HTF REVIEW: Happy Days: The Complete First Season

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Michael Elliott, Aug 7, 2004.

  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Happy Days: The Complete First Season





    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1974
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 443 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3)
    Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Retail Price: $39.95




    Nostalgia for the 1950’s became a big target in the 1970’s thanks to films like American Graffiti, which was a huge hit and clearly influenced this show, which debuted on January 15th, 1974. Happy Days told the story of Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his family, which included his father Howard (Tom Bosley), mother (Marion Ross) and a brother who would be off the show within two years. The family was a close one who ate together, watched television together and could have simple, family meetings to solve all their problems.

    This was all good for the young Richie who was trying to discover himself but the real discoveries occurred at Arnold’s, a local hangout. His best friends were a worldly smart Potsie (Anson Williams), the jokester Ralph Mouth (Donny Most) and a high school dropout known as The Fonz (Henry Winkler). Together, Richie, Potsie and Ralph tracked through their teen lives trying to find girls and often times seeking the advice as the wiser Fonzie. On August 17th, 2004 Paramount Home Video brings the first complete season of Happy Days to DVD in a three-disc set.

    Disc 1

    All The Way---(Air Date: 1/15/74) In this first episode Potsie sets up his buddy Richie with a girl who just happens to have a bad reputation. Although Richie likes the girl he can’t help but worry about this reputation, which includes a sailor.

    The Lemon---(Air Date: 1/22/74) After Ralph picks up a couple girls with his convertible Richie and Potsie decide to buy a car so that they can take girls home after school. They put their money together and buy a car they think will attract the girls but all it attracts is flies when it turns out to be a lemon.

    Richie’s Cup Runneth Over---(Air Date: 1/29/74) Richie gets invited to a wild bachelor party where he and Potsie end up drinking to much in a game of Sloppy Sixty.

    Guess Who’s Coming to Visit---(Air Date: 2/5/74) Ralph shows up in his dragster only to be challenged to a race by a local tough guy. Ralph, letting his mouth get the best of him agree to the race but it’s Fonzie who ends up driving.

    Hardware Jungle---(Air Date: 2/12/74) Howard Cunningham has to have his tonsils taken out so it’s up to Richie to watch the hardware store. However a rock ‘n roll show is in town and Richie wants to take a girl but the show is already sold out.

    The Deadly Dares---(Air Date: 2/19/74) The coolest gang in town are The Demons and since they get the girls Richie and Potsie decide to join. In order to receive their jackets the two must perform six dares including prank calls and pulling off a toupee.

    Disc 2

    Fonzie Dopes In---(Air Date: 2/26/74) Fonzie, a high school dropout decides to re-enroll after he sees Potsie’s history exam. Fonzie goes back to school but realizes that he still doesn’t like doing homework so that’s where Richie comes in.

    The Skin Game---(Air Date: 3/5/74) After Ralph gets into a strip club with a fake I.D., Richie and Potsie decide to get their own I.D. so they can join the exotic club.

    Breaking Up is Hard to Do---(Air Date: 3/12/74) After he’s late showing up, Richie and his girlfriend have a fight and eventually break up. She’s gives his ring back to him but then they realize that it’s too late to line up new dates for the prom.

    Give the Band a Hand---(Air Date: 3/26/74) Richie is now working at Arnold’s but he needs more cash than that so he decides to form a band along with Ralph and Potsie. They get their first big gig but the money they earn gets them in a fixed poker game.

    Because She’s There---(Air Date: 4/2/74) Potsie decides to hook Richie up with a girl but the only catch is that it has to be a blind date. Richie shows up to meet the girl and is shocked when he sees how much taller she is than he.

    Disc 3

    In the Name of Love---(Air Date: 4/9/74) A beautiful new girl shows up at school and has Richie, Potsie and Ralph drooling all over her. All three guys think she’s interested in them but what she’s really wanting is a tutor.

    Great Expectations---(Air Date: 4/16/74) Richie meets a female beatnik named Diedre while at the movies and soon becomes fascinated with her life.

    The Best Man---(Air Date: 4/23/74) An old buddy comes to visit Howard and asks for him to be his best man at his upcoming wedding. They decide to have the wedding at the Cunningham’s house but this doesn’t sit well with the neighbors because Howard’s friend is black.

