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This spin-off of Happy Days (1974) follows Chachi Arcola as he moves out and tries to succeed on his own with a rock band and a music career. In between holding down a job and keeping his girlfriend, Joanie Cunningham, happy, he must also deal with the often unwanted, but sometimes needed, advice and interference from his friends, relatives and neighbors. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
You'll beg for "The Ropers" or "AfterM*A*S*H*" instead
Some show generate spinoffs. Others metastasize. "Happy Days"--itself a spin off from "Love, American Style"--generated everything from "Laverne and Shirley" to "Mork And Mindy" to the rarely-seen "Anson Williams, P.I.". "Joanie Loves Chachi" was the final, genetically damaged offspring of this long, inbred line.
The premise--and here I use the word "premise" in the broadest sense--is that our Chachi has left Milwaukee to start a singing career in that hotbed of the music industry, Chicago. Joanie went with him, of course, along with Al (who has opened a new restaurant to escape the long shadow of Pat Morita). Chachi and Joanie have a band with painfully zany characters. Chachi and Joanie sing and dance--usually several times--in each episode. Chachi and Joanie sing the theme song. The only minor technical problem with all this is that Chachi and Joanie can't sing a note.
Erin Moran and Scott Baio are as grating and unlikeable here as they were in "Happy Days," only here they're on screen for the entire 22 minutes. How the producers dreamed up a romance between these two is a mystery--they have no chemistry. It's like watching Al and The Fonz kiss. The spin off was clearly intended to breathe new life into the "Happy Days" franchise, but here the "sitcom hijinks" are as tired and threadbare as they were in the original's Richie-less last gasps. Also, the ethnic stereotypes would make any Italian cringe. They boycotted the Sopranos but not this?
To be fair, this show is such a relic of early 80s television cheese that it would have to have some retro entertainment value now, especially for those who were young enough to enjoy it the first time. The Fonz and the Cunninghams show up with alarming frequency, and kitsch/camp fans who loved master thespian Baio in "Charles In Charge" will find gold in his "singing teen idol" incarnation, especially since Leif Garrett never made a TV series. The Christmas episode in particular is amusing in retrospect. But viewing it without irony/unintended humor, "Joanie Loves Chachi" is difficult, bordering on painful, to watch. I knew Arthur Fonzarelli. Arthur Fonzarelli was a friend of mine. Chachi Arcola, you are no Arthur Fonzarelli.
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