of other comely love interests, Fonzie can delight audiences with his mere appearance or the utterance of his signature syllable. If aliens come to our planet at some point, Fonz is probably their best bet at a rich small screen subject worth studying.

There's more than just Richie's horse sense and the Fonz's savoir-faire. The two are regularly joined by parentally underloved musician "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams) and redheaded comedian of the group Ralph Malph (Donny Most). Though they stand chiefly as comic relief, these two characters have enough substance and hints of soul to justify their ample screentime.

Meet Alfred Delvecchio (Al Molinaro), the owner of Arnold's Restaurant beginning this season. Night school valedictorian Arthur Fonzarelli addresses a distinguished audience, including assistant principal Dick Van Patten, at Jefferson High School's graduation.

In the Cunningham living room, which along with hamburger hangout Arnold's is one of the show's two favorite settings, our attentions often turn to Richie's parents. The father, Howard (Tom Bosley), is increasingly the subject of fat jokes this season. His standing in the fez-wearing Leopard Lodge seems to matter more to him than his career as a hardware shop owner. Housewife Marion (Marion Ross) has neither a social outlet nor a paying job to define her, but she's so at home with the kids and family you hardly notice. The parents are there primarily to provide guidance and to underscore the generation gap. They achieve both without being too fuddy-duddy, broad, or square, thanks in no small part to the natural, comfortable delivery of their actors. Howard especially reveals himself to be overprotective of their younger teenage daughter Joanie (Erin Moran), who's eager to grow up and evidently influenced by the unseen Jenny Piccalo.

Joining the cast in Season 4 is Alfred (Al Molinaro), an agreeable, large-nosed, Italian-American restaurateur who takes over Arnold's. The character replaces the diner's Chinese-Japanese namesake (The Karate Kid's Pat Morita), who makes one guest appearance here and would return again as a recurring character in Season 10.

The fourth season opens with a 3-part story that claimed 90 minutes of airtime during the show's first two weeks of episodes in the fall of 1976. The arc introduces Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly), a serious love interest to Fonzie who shares his tough attitude and sense of adventure. Though she would vanish along with a broken engagement, her male counterpart stays in the spotlight throughout. Even Richie, Potsie, and Ralph's graduation from Jefferson High School becomes about Fonzie when he secretly plots to earn his diploma alongside them. This two-part graduation occurs pre-St. Patrick's Day for apparently no reason other than to correspond with February sweeps.

They may not be the stars of the show, but Tom Bosley and Marion Ross rank among the best sitcom parents of all-time. Fonzie walks into Arnold's with half a dozen of the legendary Aloha Pussycats by his side. Aaay!

Season 4 is not too concerned with period accuracy, although it does throw out the occasional reference. Sex talk increases, though true to a wholesomeness at least retrospectively perceived, this rarely exceeds mere suggestion. Throughout the year, "Happy Days" flirts with corniness, a fact that everyone involved with it seems aware of. And yet, it always avoids crossing a line. It may be sentimental or contrived at times, but never here does it give reason for our support to waver. Were a present-day show to take a page from the "Happy Days" playbook, I think it'd probably rub many folks the wrong way, myself included. Whether it's this show's sincerity or the three decades that have passed since the season's debut, it always manages to remain likeable and effervescent.

In contrast to past "Happy Days" releases and most Paramount/CBS' complete sitcom season DVDs, this Fourth Season pushes compression by fitting the ten hours of content onto just three discs. With no evident downside to that decision, why not? Unfortunately, it hasn't contributed to a lower list price. With a suggested tag of $40.99, Paramount's The Fourth Season set is not only a little more expensive than Seasons 1-3 initially were, it's also pricier than just about any half-hour show not carrying the HBO or BBC logo.

On the plus side, music appears not to have been replaced here. The usual package claim about music substitution is nowhere to be found from the commendably-open Paramount. The case does, however, state that "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions." If they are, there's no evidence of it and runtimes consistently wind up in the neighborhood of 25½ minutes. Though 1950s songs reportedly featured most in the show's laugh-track-free first two seasons, there are a number of familiar melodies noticeably cleared here. Some are prerecorded, others are performed by band lead singer Anson Williams. Among the tunes heard: "(You've Got) Personality", "Splish Splash", "Sh-Boom", "All I Have to Do is Dream", "Yakety Yak", "Que Sera, Sera", "Bye Bye Love", "I'm Walkin'", "Mona Lisa", and, Richie's recurring anthem of exuberance, "Blueberry Hill."

