George Lucas' American Graffiti kick started a wave of 1950's nostalgia in the mid-seventies, and the debut of a television series called Happy Days in 1974 rode that wave for a few successful years, earning itself a place in the upper echelon of seventies TV series.
Set around the exploits of one Ritchie Cunningham (played by future Oscar winning director Ron Howard who also starred in American Graffiti) and his family, the series usually ended with a moral of some sort but was never so heavy handed that it felt preachy or goody-goody. Supporting characters like Henry Winkler as Fonzie and Anson Williams as Potsie Weber kept Ritchie in and out of trouble every week for almost ten years until the series was finally laid to rest in 1984.
There were plenty of spin offs (such as Fonzie records) and tie ins (like Happy Days comic books from Gold Key) and the show stayed in the collective viewing consciousness of generations to come thanks to plenty of syndicated reruns that continue to this day. Weezer's Buddy Holly video caused an even younger generation to discover the show when the band digitally set themselves inside Arnold's Drive-In (Ritchie and company's favorite hang out) where they performed for the whole gang, meeting with much approval from Al himself at the end of their set. There was even an animated cartoon spin off called Fonz And The Happy Days Gang that ran for two years from late 1980 until 1982 on ABC during their Saturday morning cartoon programming.
Characters were phased in and out of the series but the Cunningham family remained the backbone of the series. In the first season we came to get to know them and the characters were fairly well defined which makes the second season a little more interesting as it allowed the writers to branch out a little bit more. Of course, later seasons would get ridiculous with Fonzie reaching deity-like status and the plots getting more and more ludicrous but at this point in the show's run, things were still fairly well grounded in some semblance of reality. Much of what makes the series work here is that Richie is more or less an every day teenager dealing with every day problems. The fifties were a more innocent time so you don't get the grit and drama that you do in more modern teen-comedy-drama fare but that's part of the show's charm.. We'd eventually see them progress over the years, but these episodes best maintain the series' charm, humor, sincerity and wit.
The second season of Happy Days ran from September 10, 1974 through May 6, 1975 in the following order, which is how they are presented in this set:
Richie Moves Out: Richie, like most teens, wants his privacy and when he feels he isn't getting it, he moves out of the Cunningham house and into Chuck's bachelor pad. It doesn't take him long to start missing the comforts of home...
Richie's Car: Richie really wants his own car so when Fonzie offers to sell him one at a great price, he jumps at the chance. Unfortunately for Richie, it turns out that the car is stolen.
Who's Sorry Now?: Richie's former girlfriend, Arlene, left town years ago but now that she's returned to Milwaukee she's interested in hooking up again and wants to start going steady right away. Richie isn't sure what to do.
You Go To My Head: When Richie reads a text book on psychological disorders, he starts to project some of these problems on himself and before you know it, he's starting to think he might have a problem.
ROTC: Richie is stoked to be nominated as the Reserve Officer Training Corps squad leader and he takes his position pretty seriously. When the men under his control start completely disobeying his orders, however, he's forced to report them to his superiors.
Haunted: Ralph decides to have his Halloween party at the old Simpson house, a creepy old manor that is supposedly haunted. No one believes the stories about the house until Richie starts to experience some genuinely strange occurrences.
Wish Upon A Star: Richie enters a contest and wins a date to the school dance with a movie star named Cindy Shea (Cheryl Ladd). Gloria is none too impressed with this and so she dumps Richie, who then finds out that Cindy won't be arriving until after the dance anyway.
Not with My Sister, You Don't: When Fonzie's younger cousin, Spike, rolls into town he takes a shining to Joanie. They want to go on a date so Richie decides to escort the two of them to the movies and then flips out when the pair go missing.
Big Money: Richie finds himself in a man-sized predicament when he wins a few grand on a game show. When the show is over the host gives him the answer to the big question... what's an honest Cunningham to do?
A Star Is Bored: In order to afford the new baseball uniforms they need, Richie, Ralph and Potsie decide to put on a production of Hamlet. They hope to get a 'name star' for the lead but that doesn't work out so they go for the next best thing – Fonzie!
Guess Who's Coming To Christmas: Howard Cunningham wants the family to spend Christmas alone without any guests. The family is fine with this idea until Richie finds out that Fonzie is spending Christmas all by his lonesome.
