Thursday, July 21, 2016

Garry Marshall: The Happy Days

Garry Marshall would soon prove that one could strike gold more than once, but it didn't seem like it at first. In 1971, Garry was looking for a new project he could work on. He came up with an idea for a family show set in the 1950's. He guessed that the show would sell well in syndication because  since it was set in the past to begin with, it would never look dated. He produced a pilot called New Family in Town which starred Harold Gould as the father, Marion Ross as the mother and Ron Howard as their son. ABC rejected the pilot.


Nowadays, that's typically the end of the road. But at the time, the big three networks would repackage failed pilots in anthology series. In this case, Garry's show would air as part of Love American Style, which was essentially ABC's pilot graveyard with some other one-off scripts rotated in, often featuring hasbeens.

As the 1970's wore on, however, the pilot would prove to be ahead of its time. A 1950's craze hit the United States and young director George Lucas sought to take advantage by making a nostalgic film inspired by his teen years- American Graffiti. Ron Howard desperately wanted a role in the film and suggested that George Lucas view that pilot from 1971. He requested a copy from the network, which had forgotten aboutit When Ron was cast and the film was a huge success it became a priority project for ABC, who gave Garry the go ahead to do whatever he needed to get this project going. Ron Howard, Marion Ross and Anson Williams from the original pilot would sign on to the new show. Tom Bosley would become the new patriarch and a little known actor who Garry was certain could be a bigger star- Henry Winkler- would get the recurring role of "Fonzie" the street tough with a heart of gold.


The stars were aligned this time. Garry's rejected pilot had become the biggest hit of the 1970's. Happy Days indeed!