Synopses of the DVD's episodes follow. As usual, a star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season.

Fonzie and Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly) are both bikers and lovers, as this montage dissolve illustrates. The Mallachi Brothers Michael (Ken Lerner) and Count (Michael Pataki) are Fonzie's competition in the 3-part demolition derby season premiere. No one on "Happy Days" seems to notice when guest stars like Lerner return with new identities. Fonzie tries therapy from a shrink (Bill Idelson) in "A Mind of Their Own", in which he dons a calming blue T.

Disc 1

1. Fonzie Loves Pinky (Parts 1 & 2) (47:18) (Originally aired September 21, 1976)
All eyes are turned to a demolition derby, on which Howard serves as emcee and Richie announces for local television.
Fonzie is reluctant to let his girl Pinky Tuscadero compete as his partner in the derby against the relentless Mallachi Brothers.

2. Fonzie Loves Pinky (Part 3) (25:34) (Originally aired September 28, 1976)
Upon finishing the derby, Fonzie heads to the hospital to see Pinky, whom he gives serious thought to marrying.

3. A Mind of Their Own (25:33) (Originally aired October 5, 1976)
At Richie's advice, Fonzie sees a shrink to deal with his excess hostility. A mellow, birdhouse-making Fonz emerges.

4. Fonzie the Father (25:03) (Originally aired October 19, 1976)
While Richie's parents and sister go away, he and Fonzie welcome a very pregnant young woman (Udana Power) as a houseguest. This ends setting up the "Laverne and Shirley" episode that followed (which would have made a nice bonus feature).

After Potsie saves his life, Fonzie feels obligated to honor his request to be pals. Hence, the roller skating rink outing. Posing as the owner of Fonzie's pad with music and libation in hand, Richie's found his thrill on Blueberry Hill with Cindy Kendall (Jennifer Shaw). Joanie and an exhausted Fonzie are taunted by rival couple Jill (Charlene Tilton) and Bubba (Gary Epp).

5. Fonzie's Hero (25:34) (Originally aired October 26, 1976)
After Potsie saves Fonzie from a garage fire, he's entitled to one request. His choice: to be Fonzie's pal.

6. A Place of His Own (25:34) (Originally aired November 9, 1976)
To impress the new girl in town, Richie convinces Fonzie to let him pose as the owner of his cool pad for a night.

7. They Shoot Fonzies, Don't They? (25:32) (Originally aired November 16, 1976)
A dance marathon at Arnold's proves to be an especially challenging endurance test for Fonzie, who as promised serves as Joanie's partner, even after pushing his motorcycle for 12 miles. The episode ends with the dance famously sampled in Weezer's "Buddy Holly" music video (which also would have made a sweet extra).

Incognito as a Scandinavian exchange student janitor, Richie discovers not only meat fraud, but also Fonzie's extreme fear of liver in "The Muckrakers." It's a Christmas miracle as Richie pulls off a meeting and impromptu photo shoot with the Wisconsin Cola Girl (Paulette Breen). Fonzie and latest love interest (Diana Hyland) follow up their country club tennis match with a piano duet.

Disc 2

8. The Muckrakers (25:33) (Originally aired November 23, 1976)
Richie uncovers cafeteria malfeasance in a report for the school newspaper. When he decides to mention Fonzie's fear of liver in a follow-up article, Richie must choose between caving to censorship or losing his friendship.

9. A.K.A. The Fonz (25:33) (Originally aired November 30, 1976)
Wanting Fonzie out of his town, the new sheriff begins cracking down on other insufficient citizen infractions.

10. Richie Branches Out (25:33) (Originally aired December 7, 1976)
Obsessed with the Wisconsin Cola Girl poster, Richie tries to arrange a meeting with the model by posing as a hardware company ad executive.

