Chuck Cunningham was a character on a show that started in January 1974 and lasted 11 seasons. He was the older brother of the Cunningham family the main family of the show. The star of the show was Ron Howard as Ritchie Cunningham the middle child. Erin Moran played the youngest child. Tom Bosley and Marion Ross played the parents.
The show took place in the 50s when there was a period of nostalgia for the 50s. American Graffiti, about teenagers in the 1950s was a hit movie in 1973 with director George Lucas. In the movie he stuck in a young carpenter who worked for him named Harrison Ford. The movie was about a bunch of teenagers who after their graduation in 1962 spend the evening after graduation partying, but also thinking about their future now that they no longer had the security of high school. It was a great movie as a was a comedy with a enough drama to keep the plot doing. Lucas did a great job and I don’t know why this film isn’t more popular today.
At the time there were three networks (ABC, CBS and NBC). If I remember correctly all three networks released shows about the 50s and early 60s. Happy Days won. However, Chuck Cunningham didn’t. Which was alright with the first actor who played him as he didn’t like shows about Happy Days, which was a cute comedy. Chuck was in 9 of the first 10 episodes and went to school or something.
However, in the springs he came back as a different actor, but only appeared in two more episodes. Then producer Garry Marshall decided he didn’t need Chuck Cunningham so sent him to college to play basketball. He had Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler and very popular as a mentor for young Ritchie. Nobody really missed Chuck. It was like this in my house about 3 years later. I would say to my brother, “I haven’t seen Ritchie’s older brother in a while.” He would reply, “Yeah, what was his name again?”. Me: “Who cares”. It was that way in a lot of households.
Meanwhile the show had many changes, most of them bad. However, it was acute family show with moderate humor and it took up some of the right issues so it survived 11 seasons. Ron Howard left the show after 7 seasons. He was show up as a guest once in a while. Fonzie became the star of the show. Nobody missed Chuck.
Then came the last episode, Ritchie returned home for some reason. Tom Bosley breaks the fourth wall gives a speech and thanks his two wonderful children, Ritchie and Joanie (the little sister). Now people went ballistic. What about Chuck? Not that we loved or even liked him, but he was a part of the show. Even TV Guide chewed out Happy Days on this. Now there had been some theories on what happened to Chuck and why he wasn’t mentioned on the show. This is mine. In doing some research for this article, someone had a theory close to mine, but not actually the same.
My theory is Happy Days took place in two different universes. The early days with Chuck was one universe and the later shows take place in a parallel universe. Where is the break is your choice. I have a couple of theories. However, the main point is poor Mr. Cunningham didn’t have any idea he had an older son in the other universes. That is why he thought he had only two kids.
To understand my theories, you have to know about Jump the shark. A couple of writers in the early days set up an internet set about good shows going bad. They named it “Jumped the Shark” after a Happy Day’s episode where Fonzie, on a dare, jumps over a shark while water skiing. It was a really dumb episode, that everyone wanted to watch, sadly including me, as it was advertised Fonzie was going to jump the shark. It wasn’t a very good episode from what I remember.
But it did coin the famous phrase “Jump the Shark” which became a famous internet site which discussed when good shows become bad. The creators were right, this was a sign of a turn from a good show to a show I never watched again. “Jump the Shark” was a great site where it didn’t just discuss “Happy Days” but just about every show that lasted more than a few years. There were some really good discussions on some shows. There were also some not so good discussions, but overall, it was a great site. I don’t know how the people who ran the site made money (some with advertising), so eventually they sold the site.
That was when the site “Jumped the Shark”. I went on the site a few times afterwards, but never figured out what the new owners were trying to do with it, so I would visit it less and less. I think it eventually disappeared, which sadly happens when things like the internet mature.
Back to Happy Days. I still watched Happy Days for a while, but not every week after Fonzie jumped the shark. However, in one episode there was an obnoxious French guy who said all Americans were dumb and to prove it he challenge anyone to a fencing contest. Now the guy was invited to the school because he was a world-famous fencer. You don’t have to think much to guess who accepted the challenge. Of course, it was Fonzie. Despite Henry Winkler looking terrible as a fencer Fonzie won. I never watched a full episode of Happy Days until the one where Howard thanked his two children in an another universe from where the show started.