Happy Days: The Complete First Season is a sweet trip back to the Garry Marshall-produced sitcom's 1974 entry in primetime television, before political correctness would make stories about clean-cut boys fixated on seducing girls unthinkable, and long before older kids were defined by angst on the WB and Fox TV. At least in its first year, before Happy Days developed more of a comic-book feel and energy, the show was about Richie's all-too-human inclination to grow up too fast, to bite off more than he could chew and learn poignant lessons in the process. He was a sympathetic naif, not the charming braggart he later became, and major characters appear to have been created to provide both ballast and motivation. Among them is best friend Potsie (Anson Williams), a superficial hustler who typically incites Richie's enthusiasm for booze, reputed nymphomaniacs, and sophisticated, older girls, and fast-talking Ralph Malph (Donny Most), owner of a fantastic, yellow hot rod. More important are counterparts Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler), a vaguely dangerous drop-out, and Richie's exasperated father, Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley), each of whom provides Richie the validation of an experienced male: Fonzie's raw worldliness versus Mr. C's seasoned view of a man's responsibilities. First-season highlights include the pilot episode (co-written by Rob Reiner), "All the Way," in which Richie's typical decency allows him to see past the sex-mad reputation of an amiable girl from school. Season closer "Be the First on Your Block" finds the Cunninghams' plans to build a bomb shelter turning into a popularity contest as Richie's friends vie for a guaranteed spot in the event of nuclear war. --Tom Keogh
Although I was unusual in wanting to be like Fonzie to help others (the apparent early stirings of an activist!) and instead wanted to date Warren 'Potsie' Webber (I still cannot remember why I thought he was hot!) I still loved the series. Even in grad school, I schedule afternoon appointments around the time Happy Days comes on the local station so I can watch the series again.
The first season is special in it's own right because later-discarded older brother Chuck Cunningham, a nice (if prototypical) all American jock is shown. Fonzie is dressed in a windbreaker jacket to soothe network in-house censors who imagined the series would accidentally promote criminal activity among American youth if that character wore a black leather jacket. Plus, instead of the phenomena which he assumed in later seasons, Fonzie himself is a minor character this season; The show was originally supposed to revolve around the Cunningham family's Cold-War era Wisconsin life.
I only hope the studio eventually releases all seasons and does not(as with Charlies Angels, and Angel: The Series)release one or a couple of seasons and then later decide that the public no longer wants to see this show. Syndication on many 2004 cable and network channels clearly indicates the enduring longevity of Happy Days---and so does a leather jacket on permanent display in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. All seasons must be released!