Posted February 21 2004 - 11:23 AM
Sorry to add to the off-topic HD-ness, but I actually liked the post-Richie seasons of HD better than the last few years with Richie -- it seemed to me that the writers were kind of "jolted" by the need to get along without him, and while most of the new characters were no good (the only one I did like, K.C. as played by Crystal Bernard, didn't last long), the writing quality improved a bit. Some of the last season's episodes, like the one where Richie comes back, are quite good.
However, the only seasons I'd buy on DVD are the first two, shot one-camera (yes, they did have a canned laugh track, but that just added to the "old-style" feel of the show -- it was like watching something from the "Leave it to Beaver" era). When they switched to multi-camera film with a studio audience (they actually shot one episode in season to with a studio audience, as an experiment), they had to use mostly interior sets, redesign the Cunninghams' house, and, most importantly, change the acting and directing style to a more "theatrical" style to play to the live audience. Ron Howard, who had never performed before a live audience before, was clearly uncomfortable and it took him a while to adjust. It's actually a fascinating study in how the style of shooting changes a show, because the writing staff was still the same, as was the director (Jerry Paris), but the feel of the show changed almost completely because of the difference between one-camera and live-audience performing.
Interestingly, Garry Marshall had previously saved a show by making the same switch: "The Odd Couple" was one-camera in its first season, but at Tony Randall's insistence, they went to a multi-camera, live-audience format in season two -- and it worked great. But that was different, because the material was based on a play and it starred two guys with stage experience; it was more appropriate with that "theatrical" style. The nostalgic charm and period feel of Happy Days was just all wrong for multi-camera.
And to get this sort of back on topic, one of the best early episodes of HD guest-starred Maureen McCormick (it's the one where Richie, Ralph and Potsie pick up three cute girls and wind up having to drag-race a bunch of tough guys).