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Saturday, December 20, 2014

'Happy Days' S6 DVD: From Dude Ranch to Potsie's College Musical

Product Details
The CBS Home Entertainment 27-episode 4-disc DVD release of S6 of the '70s sitcom set in the '50s (and '60s) sitcom "Happy Days" is among the titles that rounds out a 2014 surge of releases of "Days" and its spinoffs. This is a nice treat considering that the releases of these shows and seasons, including the reviewed "Joanie Loves Chachi" and especially awesome "Mork and Mindy" complete series set, are long overdue.

One generally notable element of the "Days" series is that series creator/producer Garry Marshall shares that setting this show about nuclear family the Cunninghams and their friends (including '70s icon Fonzie) in the '50s (and subsequently the '60s) prevents it from ever looking dated. On a similar note, it SEEMS that the DVD episodes contain all of the original music from the episodes.

The S6 season premiere continues the "Days" tradition of beginning the season with an epic story arc. One example of this practice is the "Jump the Shark" arc in the recently reviewed S5 DVD set.

The adventure that kicks off S6 is clean-cut all-American boy/incoming college sophomore Richie Cunningham, played by future film director Ron Howard of "The Andy Griffith Show," and his family and friends spending a summer at the Colorado dude ranch of mother Marion Cunningham's Uncle Ben. The primary reason for the journey is to help Uncle Ben with the struggling business and prevent the evil neighboring ranch owner from foreclosing on a mortgage.

The daring feat that "fearless" Fonzarelli faces in this one is riding a wild bull long enough to win prize money to pay off the mortgage. The conflict that Fonzie and BFF Richie experience relates to a pretty ranch hand who seems to prefer the latter over the former despite the effectively supernatural magnetism that the sexiest man in '50s Milwaukee exerts over women.

This story arc additionally establishes the next stage in the development of "Days" before the "new class" takes over in S8. The increasing sense that Fonzie has magical powers that begins with the S5 episode "My Favorite Orkan" that pits him against Mork in the first television appearance of that character continues with Fonzie controlling a group of horses with a literal snap of his fingers.

This story arc further solidifies Richie's buddies/classmates Ralph Malph and Warren "Potsie" Webber as the low-brow comic relief similar to that provided by the creepier and less intelligent Lenny and Squiggy of the "Days" spinoff "Laverne and Shirley." The schtick at the dude ranch includes Potsie and Ralph dressing up as prospectors, complete with a mule.

Finally, high-school aged little sister Joanie gets more fully into the act by increasing the extent of her chaste dating life. Her hunk hunt here lands her a studly ranch hand.

Things take a dark turn (no pun intended) when the gang returns to their home turf of Milwaukee. An accident blinds Fonzie, who must learn to cope with his disability. Although the "Days" writers follow the '70s sitcom model of resolving this "sit" by the end of the episode, a modern show likely would have made it a multi-episode story arc.

Other S6 episodes with mature themes that reflect the primary characters entering adulthood revolve around Fonzie closely bonding with the young son of a woman whom he is dating and surprisingly dirty politics regarding a college election in which Richie is running.

S6 further brings Fonzie cousin Chachi, played by the dreamy Scott Baio, more into the action both by having him play drums in a band with Richie, Ralph, and Potsie and by increasingly having him hang around with the gang. Seeing this charming young guy emulate his cousin regarding making time with the ladies is entertaining.

The two most absurd episodes pit Fonzie against gangsters; he first fights the efforts of the wise guy known as the Claw to muscle his way into the "Arnold's" hangout, which series regular Al Delvecchio owns. A later special two-part episode pits Fonzie against a counterfeiter known as the Candyman.

The Candyman episode, which features a guest appearance by "Night Court" star Richard Moll (who also guest stars in two "Laverne" episodes), is notable for having a plethora of guest stars from the "Days" universe. It also is more unrealistic than the "Shark" episode and arguably is one of the worst offerings from the Richie era of the series.

Another memorable episode in which a visiting French fencing expert duels with Fonzie provides Fonz portrayor Henry Winkler a chance to showcase the sword fighting skills that he almost surely develops while a theater student at Emerson College and/or the Yale drama school.

The season wraps up with a fun episode that will get the very catchy tune "Pump Your Blood" stuck in the head of anyone who has seen this college musical. The story involves otherwise good student/singer Potsie having difficulty in the anatomy class of a harsh professor.

The solution, courtesy of Fonzie, is for the gang to compose the aforementioned addictive ditty that includes the information that Potsie must retain to pass his final. Personally getting a high grade in a college physics class thanks to principles featured in reruns of '60s fantasycom "My Favorite Martian" mirroring course material throughout the semester attests to the validity of using instruction methods to which a student can relate.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Pump" video will bring a smile to your face (and may help you pass your anatomy final).

The bonus feature in the S6 set consists of a hilarious fifth anniversary "Days" clip show featuring special guest-star Robin Williams from the aforementioned "Mork." Williams steals this episode in which Richie uses flashbacks from prior "Days" episodes to assist Mork with the campaign of the latter to understand various aspects of human relationships. The aforementioned review of the "Mork" CS DVD release addresses this episode, which is one of a handful of special features in that set.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Days" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.