Originally there were three Cunningham children. The eldest, Chuck, was phased out of the show (supposedly, he went off to college on a basketball scholarship), because according to Garry Marshall, "we realized that Fonzie was really the 'big brother' character the show needed". In the final episode, Howard comments that he's proud of his "two kids".
Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli's character was originally to be named Arthur Maschiarelli (creator Garry Marshall's real last name) and nicknamed "Mash." When ABC first picked up the show, they had Marshall change the character's name because they felt that "Mash" might remind people of "M*A*S*H' (1972)', a popular show on a rival network.
When the show first started it centered primarily on Richie and Potsie (as did the "Love American Style" episode of which "Happy Days" as based). Fonzie would make appearances (usually helping them out of trouble); as would Ralph, who was sort of a jerk character (neither Henry Winkler or Don Most appeared in the beginning credits of season one). In seasons to come, Ralph would become good friends with Richie and Potsie (equal with Potsie), and Fonzie's character would step up to be equal - and then later to overshadow - Richie's character.
It's a common belief that George Lucas' American Graffiti was the inspiration for this series. In actuality, the pilot for the series (seen on Love, American Style) aired before Lucas began production on his film. However, the success of that movie caused producer Garry Marshall to reconsider his failed pilot and turn it into a series.
Among the differences between the show's beginnings as the "Love and the Happy Day" episode on Love, American Style and its premiere two years later as a series is that the role of Howard Cunningham originally was played by Harold Gould instead of Tom Bosley and there was no Fonzie on that episode.
Bill Haley and the Comets' classic "Rock Around The Clock" served as the theme song for the first season of the show. For the first series episode the original 1955 recording was used, but for the remaining shows' opening credits of season one the band recorded a special version of their famous song.
Both Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith of The Monkees auditioned for the role of Fonzie. However, both were considerably taller than the other main cast members and the producers decided that the Fonzie character should be more at an eye level with his peers. A search for a shorter actor resulted in Henry Winkler's hiring.
ABC at first feared Fonzie would be perceived as a hoodlum or criminal, and prohibited his wearing a leather jacket. In the first few episodes Henry Winkler wears an incredibly non-threatening gray windbreaker. Fortunately the network saw the light and an icon was born.
The Fonz became so popular that after the first few seasons the network wanted to rename the show "Fonzie's Happy Days" or just "Fonzie." Threatened resignations by Garry Marshall and Ron Howard ended this idea.
For its first season and most of its second season, the series was shot in single camera format. The familiar Cunningham living room set made its debut in the 1975-1976 season, and was used for the rest of the series run. It is a rearrangement of the original Cunningham living room used in the first and second seasons.
Originally started out being filmed with a laugh track and a single camera. Three episodes from the 1974-1975 season were later filmed before a studio audience with three cameras as an experiment. Beginning with the 1975-1976 season, the series switched full time to the three-camera, live studio audience format. The long familiar living room set arrangement used throughout most of the series' run made its debut at the beginning of the 1975-1976 season.
Many fans agree that the show's quality deteriorated after the three-part-season 5 opener, "Hollywood", where Fonzie jumps a shark while water-skiing. Today, when a show takes a sharp drop in quality, it's said to "jump the shark".
During his first appearance, Mork is looking at television and the show he is looking at is The Andy Griffith Show, which featured Ron Howard. He even makes a comment to that he really liked the show especially Opie, who was played by Howard.
In one episode the Cunninghams are coming out of a theater playing The Music Man when Mrs. Cunningham comments that the little boy in the movie looks just like Richie (Ron Howard) when he was little. Mr. Cunningham replies that she's being silly and that the boy in the film looks nothing like Richie. In fact, Howard did indeed play the little boy, Winthrop Paroo, in the film, when he was eight years old.
Henry Winkler has said that he based some of Fonzie's movements and speech pattern on Sylvester Stallone. Winkler had worked with Stallone years earlier in The Lord's of Flatbush. Winkler vowed when he played Fonzie, he would never comb his hair on camera or have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his T-shirt sleeve and he never did.
Pinky and her TV sister Leather's name Tuscadero was taken from the real-life town of Atascadero, in California. Leather was played by singer/bass guitarist Suzi Quatro, who'd achieved pop stardom in England and wanted to bring her career back to America.
