Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Might've Been: Joanie Loves Chachi (1982)

ABC figured there was room for one more spinoff from Happy Days, which had already begat Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and the animated Fonz & the Happy Days Gang. The latter two series were coming to an end, but if the network thought help was on the way, well, were they ever wrong.

Joanie Loves Chachi put the spotlight on lovebirds Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) and Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio), the latter of whom was also the cousin of Fonzie (Henry Winkler). Chachi decided he wanted to form a rock band of his own, after having apprenticed with Richie, Potsie, & Ralph (Ron Howard, Anson Williams, & Don Most) in earlier episodes of Days. Meanwhile, Al DelVecchio (Al Molinaro) had married Chachi's mom, Louisa (Ellen Travolta), making him Chachi's stepfather. For the series, Al left Arnold's and Milwaukee, and relocated----with Chachi & Joanie in tow---to Chicago. Chachi's uncle (Art Metrano, ex-Chicago Teddy Bears) acted as the band's manager, which would explain why the band included a couple of cousins.

After a 4 week spring preview in March-April 1982, Joanie was given a full-season commitment the following fall, but then, ABC pulled the plug in December, then burned off the final two episodes in May '83. The storyline was concluded a year later on the series finale of Happy Days with Joanie & Chachi finally getting married.

Erin Moran had made her singing debut on Days a while earlier, in a short-term storyline that had her joining another band fronted by Leather Tuscadero (real-life singer Suzi Quatro, a 1-hit wonder in the late 70's), and the only other time she had sung on camera was when she appeared with some of the Days cast on Dinah!, not long before this series launched. Scott Baio could claim to have had his debut in the 1976 movie, "Bugsy Malone", but as was documented previously, all of the vocals were done by older singers in that film. However, as you can see in the opening provided by retrorebirth, the two actors acquit themselves pretty well. I believe Baio actually released an album, but if he thought he could parlay his teen idol status into pop stardom, as John Travolta did before him, nuh-uh.

Anyway, here's the open:

These days, Baio has sunk to reality-TV to remain relevant. Erin was last seen on Celebrity Fit Club, if memory serves, but has otherwise had some other issues.

Rating: C+.


magicdog said...

This spinoff shouldn't have happened!

It was obvious once Richie et al moved on, that some romantic focus was going to move towards Chachi & Joanie, and TPTB did everything they could to make us love them. I just couldn't get behind it. Even the music was bad! Of course, it was supposed to be the early to mid 60s and the music played by the band was so out of place.

hobbyfan said...

If they really wanted to do a musical sitcom as a spinoff, they should've spun Lenny & Squiggy, who actually were playing gigs off-air, off Laverne & Shirley. That, at least, could've lasted longer.

magicdog said...

I had heard during an interview with Michael McKean that they WERE close to spinning off Lenny & Squiggy. I think Gary Marshall (or perhaps the suits upstairs) were afraid that the two couldn't hold a show on their own for log or that Laverne & Shirley needed to have them on the show to make them look good.

There are times when I think those two were best in small doses, but I loved when they did musical numbers ("Night After Night").

hobbyfan said...

Michael McKean & David Lander brought Lenny & The Squigtones to Albany for a Cerebral Palsy telethon one time, and, yep, they did "Night After Night". Unfortunately, they didn't land any other bookings in the area, and we all know McKean has moved on (Spinal Tap, etc.), continuing to prove he is a legit musician.