Happy Days: The Complete First Season

You'd think that in releasing the initial DVD set for the show that gave birth to the phrase "jumping the shark," the folks at Paramount would have been a little more sensitive to doing things right. But the release of the first season of Happy Days comes with nothing but the 16 episodes and a pretty box to hold the three discs in. Debuting in 1974 and originally imagined as a way to cash in on the success of American Graffiti, and spinning off from an episode of the anthological Love American Style show, Happy Days would become an 11-season mainstay of primetime television. As this first season shows, when compared to later seasons, there actually was a golden age of sit-coms. Back before the multiple camera shots, Happy Days was shot almost like a movie and was better because of it. But more importantly, this season set the foundation for the series. In 1950s Milwaukee, we meet the Cunningham family (including the mysterious older brother Chuck, who disappeared later on with no explanation), Ralph Malph and Potsie, and of course, uber-cool hoodlum greaser Arthur Fonzarelli (aka the Fonz). The show never really found its footing until the second or third season (and promptly lost it a few years later when the gang goes to California and Fonzie jumps a shark on water skis while trying to become the next James Dean) but this is a great commercial-free trip down memory lane. However, this set screams out for commentary (if for no other reason to explain what happened to Chuck) and there must be tons of outtakes they could have dug out of the archives. Hopefully the following sets will contain what is so noticeably absent here. It's a tremendous disservice to viewers and the memory of the show that spawned Lavern and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. (Paramount)