Its ratings were so low at the end of its first season that it came close to being cancelled. Then Henry Winkler's "Fonzie" character started to catch on with viewers, the ratings took a turn for the better, and the show wound up running ten years.
Ron Howard at first passed on playing Richie, because he didn't want to "be a teenager the rest of my life" on television. He reconsidered when Garry Marshall promised him if the series were picked up, Richie and his friends would graduate high school and become adults. Even Fonzie went back to night school, to graduate with the gang.
It was originally intended that Potsie would be Richie's best friend, showing him the ropes of young adulthood. The viewer response to Fonzie was so strong, though, that the writers' focus shifted, and Fonzie took Potsie's place.
Pat Morita's character is called Arnold, but in one episode he reveals that the restaurant was named Arnold's when he bought it, and he couldn't afford to replace the sign. His real name is Mitsumo Takahashi.
In the first episode of the series, "Arnold's" was identified as "Arthur's" (different name on the logo, but with the same rotating, stylized letter "A" above the name). The restaurant and teen hangout became "Arnold's" as of the second episode.
After the show became successful, Garry Marshall was approached and asked if the show could do anything that would help convince kids to read. In one episode, the Fonz realized that he would go to the library and check out a book, despite his reputation. (Said the Fonz, "Everybody is allowed to read.") That week, registration for library cards went up 500 percent.
At the height of the show's popularity, a call came through to Paramount Studios, from a teen-aged boy who was contemplating suicide, and "wanted to talk to Fonzie". Henry Winkler took the call, and gave the boy a pep-talk about life, convincing him to give it another chance.
Among the merchandising produced during the show's run were T-shirts (proclaiming "Sit on it!"), a line of figures from Mego (featuring a Fonzie whose thumbs could be posed up or down), and a record compilation of 1950s hits, whose cover was a souvenir photo of Henry Winkler in character. (A disclaimer read "No! The Fonz has not taken to singing on this album!")
In the first few episodes with Fonzie, he could only wear his leather jacket if he was on or near his motorcycle. The producers felt it would tone down the hoodlum image since it would appear he was wearing it for safety reasons.
A bronze statue of the Fonz was unveiled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 19, 2008. The statue is located along the Milwaukee River riverwalk, at the south end of the Rock Bottom Brewery's outdoor seating area. Actors Henry Winkler, Marion Ross, Tom Bosley, Erin Moran, Don Most, Anson Williams, Penny Marshall, and Cindy Williams attended, as did director/producer Garry Marshall and producer Robert L. Boyett. The event included an autograph signing with proceeds to benefit the Boys & Girls Club Literacy Program, a performance by Joey Sorge, the Fonz in the "Happy Days" stage musical, a parade of stars down Wisconsin Avenue, and a ceremony at the Brewers Miller Park in which the cast threw out the first pitch and Anson Williams sang the national anthem.
The house used for the exterior shots of the "Cunningham" home in the opening sequence, as well as various points throughout the show's run looked nothing like the interior of the set. For one, the garage was to the right of the front door but the set had a window where the garage should be, the garage was located next to the kitchen door which meant the garage's driveway wasn't in front of the house at all. Fonzie lived over the garage and there was a set of stairs that led up to his apartment
As the Fonz's character became more popular, network executives insisted that he had to be seen combing his hair, to show his respectability. Henry Winkler argued against doing this, saying it would make the Fonz look like an ordinary hoodlum. On the spur of the moment, Winkler made up the gag where the Fonz goes to comb his hair, looks in the mirror, and shrugs as if to say, "Ayyy, my hair's perfect. I don't need to comb it!" The gag got a big laugh from the studio audience, and became a Fonzie trademark. Later in the series, Fonzie showed Richie his comb and said, "Do you know I have had this comb for nine years, and it has never once touched my hair."
Richie and Joanie originally had an older brother, Chuck, who vanished without explanation. Now when a character is dropped from a series with no explanation given, it is known as "Chuck Cunningham Syndrome."
Harold Gould appeared as Howard Cunningham in the unsold pilot. When Garry Marshall decided to re-shoot the pilot Gould was once again offered the Howard Cunningham role. He turned it down, because he had already committed to doing a Broadway play. Tom Bosley was later chosen for the part.
Roz Kelly, who appeared as Pinky Tuscadero, a love interest for Fonzie in the Season 4 three-part premiere "Fonzie Loves Pinky", was slated to become a recurring character, but it never came to fruition.