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Monday, November 3, 2014

'Joanie loves Chachi (Chachi Chachi)' CS DVD: No Sex or Drugs But Rock and Roll

Product Details
Making it onto the press list of CBS Home Entertainment is a terrific bonus for this site that celebrates all "unreal" things escapist. The uber-awesome catalog of this studio includes DVD releases of the all-time classic '70s sitcom "Happy Days."

This series of ongoing reviews kicks off with the two-season 1982-83 "Days" spinoff "Joanie loves Chachi." Upcoming reviews will include the "jump the shark" and "Mork" fifth season of "Days" and the seventh and eighth seasons of the "Days" spinoff "Laverne and Shirley."

The most important thing about "Joanie" is that, arguably like series star Erin Moran, the industry (and the public) have given this decent show a raw deal. Very few would argue that this 17-episode series is a classic, but the program standing alone is worth watching. Additionally, its place in "Days" lore adds terrific value.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the opening credits of "Joanie" provide a good sense of both the wonderfully goofy '80s-sitcom style of this show set roughly 20 years earlier and the level of attraction that the leads shared when Joanie really did love Chachi.

The premise of "Joanie" is that recent high school graduate Chachi (nee Charles) Arcola has recently left fellow recent graduate and best gal Joanie Cunningham (little sister to "Days" Richie) and the rest of the gang in early '60s Milwaukee behind to live with his widowed mother Louisa and her new husband "Days'" diner-owner Al Delvechio above their restaurant in Chicago. Moran plays Joanie, teen idol Scott Baio plays the (frequently bare-chested) Chachi, John Travolta's real-life sister Ellen plays Louisa, and Al Molinaro plays Al.

Ala "Gilligan's Island," most of the rest of the cast is simply identified as "the band" and only warrants having their names quickly flash during the closing credits.

As an aside, Travolta goes onto once again play Baio's mother in his subsequent series "Charles in Charge." However, the Lembeck-like Robert Pierce from "Joanie" does not play the goofball best friend role in the later series.

The "Joanie" pilot has the titular couple reuniting and Miss Cunningham (No Ms. in the '60s) literally joining the band. Most of the remaining episodes have the leads dealing with issues of pursuing their music career, struggling with the trials and tribulations of late-adolescence love, Chachi essentially contending with not advancing beyond being a lovable dolt while Joanie is evolving through college activities, and general sitcom wackiness.

In true spinoff style, Cunningham parents Howard and Marion from "Days" show up a couple of times to ensure that their little girl remains both safe and pure.  Henry "the Fonz" Winkler adds greater star power by showing up in the (admittedly weak) S2 season premiere that has Chachi's band lying about the relationships among the band members to land a television gig.

Two spoilers are that neither "Days" spinoff hit characters Mork or Laverne and Shirley never visit Joanie and Chachi. A cross-over involving all four series would have made sense but would have been too much to hope for. The late Robin Williams' Mork would have gleefully eaten Pierce's spacey Bingo for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

A not very salacious but cute S2 "Joanie" episode highlights all of Baio's assets by having him and Joanie bluffing regarding him posing nude in an art class that she is taking from a hunky professor. Like so many screen couples before and after them, Moran and Baio do their best when they are playfully bickering.

Another good episode has the band playing a fraternity party only to have Chachi engage in a hilariously borderline G-rated contest with an obnoxious frat boy. Seeing Baio once again do a good job in the role of comically jealous boyfriend and his motley crew (truly, no pun intended) clash with the college crowd makes for good comedy.

The series finale is not particularly grand but does portray good development and has funny moments. A nice (and amusing) role-reversal scene in this one has Joanie sneaking into the bedroom of Chachi to whisk him away to elope. His commenting on waking that her saying "no" is consistent with her behavior in his dreams is particularly cute.

As most "Days" fans know, having Joanie and Chachi regularly visit "Days" during the "Joanie" run and ultimately reintegrating the couple into the former is the chosen solution for the shortcomings in the latter.  The well-known sad part regarding that demise is that doing the show simply became tough when Erin no longer loved Scott.

Anyone with questions or comment regarding 'Joanie' or any "Days" series is welcome to email me or connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.