Open House: When Howard and Marion head out of town for a weekend and leave Richie in charge, he figures it's probably a good idea to call the boys over for some poker. When a car containing three foxy ladies breaks down in front of his pad, however, he once again finds himself in a bit of a pickle when Potsie encourages the ladies to stay the night.
Fonzie's Getting Married: When Fonzie lets loose with the news that he's tying the knot, the Cunningham's have him and his fiancé over for dinner. Howard is shocked to find out that he knows the lady – she was an exotic dancer he met at a hardware convention.
The Cunningham Caper: The entire Cunningham clan, save for good ol' Richie, head out to the movies for the night. Richie is flying solo for the evening and hears a strange noise from downstairs. He investigates and is shocked to find a burglar in the home.
The Not Making Of The President: It's election time and Howard is doing everything that he can to make sure he and his family support Eisenhower. When Richie tries to woo a lady, however, he switches sides and starts campaigning for Aldai Stevenson.
Cruisin': Maureen McCormick (of The Brady Bunch) guest stars in this episode where Richie, Ralph and Potsie have to go cruising for ladies in Howard's car after Marion messes up Richie's ride. Unfortunately the ladies they're scoping are involved with no good punk boyfriends.
The Howdy Doody Show: Richie wants to get a picture of Clarabelle from The Howdy Doody Show without make up for the school paper, the only problem is he can't get on set. When he finds out they're holding a look-a-like contest however, he gets Ralph to enter in hopes of getting the photograph.
Get A Job: Foxy Ms. Kimber, recently divorced, hires Richie, Ralph and Potsie to fix up her fence. They need to the money so they take the job but soon Ralph and Potsie tire of the job and leave Richie to take care of things on his own.
Fonzie Joins The Band: Howard does his kid a solid and books Richie's band to play the dance at the Leopard Lodge. Fonzie agrees to help them get tuxedos if they'll let him play with them and they agree until Fonzie busts out with the mad bongo action and ruins a slow dance.
Fish And The Fins: Richie's childhood friend, Johnny Fish, is now a big rock star and to hide from fans he wants to crash at Richie's place while he's in town. Richie is fine with this but it's killing him that he can't tell anyone, because no one believe him when he says that he and Johnny Fish are friends.
Richie's Flip Side: When the disc jockey at Richie's favorite radio station quits, he worms his way into the job. His boss likes what he hears and tells him that he sees big things in his future and it looks like Richie's career is taking off – but will he forget his friends on the way?
Kiss Me Sickly: Fonzie's gotta split town to attend a demolition derby and he asks Richie to keep an eye on his lady, Denise. Not sure she can trust Richie, Denise intentionally tempts him and he succumbs. After they make out, Richie finds out he's got mono!
Goin' To Chicago: Riche, Ralph and Potsie are excited to go to Chicago with the high school choir. They show up in the windy city but are determined to go out and see some sits rather than stay cooped up in their hotel room all night long.
All in all, the second season of Happy Days is a really solid selection of episodes. The series is well written, the characters are likeable, and the stories are enjoyable even if at times they border on goofy. Fonzie is given more to do here than he had in the first season and his relationship with Richie, which is strangely far more patriarchal than Richie's relationship with his paternal father Howard, develops a fair bit and while it's still very much a case of hero worship, at least Richie is allowed to grow a bit. Those who don't like the series won't be won over by this material but fans of the series will certainly recognize that the second season is about as good as the series would get.
The episodes are all presented in their original fullframe format, which is as it should be. Colors look nice and bright and aside from some grain and mild print damage, overall picture quality is quite high for a television series of roughly thirty years old. Edge enhancement is almost non-existent and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression. It doesn't look like a full restoration was done on any of the episodes, but at least they seem to be here in very nice shape and aside from the grain, things look good.
The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack doesn't sound any worse than the series did when it was shown on television. Some of the dialogue could sound a bit cleaner as a few bits and pieces here and there are slightly garbled but aside from that, the track is clean and clear. English closed captioning is included, but there are not subtitles provided for any other languages.
There are absolutely no extra features here at all, which is very disappointing.
Despite the lack of supplemental goodies, Happy Days – The Complete Second Season is still very much worth owning. Fans of the series will enjoy reliving some of the best episodes that the series had to offer and this makes a good starting point for those new to the series to experience the show during its high point. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.