I was watching TV the other night, just flipping channels, when I came upon a really old “Happy Days” episode I hadn’t seen in years. It must have been one of the first ones they made because Richie’s older brother, the one obsessed with basketball, was in it. I think he went away to college after the first season, never to be heard from again.
Anyway, the basic plot was that Mr. C. wanted to spend a quiet, peaceful Christmas Eve at home with just his family and no one else. They were going to trim the Christmas tree, pop popcorn, roast marshmallows in the living room fireplace and sing a few Christmas carols. Just a simple old-fashioned Christmas celebration.
Before the festivities began, Mr. C. and Richie had to go somewhere, and the family car broke down. Naturally, they asked Fonzie to fix it, which he did. Fonzie told them he was going to take a bus to Waukesha to spend Christmas with his cousin and his family. They have a 9-foot Christmas tree, he told them, with an unbelievable spread of food and a ton of presents.
Of course, you knew he was just making it all up to cover up the fact that he was going to be alone for Christmas. To avoid blowing his cool cover, he didn’t want anyone to know and feel sorry for him. The question was how long it would take the Cunninghams to figure it out.
It was one of those shows you knew as soon as it started what was going to happen.
In the end, the Cunninghams, under the guise of needing electrical work done on a Santa figure in their front yard and on the lights of their Christmas tree, managed to trick Fonzie into “canceling” his family plans and spending the night with them. The show ended with Fonzie reading “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
By today’s standards, the show was very unsophisticated, even simplistic. There were no hand-held cameras switching from one character to another with near-nauseating speed. None of the actors, who had obviously never heard of method acting, ever sat on the sofa and talked directly into the camera about their problems. Then there was the dialogue, which was so unrealistic it was downright corny in places.
I couldn’t help feeling sorry for any young kids who may also have been watching it. I’m sure they were confused. There were no double entendres or adult subject matter disguised as acceptable prime time entertainment. There was no vulgar language or disgusting body noises. Not once did Richie or Fonzie or Mr. C. speak to, or even make a reference to, any of their private parts, much less crack a joke about them. There were no put-down jokes or cracks making fun of anyone else in the show.
The characters in the show were actually nice and thoughtful and not trying to get anything over on the others.
And then there were these rather long gaps between commercial breaks, which were a little confusing. No sooner were you reaching for your remote to change the channel during a commercial than the show was back on again.
There was so much show, in fact, you almost got tired of watching it all.
No, they don’t make TV shows like that anymore.
And isn’t it a shame that they don’t?