Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The ORIGINAL must-see TV

Tuesday nights in the Hunt household circa late-1970-something were sacred. Not for my folks, who undoubtedly would have preferred a game of Yahtzee or having their normal grown-up friends over for Parchese and bridge mix and gin martinis. No, Tuesday nights were my night, my friends.

Two reasons:


I have no idea why two TV shows set in 1950s Milwaukee and based off a George Lucas movie I never even saw at the time resonated so much with a kid whose closest connection with rock 'n' roll culture was watching Sha Na Na's variety show, but they sure as hell did. I know your first response is "well, it's the Fonz, right? Everybody loved the Fonz." But I was probably the only kid in America who didn't*. I was all about Potsie, who, in the initial seasons of the show, was set up to be the breakout star. Potsie was a smart-ass -- the ladies loved him despite his obvious wussiness, mostly 'cause he knew his way around a wisecrack. Richie was hapless, Ralph Malph was just cuddly, but Potsie was cool. Occasionally naive, frequently stupid, but cool -- and all without ever being remotely tough.

Oh, and god, did I love this girl:

Suzi Quattro as Leather Tuscadero. I mean, duh!

I actually dug "Laverne and Shirley" more, and I have even less idea why. I wasn't Italian or Jewish, I didn't live in Milwaukee, my parents weren't remotely working class, and I wasn't, as far as I know, a single woman of "a certain age." Mostly, I think, I had a little crush on Laverne. Not Shirley -- Laverne. She wasn't sexy, really, but she was so damn dry. She could kill someone from 50 feet with a well-placed piece of snark. And there was something about those buck teeth that just slayed me. I still like buck-toothed girls. And redheads. And fake redheads. And girls with initials on their sweaters.

I watched those two damn shows until they were run into the ground -- I weathered the original shark-jump, the departure of Richie Cunningham, the departure of Shirley (kinda rendering that show obsolete, no?), the arrival of Mork from Ork, and -- gahhh! -- the addition of Ted McGinley to the cast. Once they were cancelled, it was never the same. Oh, sure, like every kid in the 70s and 80s I watched "Mork and Mindy." But it wasn't sacred. I didn't care if I was interrupted during Jonathan Winters' hatching from the giant egg. Didn't bother me in the slightest. And every other "must see" night since then has absolutely paled in comparison.

*I mean, not that the Fonz wasn't awesome. Henry Winkler was the best Jew-playing-an-Italian in TV history. It was more like, less love.


Superbadfriend said...

Loves me some Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley!

I was a Postie lover myself. The Fonz was kind of mean. Potsie made me laugh and he was HOT!

Did Brook tell you about the time we cast Al Molinaro in our commercials?
Good times. Good times.

Jon Hunt said...

Oh, I heard ALL ABOUT Al Molinaro!!

LAP said...

Fonzie in the first season was actually cool, because he was behind the scenes and wore a light blue windbreaker that was just like James Dean's red one. But c'mon- Potsie was the singer, who was sweller? I totally identified with the episode with Joanie's crush.Also I was born in Milwaukee, so I would make my dad drive past the Pig n' Whistle, since he swore it was the drive in that Arnold's was based on.

Needless to say, I sort of thought I was Laverne DeFazio from the moment I saw the L on her sweater. I would even drink milk and Pepsi. She was tough AND a doofus.

Jon Hunt said...

I did the milk and pepsi thing too. Not awful, really! Not unlike Rudy Boschwitz' flavored milk at the State Fair.

Jeffrey M. Rosado said...

ABC Tuesday nights, man. Water cooler memories, or in my case, commons area/lunchroom fodder....I can still remember the initial promos for Happy Days where Richie tries to tell his dad how many "teeny weenie glasses" of beer he had at a frat mixer: "72".

I completely agree about Anson Williams/Potsie. He was such an unsung part of that show even after the emergence of Winkler and often times stole the such instance that comes to mind? The episode when Rich, Malph and Potsie are trying to get out of the Cunningham's bathroom while held captive by a burglar....Potsie's brilliant retort to the burglar to let 'em out? "I gotta go to the bathroom!"

Best Happy Days episode ever? Where Ralph runs over Fonzie's bike....Great writing, superb performances by all. Loved the part where Fonz feels confident he can repair the damage...for about five seconds... only to exclaim, "I may be the best, but I'm not Oral Roberts!"

I liked the first couple of seasons of Laverne and Shirley, but it kind of became a parody of itself and was like tolerating an opening act at a concert as I awaited the far funnier Three's Company, the brilliant ensemble of Taxi and if I remember right, Starsky and Hutch.

Only other night that may have compared as "must see" TV back in the day? CBS' mid 70's Saturday line-up of All In The Family, MASH, MTM, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett.

David Taylor said...

Dude, I hate to break it to you, but Anson Williams was the single most annoying thing about Happy Days!

Other than tv-vampire Ted McGinley, but that was much later.

Mimi NY said...

aw geez, this is beyond me. i am befuddled by your popular culture knowledge. let me get back to something i know and understand, like the love boat! x

Jon Hunt said...

What, you guys didn't have Happy Days in the UK?

Oh wait -- YOU WEREN'T EVEN BORN YET!!! That's even *more* depressing!!

motherface said...

FYI---exterior Cunningham residence:

Mimi NY said...

i watched happy days, but the other stuff is confusing....

Jon Hunt said...

Yeah, I'd figure Laverne and Shirley wouldn't necessarily translate.

cheryl said...

A definite HUZZAH on the H.D and L and S tip. These shows (and Sha-Na-Na btw) so definted my pre-pubescent evenings! Reruns and all! Oh, and LOVED Potsie!! Thanks for finally brining HIS ASS out into the open J!! Leave it to you!!