11. Fonzie's Old Lady (25:33) (Originally aired January 4, 1977)
Fonzie hits it off with a well-off, slightly older woman (Diana Hyland) and even learns to play tennis for her. All seems to be going well, until Fonzie learns something amiss.

Ralph Malph (Donny Most) poses next to a 1950s mannequin couple while locked in Howard's hardware shop vault. Fonzie is among the excited Arnold's crowd looking on as his normally klutzy cousin Angie (Charles Galioto) tries to set a world record for catching quarters off his elbow. Mrs. Cunningham (Marion Ross) becomes a waitress at Arnold's in "Marion Rebels." Funny, they never seemed to have servers there before!

12. Time Capsule (25:36) (Originally aired January 11, 1977)
While preparing a time capsule, Richie, Potsie, Ralph, Fonzie, and three girl students accidentally lock themselves inside the vault at Howard's hardware shop.

13. The Book of Records (25:32) (Originally aired January 18, 1977)
Fonzie gets his klutzy cousin Angie (Charles Galioto) a job at Arnold. With $100 as an incentive, Al tries to get his patrons to set a new world record at his restaurant.

14. A Shot in the Dark (25:35) (Originally aired January 25, 1977)
Summoned from the basketball team's bench, Richie makes a game-winning shot. Suddenly, he's adored by his school and feared by opposing ones.

15. Marion Rebels (25:35) (Originally aired February 1, 1977)
Craving some excitement, Marion gets a job as a waitress at Arnold's. Her presence there and objection to unhealthy eating have the guys soon figuring out how to let her go.

Potsie (Anson Williams) sings at the Jefferson High Senior Prom surrounded by a kaleidoscope of color. The pants might come off, but the leather jacket stays on, as Fonzie explains to Sgt. Betchler (Warren Berlinger) in "The Physical." Joanie to stop the big gymnasium brawl her actions have brought about. With Carmine "The Big Ragoo" Ragusa (Eddie Mekka) already crossing over from "Laverne & Shirley", I think she's too late.

Disc 3

16. The Graduation (Part 1) (25:34) (Originally aired February 8, 1977)
With ample pressure from Richie's friends, Mrs. Cunningham lets out where Fonzie has been going three nights a week. At the prom, Fonzie lets out a bigger secret: he's planning to graduate alongside the seniors!

17. The Graduation (Part 2) (25:34) (Originally aired February 15, 1977)
After everyone passes a final exam, the few remaining obstacles are cleared for Fonzie to receive his diploma alongside Jefferson High's graduating class and deliver his speech as night school valedictorian. The speedy ceremony brings back a couple of past "Happy Days" characters in the attending Arnold and Fonzie's young cousin Spike.

18. The Physical (25:34) (Originally aired February 22, 1977)
Richie, Potsie, Ralph, and Fonzie get their army draft notices and must attend a physical exam orientation session administered by a difficult sergeant (Warren Berlinger).

19. Joanie's Weird Boyfriend (25:34) (Originally aired March 1, 1977)
Joanie falls in with Herbie the Turk (David Zooey Hall) and his tough Red Devils gang. Richie's attempt to rescue her leads to a big school gym brawl.

Howard (Tom Bosley) and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) give their collaborative garbage-compressing creation The Gulper a test run in "Fonz-How, Inc." Running a gambling racket has gotten the plaid-coated Ralph into trouble with Bruiser (Paul Linke), who really wants the $80 he's owed. The Fonz sees Baptism as the way to his salvation in a season finale you wouldn't see today. That's Alfred's twin brother Fr. Anthony Delvecchio performing the sacrament.

20. Fonz-How, Inc. (25:24) (Originally aired March 8, 1977)
Howard enlists the handy Fonzie to develop what he hopes will be a revolutionary invention: The Gulper, a garbage-compacting device.

21. Spunky Come Home (25:36) (Originally aired March 15, 1977)
When Fonzie's new dog Spunky goes missing, Ralph and Potsie try to hide the fact they're to blame.

22. Last of the Big Time Malphs (25:32) (Originally aired March 22, 1977)
Ralph starts his own football gambling pool. Like any sitcom episode vice, this one gets him into trouble.

