Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! In accordance with our upcoming look at Garry Marshall’s sitcom style via Laverne & Shirley — with some thoughts on Happy Days too— I’m sharing the original pilot of the latter, which was produced in 1971 and aired as part of the anthology comedy Love, American Style on February 25, 1972.
Written by Garry Marshall, directed by Gary Nelson, and produced by Carl Kleinschmitt, this pilot film was recut and included as flashback material for an installment from the second season of Happy Days called “Who’s Sorry Now?” But you’ll notice it’s quite different from what the series would end up being, once it was greenlit over a year later (following the success of both Grease on stage and American Graffiti in theaters) — only Ron Howard, Marion Ross, and Anson Williams are carryovers; Harold Gould, soon of Rhoda, plays Howard here; and there’s no Fonzie. Tonally, however, it does resemble the initial Richie-centric years of the actual show, with an over-reliance on nostalgia, and a gently comic sensibility that’s warm and familiar, but seldom laugh-out-loud funny — only slightly complicating our idealized collective remembrance of the era, never really challenging it (like early iterations of Grease do).
So, since it’s never been officially released, I’m offering here — for your critical and non-commercial pleasure — access to the pilot, originally broadcast on Love, American Style as “Love And The Television Set,” but retitled in syndication “Love And The Happy Days,” to draw an association with the now-popular series. The password is joanieloveschachi.
Come back next week for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more Garry Marshall!