The Show: Happy Days
Ran for: 255 episodes over 11 seasons, from 1974 to 1984.
What it’s about: A ginger teen and his normal Milwaukee family and friends living life from the mid-50s through the mid-60s.
My relationship with it: I’ve seen a lot of episodes. You know, after they originally aired. When I was 6, I wanted to be the Fonz. Because shouldn’t we all aspire to be some weird middle-aged greaser who lives above a family’s garage and hangs out with a bunch of teenagers?
This Episode: “Haunted” from season 2, episode 6.
Original Air Date: October 29th, 1974. (Fun fact: this was the only episode directed by creator Garry Marshall.)
We open at Arnold’s, the diner where all the kids hang out and Weezer sometimes performs, and patrons are hanging up decorations outside. There is some snappy back and forth between a waitress and a guy named “Bag.” I don’t remember if “Bag” was a regular character, but his name is terrible. Anyway, after a joke, we are inside Arnold’s at a table with Ralph Malph, Potsie, and Richie Cunningham. Ralph is talking about his upcoming Halloween party. Richie is afraid that BAG and THE DEMONS (!) will be there. Ralph says, well, no, because guess where I’m having it— that’s right, the old Simpson place. Richie and Potsie are scared because it’s haunted, right, but Ralph is like, no, that’s just a story and he goes on to explain that their dates will want them more in a scary house which is sound reasoning. He asks Richie to go by before to make sure the house is “extra spooky and cobwebby” which is a random request.
In the next scene, Richie is pulling up outside the old Simpson place. It looks damned haunted. Joanie, his sister, is with him because he’s supposed to be taking her to her Chipmunk meeting, which I presume is like Girl Scouts only it’s related to small woodland creatures and not girls. She refuses to go in and relays a couple of questionable stories about how everyone who goes in there gets decapitated. This is pretty heavy stuff for a primetime family sitcom. Anyway, Richie convinces her to go in with him.
They go into the house and spooky organ music starts. Richie points out a painting of old Mrs. Simpson on the wall and says, “see, not decapitated,” then the haunted-ass painting FALLS OFF THE WALL and Joanie flees the scene. For some reason, Richie keeps checking the place out. He opens a closet and all we see is a shot of his terrified face and the previously creepy organ music gets super Parliament-Funkadelic and Richie nopes the eff out, too. They hop in the car and peel out in terror.
Back at home, Richie tells his dad that they stopped by the old Simpson place on their way home. Mr. Cunningham is like, “yo, that place has been haunted since *I* was a kid.” Anyway, Richie gets all serious and admits to his dad that he saw a headless body in the closet. His dad says, “oh, no you didn’t” and asks why Richie was there in the first place. Richie explains that they are having a party there and his dad is like, “huh. I wouldn’t be caught dead there,” which is a joke, right, but my thing is, why is his dad OK with Richie and his friends having a rager in an abandoned house?
Now we’re back at Arnold’s and the Fonz is defacing Halloween wall art, further cementing his bad-boy status. He is giving Richie grief about being afraid of ghosts. He says that “you’ve gotta face your fears, Cunningham,” which is surprisingly sound advice. He is also sitting on the BACK of the booth which is another way you know he is badass.
Later on, Mrs. Cunningham is helping Joanie and her friends get ready for Halloween festivities and LOOK AT THEIR COSTUMES. Oh, I guess she’s taking them trick-or-treating. Two thoughts:
- They are too cold to trick-or-treat, and
- They are DEFINITELY too old to need adult accompaniment.
Mr. Cunningham and Richie are chatting. Richie is clearly afraid to go to the party. Then one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in a television sitcom happens. Mr. Cunningham goes to answer the door and it is a boy, perhaps 7 or 8, who is dressed as a cowboy. He says, “trick-or-treat!” and Mr. Cunningham says, “here’s a little treat for the cowboy, and here’s a little treat for the cowboy’s horsey. Now, how about a kiss?” And the kid sticks out his tongue and blows a raspberry and runs away.
What did I just watch?
The audience laughs, Mr. Cunningham shrugs, and I learn that in the 50s, apparently, it was cool to ask strange kids for kisses.
At the old Simpson place, Richie takes his date inside where she immediately spots a snarling wolf head on the wall. He says, “don’t worry, it’s fake,” and I’m all yeah but still. Then a giant fake spider drops from the ceiling and the music does that crazy west coast G-funk synthesizer boing thing again. I’m wondering who came in and did all these elaborate decorations. Suddenly, a coffin we didn’t previously see opens and it’s just Ralph. Then the lights all come on and some doors spring open and a bunch of people in costumes come in and start dancing to some music that’s playing from somewhere. It’s like a surprise Halloween party for Richie, for some reason?
The next scene is all about bobbing for apples. This is a very wholesome party. (Again, being held in an abandoned house that doesn’t belong to any of the attendees.) Fonz shows up and, instead of bobbing for an apple, he rebelliously plucks one from the tub and just, you know, eats it. Oh, Fonz.
After some dancing, and after someone eats a sandwich made from cold cuts being served out of a coffin, Fonzie leaves to go bang his date. The lights go out and the music stops and now it’s scary again. Finally.
Oh, wait, no, it’s just Ralph.
Anyway, he’s mad that Richie is acting like a big chicken, so he conspires with Potsie and they agree to terrorize their friend. Ralph is like, “the closet!” and Potsie says, “yeah, the closet!” so apparently they are going to do something with the closet. They call Richie over and ask him to get more root beer and explain that it’s in— you guessed it— the closet. So then everyone gathers round to watch him open the closet, which should probably be his tip-off that something dumb is about to happen, but it’s not. He opens the door, the organ music spazzes out again and a headless old lady corpse tumbles out of a rocker. Richie shrieks, everyone laughs, and Richie says, “oh, REAL funny you guys.” Then, though, a headless old lady corpse starts walking down the stairs and moaning about her missing head. Whoa. Ralph is like, “I didn’t do this one!” and everyone backs away slowly as the decapitated body continues to advance. Richie, summoning the courage instilled into him by the Fonz Almighty, says, “it’s not real!” and rips the dress off. It’s Bag, the adorably named Demon from the beginning of the episode. After everyone calms down, Richie dumps a cup of water on his head.
In the next and presumably final scene, we’re at the Cunningham table with Joanie and Mrs. Cunningham. There is a pile of candy on the table that they are sorting through and it looks like legit garbage. There are 4 or 5 apples and a bunch of brightly colored trash.
Mrs. Cunningham is explaining to Joanie that they can’t eat anything that isn’t wrapped. So apparently poisoning kids was a thing in the 50s just like it is now. Huh. Anyway, Mr. Cunningham comes in and sits down, then Richie shows up, then Joanie goes to bed, then Mr. Cunningham tells a joke about a hollow-weenie and that’s the end of the episode.
Would I Watch Another Episode: Eh, sure. Happy Days was okay. In hindsight, the Fonz was a bit depressing and Mr. Cunningham was apparently a raging pedophile, but the show still had its charm.