    Knock Around the Block---(Air Date: 4/30/74) Richie decides to join another cool gang known as The Dukes but he soon realizes this is the same game who stole Potsie’s bike.

    Be The First on Your Block---(Air Date: 5/7/74) Howard calls a family meeting to let the wife and kids know that he’s going to buy a bomb shelter but doesn’t want anyone to know. Of course, word leaks out and soon everyone is wanting to see this new shelter.


    VIDEO---The television series is shown in its Standard (4:3) format, which is the correct ratio. I’m not sure if this show was ever released on VHS or LD so I can only compare the video quality here to what I’ve seen on television. If you’re expecting this show to look like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Simple Life or any other recent television show then you are certainly going to be disappointed but I’m sure most buying this set know this is a series from 1974 and aren’t going to expect something looking new because this show is not new. Why some people expect these older shows to look like new ones is beyond me but anyways….

    If you’ve ever seen this television show then I’m pretty certain you are going to be very pleased with the transfers here. I’ve watched this show throughout the years and I’ve never seen it looking this good or full of wonderful colors. I always thought the picture was watered down and faded and for a while I thought that’s how this was supposed to look but seeing this DVD left me with a big surprise. From the opening scenes of the record player you are going to notice how many colors were missing from television airings, which were really faded and didn’t really give the series any type of certain look. I went through all the episodes and the color balance is very well detailed and packs a nice little punch. Flesh tones also look remarkably well and they perfectly show off those rose-colored cheeks of Ron Howard.

    There are a few minor problems scattered throughout the episodes and most of these are minor speckles that pop up every once in a while. This certainly never became distracting and it didn’t take my mind off of what I was watching. It also appears that Paramount didn’t clean up the opening of the show, which appears to have quite a bit of dirt on it. Again, the colors of this opening sequence looks very detailed but the dirt is still noticeable but goes away when the episodes start. Outside the speckles and dirt during the opening scenes I was very impressed with the work done by Paramount. Again, hopefully people aren’t expecting this thirty-year-old show to look like it was made last year. Just compare this transfer to the horrid All in the Family: Season 3 release from Columbia.

    AUDIO---The Dolby Digital Mono track sounds like a Mono track from 1974. There’s really nothing special here and I really couldn’t tell that much of a difference from this to what I heard on television. The dialogue is clear throughout without any sorts of hiss, pops or scratches. There was some minor distortion during a few of the laugh tracks but that’s it. The opening seems to have been cleaned up because I don’t remember the “Rock Around the Clock” sounding any better. Of course there’s no range to this but the song still sounds very good and the cracks and pops of the hand going on the record also sound more noticeable.

    EXTRAS---No extras are included on the set. However, I will mention that the packaging is very nice and I wish more studios would start using the slim cases, which Paramount also used on their The Honeymooners set.

    OVERALL---The show took some big changes after the second season and many feel this first season is how the show was supposed to be until it became popular with “The Fonzie Show”. I personally prefer the later seasons but I really enjoyed this first one for its innocent charms. Paramount has delivered the episodes looking very good and I don’t expect fans to be disappointed.


    Release Date: August 17th, 2004
     
  2. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    Nice review.
    I am glad so much tv is making it to DVD.

    Tuesday night on ABC was a fun night
    for me as a kid,
    with Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley
    back to back.

    I was one of the very few i know
    who prefer
    this first season,
    filmed with one camera
    without an audience,
    with the separate
    dining room for the Cunningham home,
    and the front door on the left.

    I even prefer ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK
    to the HAPPY DAYS song.
    I am sure i'm in the minority.

    I feel the writing really weakened
    during the "live before a studio audience' era....
    it became more of a cartoon type
    kid's show,
    plus
    they let too many anachronistic hairstyles
    and fashions creep in.
    At least at the beginning,
    with the extra son Chuck,
    the show actually had a period feel.
     
  3. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    I'm not sure you're in the minority, Jefferson. On the jumptheshark site, the switch to a live studio audience is the number-one reason voted for Happy Days' shark jump -- beating out Richie leaving and even the shark jump itself! I for one agree that the first two seasons, with the single camera and "Rock Around the Clock," are by far the best.

    I watched the DVD set today and I can confirm that the episodes look better than ever. That's not to say they look perfect -- there are some scenes where the age of the source material is quite apparent -- but for a show from 1974, it looks terrific and really points up what a well-made, subtle show it was compared to the loud "Sit on it" yockfest of the third season onward.

