Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi

Happy Days (1974-1984)
Joanie Loves Chachi (1982-1983)
Type: Spin Off
Group 4

    Around 1982 Hollywood got a new idea for testing out new shows. See, if they only made a pilot for a show, there was no way to judge if the TV audience would like the show or not before committing to a lot of episodes of a show that might flop. So the idea was hatched to give shows a test run of about four episodes. If the audience went for them, they could then be renewed for a full season the next year. This is how Perfect Strangers came to be, An example of a failure in this format would be Police Squad, the quickly cancelled series from the makers of Airplane and later the basis for The Naked Gun movies. Falling right between these extremes is that famous Happy Days spin off flop Joanie Loves Chachi.

    Here's the premise. On Happy Days, Chachi Arcola worked for Al Delveccio who owned of Arnold's restaurant. Al met Chachi's mom Louisa, they fell in love and got married. Next thing you know they, along with Chachi, are moving from Milwaukee to Chicago to start up a new restaurant on a new show. Chachi's girlfriend from Happy Days Joanie Cunningham followed after them. In the first four episodes it was just for a short stay but by the start of the show's first and only full season she had moved permanently. Joanie and Chachi worked at a music career, playing music with their band at Al's restaurant.

    While the trial run went great, by the time Joanie Loves Chachi was picked up for a full season, people seemed to have lost interest and it was gone at the end of the season.

    I have to question the move to spin these characters off when they did. They were the heart of Happy Days at this point. Joanie's older brother Ritchie and his friends, the original stars of the show, were long over with. Ritchie and Ralph's characters were gone from the show. That left just Potsie Webber who was getting more and more to be an idiot and more annoying than amusing. And he had no one to play off of the central cast was now much younger than he was and all the older characters seemed too smart to want to associate with such a moron. And Fonzie was still too cool to be seen with such a dweeb. But even Fonzie was getting a little long in the tooth. No longer the young rebel, he was now a teacher, owner of a car repair garage and part owner of Arnold's Restaurant. And lets face it, nice though they might be, no one was tuning in for the rollicking adventures of middle aged Howard and Marion Cunningham.

    To fill the void left by Joanie and Chachi's departure, Happy Days brought in a number of new characters. Suddenly Howard's niece K.C. had moved in with the Cunnighams. When Ritchie left, Marion's nephew Roger had been brought onto the show and now his younger brother Flip was introduced. When you start bringing in tons of cousins to fill gaps in the cast, it's a bad sign. Happy Days started seeming very old and I think that feeling carried over to all the shows connected with it. If Happy Days isn't worth watching, why would you tune in to Joanie Loves Chachi? The only positive addition to the cast was the reintroduction of Arnold the original owner of, duh, Arnold's Restaurant. He returned to buy back Al's half of the restaurant.

    After the cancellation of Joanie Loves Chachi, Joanie, Chachi and Al all returned to Happy Days as regulars (Chachi's mom had never been a regular and went back to showing up infrequently). The cousins got canned. When they returned to Happy Days, Joanie no longer loved Chachi and for the rest of the series run Chachi was desperately trying to win her back. He succeeded just in time for the series finale when Joanie and Chachi were married. Awwwww.

    As a side note, the creator of both shows, Gary Marshall, has said a number of times in interviews that in a certain language Chachi is the word for...err... well... the thing that actually makes a man a man. So, in countries speaking that language Joanie Loves Chachi was a HUGE hit. If there was a show on American television called, say Susie Loves Penis, wouldn't you watch?

Other Happy Days Crossover Links
Happy Days and Blansky's Beauties
Happy Days and Laverne And Shirley
Happy Days and Love American Style
Happy Days and Mork And Mindy
Happy Days and Out Of The Blue

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