Monday, February 3, 2014

Spin Off It, Happy Days! Eyyy!

"These days are ouuuuuuurs!"
I hated Spider-Man 3 and, between you and me, will only see The New Adventures of Old Spider-Man (or whatever the new one staring Friend From Social Network is called) if the PhGeek crew goes along.  It is, you see, podcast fodder, and a chance to hang out.  Furthermore, it seems that Sony has decided to follow Paramount's Star Trek model: keep squeezing blood from the stone.  But is it too soon?  Perhaps--though it isn't my hundreds of millions of dollars, and the fact that I'm vaguely open to seeing it (at the movies, on iTunes, or as a freebee Redbox rental) suggests that it isn't too soon.

What would have been too soon is the spinoff--and worse, a concurrent spinoff.  The greatest offender of this?  None other than... HAPPY DAYS.

That's right: the cheery show upon which I grew up watching the syndicated reruns; the show that painted its smiling picture of midwest, mid-century Americana.  It was, during its time, a hit-making machine, whereby any possible show was connected to it for spinoff glory and gold.  Consider, if you will, that Happy Days was on for eleven seasons.  How many spinoffs could come from that?  The shocking answer: a whopping seven series, though, as you'll see below, the number might rightly be called eight.  Blood from the stone?  How about separating the stone into little pieces, then getting blood from the stone?

Ice pop this time, next time....
The first spinoff was Laverne and Shirley, and it certainly didn't spin very far: whereas Happy Days took place in late 50s/early 60s Milwaukee, both Laverne and Shirley live in... early 60s Milwaukee.  Indeed, the connection between the two shows was organic, as the gals were friends with Fonzie, and easily introduced on the mothership show.  Further, appearances by Fonzie et al were made exceedingly easy, given that they were in the same local (and indeed, next door neighbors on their sound stages).  The show lasted 8 seasons (albeit without Shirley, but still called Laverne and Shirley, for most of the last season).  Ironically series finale was a backdoor pilot for an unproduced spinoff... of a spinoff.
The second spinoff started to stretch things.  It starts with a freshening premise: Happy Days season 5, needing a new idea, takes a twist on My Favorite Martian with "My Favorite Orkan," in which Mork from Ork visits chaos upon Richie... albeit under the "and you were there, and you were there" hook of it being all a dream.  The character was so popular that the spinoff Mork and Mindy was created... this time setting the show in the contemporary 1970s, thereby closing the door to cross-series interaction--or so you'd think.  With the creation of the show, a new scene was shot to be added to reruns of "My Favorite Orkan," explaining that Mork would be going to 1978 to continue his research.  In essence, more Mork was retconned into Happy Days.  Further, Mork went back to the past in a later Happy Days episode... to facilitate a clip show.   Mork and Mindy lasted four seasons; interestingly, it was the #3 show on television in its first year.

The third live action spinoff (why live action?  Just wait, dear reader....) was the ill-fated Joanie Loves Chachi, of which neither she nor we did.  It seemed well stocked, for not only did Joanie Cunningham and the proto-Fonzie and cousin-of-the-same Chachi make the leap from the mothership to a new show, but so did Chachi's mother Louisa and stepfather and owner of Arnold's drive-in, Al.  Yet lest Scott Baio be nailing a decade's worth (or two) of Playmates or playing Charles, ever in charge, he's not much of a draw.  The show lasted two seasons--which is to say, a scant 17 episodes en toto.  The mothership-to-spinoff characters were returned to Happy Days the following and final season.

Fourth, we come to Out of the Blue, whose existence as a spinoff seems debatable--if one cares to debate it. First, a description from its Wikipedia page: "The series stars Jimmy Brogan as Random, an angel-in-training who is assigned to live with (and act as guardian angel for) a family and work as a high school teacher." Yes, I'm sure it's as awful as it sounds.  Further, it seems that somewhere along the way, its spinoff launch went sour.  The second episode of Happy Days' seventh season is called "Chachi Sells His Soul," wherein he interacts with sed angelic Random.  The only problem is that Out of the Blue, as a series, started over a week earlier.  The show lasted one season of 13 episodes... of which 9 were aired.

Least, but certainly not last (why not last? Just wait, dear reader...) is Blansky's Beauties, which has quite the sloppy little start.  First, a bit about the show.  The show's premise was the Blansky was a den mother of sorts to a bevy of Las Vegas showgirl beauties.  Yes, I'm sure it was thrilling.  A week before the show aired, title character Nancy Blanksy appeared on Happy Days.  Not so difficult, is it?  The only problem is that her own show took place in the late 1970s--thus without the virtue of Mork-esque time travel, the show spun off without aging 20 years.  This sloppy time warp continued: the motorcyclist and ladyfriend of Fonzie named Pinky appeared in Blansky's Beauties, albeit with 70s hair but no aging; further, Arnold of Arnold's drive-in, became a series regular here--again, having not aged at all.  Lastly, while not strictly sloppy time travel, two actors from the show would move to Happy Days, albeit as different characters... including Scott Baio, who turned into the afore-metioned Chachi.

And now we have completed the live action spinoffs.  But wait, there's more: the wonderful, strange world of Happy Days ANIMATION.  There were three shows... which sound like less, but were not.  First is the innocuous-sounding The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, featuring the voices of the Fonz, Richie, and Ralph.  And more.  As per the Wikipedia article, "The cartoon added an anthropomorphic dog, Mr. Cool, and a girl from the future, Cupcake, to the cast as they travel through history in a time machine, trying, as narrator Wolfman Jack put it, ' get back to 1957 Milwaukee.' Let's just repeat that, shall we?  They take the gang from Happy Days and add... Mr. Cool, a dog, and Cupcake, a future girl.  It's an embarrassing notion.  It lasted two seasons and 24 episodes--not a bad run for animation before syndication and cable. 

But that wasn't the end for animated Fonz, nor for Mr. Cool.  But first, we must turn our attention to the animated Laverne and Shirley, in which they joined the army.  Anthropomorphicism ruled, for the ladies served under the command of Sgt. Squeel, a talking pig.  That series lasted one season and 13 episodes... but still, spinoffs did not end!

Finally, truly, we come to an odd creation, an hour-long creation called Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour, made up of two parts: Mork and Mindy's animated adventures (called simply Mork and Mindy), and a second half called Laverne and Shirley with the Fonz).  In the latter portion, Fonz and Mr. Cool are part of the army motor pool.  At long last, talking pigs and dogs were serving in the army.  Sadly, and oddly, the latter portion didn't last too long, as the actress playing Shirley left both her animated and live action realm, shuttered the animated series after 8 episodes.  However, the animated Mork & Mindy lasted 24 episodes... leading the whole entire hour to recycle its second half for a total of three cycles.

And that seems like the best way to end the topic of excessive spinoffs: with an animated hour, itself a spinoff of... how many spinoffs? The animated hour came from two other animated shows, each, as wells at the Mork animation, sourced from three main shows, two of which were spinoffs themselves from Happy Days....

But did I mention that, strictly speaking, Happy Days was a spinoff?  The unsold pilot for New Family in Town aired on Love, American Style under the title Love and the Happy Days... which was spun-off to become... Happy Days.

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