An Unfortunate Episode: Happy Days “American Musical”

The final topic for the essay: personal hardships. Fonzie remembers that Roger’s grandfather is from Russia. According to the story, he traveled the Russian countryside on a borscht wagon (hmm), then walked across the entire breadth of Europe to set sail for the US. The personal hardship: sensible shoes leaving your family forever.

We flashback to late 19th Century Russia, with Ted McGinley playing his character’s grandfather and Tom Bosley and Marion Ross playing his parents. The song is basically “You’re gonna make it, gonna make it, gonna make it _____, in America.” They aren’t breaking the bank on lyrics for this episode. This is immediately followed by the mother singing a poem to her son. I don’t know who Marion Ross pissed off, but this is the most rambling, non-musical song imaginable. It is seriously painful to listen to. The gist of the song: don’t lose the music in your heart. Also: sensible shoes.

“My teacher is going to love this,” Chachi says. Oh the lies we tell ourselves. He and the Fonz talk about their own family’s immigration stories, leading to Fonzie waxing philosophical about how immigration still happens today. This is complemented with some Ellis Island stock footage as we fade into a park setting with Arthur/Fonz talking about how amazing America is. He namechecks JFK, Irving Berlin, Vince Lombardi, the Lone Ranger, and Martin Luther King. This leads into a song about thinking positive and taking a shot in life. Whatever that means. The cast, in costumes from all periods, dance around the Fonz’s pretzel cart.

Then the episode just ends. I’m not sure what just happened in these last 22 minutes. We didn’t follow one person’s immigration story, there was no explanation as to why these were presented as musical vignettes, and the concept of this episode seems to have come from left field. My best guess is that this was a pet project of Henry Winkler’s. I would love to read Chachi’s essay: I’m sure it makes just about as much sense as this episode.

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About Mike McComb 669 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv