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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Happy Days is a landmark '50s-set sitcom (which originally aired from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s). It's squeaky clean, especially by today's primetime standards. Although the show is definitely still funny a few decades down the line and will appeal to adults who remember it fondly, today's kids may not be able to relate to some of the scenarios it portrays and may find the dialogue trite or cheesy. It also idealizes the '50s in a way that a modern audience might not care for.
What's the story?
Set in a sanitized, idealized version of the 1950s, HAPPY DAYS centers on the life of the middle-class Cunningham family and follows the ups and downs they weather together in Milwaukee, Wisc. One of TV's truly classic comedies, it originally aired from 1974-1984 and is responsible for several spin-offs (including Laverne & Shirley), as well as one of pop culture's most iconic characters: Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) began his TV life as a local thug, but he quickly morphed into the Cunninghams' family friend, growing particularly close to clean-cut son Richie (Ron Howard). Richie's parents -- hardware store owner Howard "Mr. C" Cunningham (Tom Bosley) and homemaker Marion "Mrs. C" Cunningham (Marion Ross) -- hold down the fort, while Richie and his younger sister, Joanie (Erin Moran) cope with growing up. Rounding out the group are Fonzie's cousin Chachi (Scott Baio) and Richie's buddies Ralph Malph (Don Most) and Potsie (Anson Williams).
Is it any good?
This show has always been perfect for family viewing, but the dated settings and situations may conspire to have tweens and older kids leaving it off their personal must-see list.
Among the scenes that take place at the local drive-in and diner are situations that revolve around comic confusion and misunderstanding, which is still a popular plot device in today's sitcoms. But what you'll see on Happy Days is a lot more innocent than what might appear on an ensemble sitcom like Friends or Cheers. In one episode, for example, Ralph and Potsie go to great lengths to hide the fact that they left the Cunninghams' gate open, allowing Fonzie's new dog to escape.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how TV has changed over the years since Happy Days aired. How are the situations seen in shows from the '60s and '70s different from what's onscreen today? Are the underlying problems the characters deal with all that different, or it is just that viewers have gotten more accepting of crass dialogue and mature situations over the years?
How does the show idealize the '50s? Is the show any less appealing because of that idealism? What might a more realistic '50s-set sitcom be like?
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