In the 1970’s television was both looking back at America’s past and looking at its future.
Set in the 1950’s in Milwaukee, Happy Days (1974-1984), revolved around the all American Cunningham family. Father Howard (Tom Bosley), Mother Marion (Marion Ross) and two teen-aged children Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie (Erin Moran). Adding some flavor is Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, Richie’s bad boy biker best friend who is taken in by the Cunninghams.
Happy Days could have been a sugary sweet predictable replica of the family comedies of the 1950’s. But it has a bite and a kick to it. After 41 years, it still makes audiences laugh. And you know a show is a classic when a top 40 music group uses an episode for one of its music videos.
In 1978, while America was wrestling with the racial strife, Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986) premiered.
In New York City, Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain) is a widower and a single father to Kimberly (the late Dana Plato). Keeping his promise to his late African-American housekeeper who herself was a widow, Phillip adopts her sons, Arnold (the late Gary Coleman) and Willis (Todd Bridges). Replacing Arnold and Willis’s mother as housekeeper is Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae), who would later have her character spinned off into Facts Of Life.
I was not around in 1978, but I can imagine that this show had it’s fair share of controversy. While today it is common for Caucasian parents to have adopted children who have a different skin color, 38 years ago, it was not so common. It was funny, slightly irreverent, but also showed America what she could be. Unfortunately, during the show’s run, the on-screen action was marred by the negative publicity surrounding the cast.
Do I recommend them? Why not?