23. Fonzie's Baptism (25:26) (Originally aired March 29, 1977)
Newly concerned by his mortality, Fonzie considers lives of safety and recklessness, before deciding to get baptized by Alfred's twin brother the priest (played too by Al Molinaro).

It's hard to miss the impact of Fonzie's popularity in a scene like this, where everyone in town opts for his trademark ensemble of white T, blue jeans, and leather jacket. With fly swatters for rackets and their floral couch for a net, the Cunninghams teach Fonzie how to play tennis in a precursor to Wii Sports.


"Happy Days" is naturally presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen. The picture quality is pretty good, but it's not entirely pleasing. Some scenes really don't look so hot. You'll notice a digital artifact from time to time and certain moments look rather grainy (typically, establishing shots, location ones, and certain close-ups). I have no doubt that more extensive and expensive efforts would yield some improvement. But on the whole, this feels like a clear upgrade from the last set.

The two-channel Mono soundtrack is pretty good as well. There is vitality to the music and though the dialogue always shows signs of age, it is always easily discernible, even when it's been awkwardly looped. That makes the studio's usual lack of English subtitles a little easier to forgive.

Dubbed a special feature, the Happy Days Third Anniversary special centers on Howard and Marion's 20th anniversary. Joined by guest Nancy Walker, the show's core cast watches as Howard hands Marion a special present. Saxophone-wielding Ron Howard/Richie Cunningham claims the menu of Season 4's first disc, which divides the season-opening 3-parter into two episodes, as originally aired.


As on the previous season's DVD, the only designated special feature is the year's anniversary show. "The Third Anniversary Show" (24:33) celebrates Howard and Marion's 20th wedding anniversary. Dialogue during the secret preparations and the surprise party itself cue clips from the first three and a half seasons of "Happy Days."
The Cunninghams also welcome Nancy Blansky (Nancy Walker of "Rhoda"), the cousin who paired up the couple. The highlights are arranged in a fairly random fashion, so that it often takes a few moments to figure out if we're in the past or present. This episode debuted in between two ordinary Tuesday ones on Friday, February 4, 1977. It is, of course, absolutely welcome, but as an essential part of Season 4, it pretty much had to be included. Once again, it's the least sightly show on the set.

It's disappointing that more isn't done for a sitcom of this stature. Even something as simple as picking a different cast member for each season and sitting them down for a brief interview would add considerable value and help justify the comparably high list price.

Each disc's menu features a leading character photo against a bubbly animated backdrop while the theme song loops in full. There are only four menus across the three discs, which in the absence of set-up options and bonus features, is just fine.

As usual for the studio, when Disc 1 loads, it gives you the choice to play previews or jump right to the main menu. Should you opt for the former, you're treated to promos for classic Paramount TV comedies, "I Love Lucy": The Complete Series, "Becker": The First Season, and "Evening Shade": The First Season.

Packaged in a standard-sized case with a double-sided swinging tray, the DVD makes use of its keepcase's transparency by aptly printing episode synopses and original airdates on the reverse side of the cover artwork.

Fonzie gives this DVD's lack of genuine bonus features a rare two thumbs down rating. Fonzie can't skate, but he sure can dance. Right into America's hearts. On ABC.


"Happy Days" is one of the best examples of a family sitcom done right. It definitely doesn't reinvent the wheel, nor does it try to. Instead, embracing the conventions of the thrifty, dialogue-driven format, it constantly entertains us with winning characters, sharp wit, and amusing situations. The Fourth Season is probably the series at its best. It's not the show it started as. It's not the show that it would become with time and cast departures. Nope, this is the "Happy Days" that people seem to know and love best.

Next in line is the 3-episode premiere responsible for the phrase "jumping the shark", so if you deem that a drop-off point as many now do, this could be your stop on a "Happy Days" DVD ride that should continue for several years and seven more seasons. Unfortunately, Paramount hasn't done too much to sweeten the set holding arguably the sitcom's creative apex. Picture and sound are adequate, but the price is high compared to competitors, bonus features are pretty much a no-show, and a disclaimer means there's a chance an edit could be spotted. Still, we would both be remiss to outright dismiss this release of a crowd-pleasing chapter in TV history.

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Reviewed December 11, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1976-77 Paramount Pictures and 2008 CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.