Garry Marshall John J. O'Connor - Essay

John J. O'Connor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Happy Days" is a little more than the same old Henry Aldrich sandwich, dressed with the salt of more "relevance" and the store-bought mayonnaise of nostalgia. Taking its cue for potential success from such movies as "American Graffiti," the series is set in the nineteen-fifties and features the experience of a naive and cute-as-a-button teen-ager named Richie Cunningham….

Richie and his friends are supposed to be "revealing of the relatively carefree life and life styles of young people in those bygone, happy, innocent days." But of course those days were neither more happy nor more innocent than any other days. That's the trouble with nostalgia. It's dishonest. And within the context of a situation comedy it's more dishonest than usual….

For all of its innuendoes, the show is well-scrubbed.

All of this is set in standard time-machine gimmicks. "Rock Around the Clock," blares from the juke-box at the local drive-in "passion pit." The boys have short hair, the girls favor ponytails. The dialogue is dotted with lines like, "Man, oh, man, you got it made in the shade." It's still Henry Aldrich, updated with nostalgia.

John J. O'Connor, "'Happy Days' and 'Chopper One' Prove Familiar Fare As A.B.C. Entries," in The New York Times (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), January 17, 1974, p. 79.∗