1. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE SET IN THE 1920S, NOT THE 1950S.
When Garry Marshall was first approached by Paramount executives Michael Eisner and Tom Miller in 1971 to create a new sitcom, they envisioned something set in the 1920s or ’30s. Marshall told them that he knew nothing about flappers, but he could write a show about the era in which he spent his teen and young adult years—the 1950s. He put together a pilot about a Midwestern family that just purchased their first TV set (the first one in the neighborhood!) and how the teenaged son planned to use it as a chick magnet. The series didn’t sell, and the pilot ended up as a vignette on Love, American Style—“the dumping ground of failed pilots” according to Marshall.
4. HAPPY DAYS ACTUALLY PREDATES AMERICAN GRAFFITI.
George Lucas’s Oscar-nominated 1973 film American Graffiti launched a craze for 1950s nostalgia (even though the movie was set in 1962). Casting director Fred Roos had worked with Ron Howard on The Andy Griffith Show and recommended him to Lucas for the role of Steve Bolander. Lucas dug out the “Love and the Happy Days” episode of Love, American Style to determine whether Howard could play an 18-year-old high school student convincingly. Once American Graffiti became a runaway success, ABC decided that the time was ripe for a 1950s-era sitcom and Garry Marshall’s project was resurrected.
5. FONZIE WAS ALMOST A MONKEE.
When Henry Winkler got the callback after his first audition for the role of Arthur Fonzarelli, he was taken aback when he saw that the other contender was former Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz. According to Dolenz, Winkler admitted to him later that he had thought, “Oh crap, Micky Dolenz is here. I’ll never get it!” Dolenz was Marshall’s original choice to play Fonzie, on the strength of a recent guest appearance he had made as a biker on Adam-12. But at six feet tall, Dolenz towered over the five-foot-nine Ron Howard, so Winkler was deemed a better fit.