    Interesting note: in the "Rock Around the Clock" opening, the label on the record that's playing has the title and credits of the "Happy Days" theme song -- which of course was only used at the end of the show in the first two seasons.
     
  4. James_Garner

    James_Garner Stunt Coordinator

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    I have two questions about the 50's music. Has the original song vocals in "Guess Who’s Coming to Visit's" very last scene (at the almost-empty Arnold's) been restored, or is it generic instrumental music used in later showings? Same question goes for "Hound Dog's" use at the beginning of "Knock Around the Block" when a gang member unplugs the Jukebox.

    "I don't know nothing. I just work here. Lock up when you finish" [​IMG]
     
  5. Chris:L

    Chris:L Supporting Actor

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    What is a beatnik anyway? Is that a person who believes in spiritualism going around reciting poems snapping their fingers in coffee houses?
     
  6. Carlos Garcia

    Carlos Garcia Screenwriter

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    It's a hippie from the 50s.
     
  7. Chris:L

    Chris:L Supporting Actor

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    Oh, it's all so clear to me now. HAHA.
     
  8. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    Thanks for the thorough review, Michael. I'm looking forward to getting this set ASAP, as the first two seasons are my favorites.

    Now that I've seen the entire ALL IN THE FAMILY SEASON 3, I agree that some of those episodes look weak... but don't forget that they were shot on TAPE, while HAPPY DAYS was FILM.
     
  9. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    I can see your point here -- but, on the flip side of the equation, there's The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season One -- which was made 3.5 years prior to "Happy Days 1", and MTM looks very close to perfect, PQ-wise (IMO).

    Plus: Dick Van Dyke (from even further back into the archives of earlier TV shows -- 13 years before "Happy Days"). TDVDS looks A-1 as well.

    So, obviously, really old shows CAN be polished up to look just about as good as yesterday's programs. I guess it's just a matter of how they were taken care of in the interim. (And, of course, there's the "Film vs. Tape" consideration as well -- with Film almost always looking much better when it comes to DVD transfers.)

    Of course, being able to use the original film (and not just copies of same) for the DVD transfers usually means a huge step forward in PQ I would surmise.

    Does anyone have the stats/data re. this fact? I mean: I wonder what pct. of TV-On-DVD products are being produced utilizing the Original Films of each episode?

    I know that TDVDS used all the original 35mm films for the 5 full-season sets that are out now. I wonder if these "Happy Days" eps. are made from copies or the actual original film? ("H.D." was done on "film", and not tape, if I'm not mistaken. It has a "filmed look" to me. -- Joe K. [above] seems to think, like me, that it was "film".)

    I'm guessing (given the superb PQ) that MTM-1 also was derived from the show's original film elements. If not, those copies cleaned up like Donald Trump. [​IMG]
     
  10. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    A reviewer at Amazon points out (and rightly so, IMO) his disdain at having to dish out the exact same amount of greenery for Happy Days as he will have to pay for the upcoming (November 16th) DVD release of The Andy Griffith Show Season 1.

    Andy-1 has TWICE the number of episodes as HD (32 vs. 16). Andy is supposedly going to be a 4-Disc set; while HD will be 3. Given the lack of any extras on either set (evidently), I wonder why Paramount didn't go with a less-expensive 2-Disc set for "Days"?? (Eight eps. per disc fit comfortably most of the time. So, in actuality, "Happy Days S.1" could have been produced on just ONE dual-sided DVD-18 -- quite easily in fact. That'd be a first, huh? ... a complete TV season on ONE disc. I don't think I'd like that very much, come to think about it. Not enough physical substance to handle. [​IMG])

    Sounds like they "stretched" the Happy Days set into an unneeded third disc to hike the dollar figure. But, what do I know? Just guessing. (Looks like a good set from the excellent HTF review at any rate. [​IMG])

    Come to think more about this -- It's fairly obvious that Columbia/Tri-Star "stretched" its release of All In The Family S.1, which could have easily fit on 2 discs (or even one DVD-18 very easily). Instead, they placed that shortened 13-episode season on three discs, with no picture art on any of the discs, with no slipcase provided, no extras, not even chapter stops, plus pretty awful PQ -- all for the ridiculously-high MSRP (originally) of $39.95 (since reduced by $10, which is nicer).

    People should have been raising bloody hell over that release a couple years back (and I guess many did, given the price drop recently [​IMG]).

    BTW -- Fans of both of these fine TV series ("Happy Days" and "Andy Griffith") will be able to note on those Amazon pages provided that "Ammy" seems to have erred regarding the packaging type on HD (and probably, therefore, on TAGS as well), listing the pkg. as "Digipak", which we know is incorrect for "Jovial Afternoons" (er...I mean "Happy Days"). [​IMG]

    I agree with Official HTF DVD Reviewer Michael Elliott -- "ThinPaks" Rule! [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  11. Mike Williams

    Mike Williams Screenwriter

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    Personally, I am against putting eight half hour episodes per disc. I don't think it should ever be more than six (a la Cheers and Frasier). I'd much rather have a fourth disc of those shows with increased resolution than try to cram too much per disc to reduce the price by only a few dollars. In the case of All in the Family Season One, obviously the third disc didn't help matters, since the picture quality was every bit as bad as The Larry Sanders Show, which was horrendous.
     
  12. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    "Hound Dog" is definitely there in "Knock Around the Block." I haven't seen the other episode yet. (Incidentally, "Knock Around the Block" appears to be the first episode that showed Fonzie's near-supernatural ability to make machines work just by hitting them.)

    Speaking of music, I have to admit I really like the bits of fake doo-wop music the show created for the openings and closings of scenes (like the cue used at the beginning of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," the one that goes "Boop-boop-boop-boop, boop-boop-boop-boop, beeya-bah-beeyah-bah, doo-wah").

    Oh, and one more thing: despite the legend, it doesn't seem to be true that Fonzie was only allowed to wear his leather jacket when near his motorcycle in the first season. The scenes where he's in his leather jacket -- one scene in "In the Name of Love," another scene in "Knock Around the Block" -- his motorcycle is nowhere to be seen.
     
  13. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Just imagine how great TMTMS eps. would have been in this scenario? They look great NOW (with 8 crammed in per disc). So there obviously CAN be high-quality video produced even with 8 shows per side.

    MTM includes THREE different language soundtracks per ep. to boot, utilizing still *more* disc space. Plus, multiple-paged episode sub-menus, taking up still more room (three separate Chapter pages for each episode). -- It's rather amazing they look this good. Maybe FOX employed a newly-devised "Triple-Layered" disc for the MTM set. [​IMG]
     
  14. Chris:L

    Chris:L Supporting Actor

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    That's an idea... triple layered.. What if they start inforcing that? I mean... instead of having to buy a season set... with 3 discs... just use one with all 24 episodes on them and have it be tripple layered... 8 episodes on each layer... or am I being too unrealistic?
     
  15. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    If "tripling" the layers *were* possible, I can envision the complaints now -- you know, the "glue won't hold the layers together" problem.

    However, as technology grows and expands, is it going to be possible someday to put many more hours of video onto just ONE layer of a DVD disc? Ya think? That'd be nice.

    Or have we reached the maximum now?
     
  16. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    I just checked the end of "Guess Who's Coming To Visit" and the original song -- "The Little White Cloud That Cried" by Johnny Ray -- is intact.
     
  17. Weston

    Weston Extra

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    Oooh I Need To Buy That. It Looks Awesome
     
  18. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    Great line from the episode "The Best Man" (where Howard's African-American army buddy has his wedding in the Cunningham's house, provoking racist reactions from the neighborhood), making subtle fun of changes in what we would now call PC terminology:


    (Fonzie, of course, looks embarrassed at having used a politically-incorrect term, and replies "Hey, I didn't mean anything by it -- I don't care what color somebody is, as long as he's cool.")
     
  19. Eugene Esterly

    Eugene Esterly Supporting Actor

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    Micheal,

    Excellent review. Happy Days is on my DVD wishlist to purchase in the near future. I love Happy Days, I used to watch in many times several years ago when WFMZ Channel 69 in Allentown, PA used to air re-runs of Happy Days from season 1 up to season 11. I'm very happy that the original music is also included.



    Well, M*A*S*H has 8 episodes per disc & I think that video quality on the M*A*S*H season releases are good considering that the show is over 30+ yrs old.
     
  20. Chris:L

    Chris:L Supporting Actor

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    But M*A*S*H was filmed on film. Never on tape.
     

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