Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Days: "The First Thanksgiving"

Premiered November 21, 1978.

"Thanksgiving is a time of family togetherness, a time of sharing and working together toward a common...uh... common turkey!"
-Marion Cunningham

It's Thanksgiving Day in Milwaukee, 1950-something. The Cunninghams and their guests Fonzie (Henry Winkler) , Potsie (Anson Williams) and Ralph (Donnie Most) are glued to the TV, watching a football game.

Meanwhile, Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross) is slaving away in the kitchen, preparing their Thanksgiving feast.  She asks various family members for assistance and is ignored, they can't take their eyes off the game.  Marion reaches the end of her rope and turns off the TV.

She says they have forgotten what Thanksgiving is all about and "insulted the memory of our forefathers."  Marion decides it's a good time to tell them the story of the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

We see the story acted out, with the Cunninghams and friends playing pilgrims:

Howard (Tom Bosley) is a blacksmith in Plymouth, where he lives with his wife Marion and their kids Richard (Ron Howard) and Joanie (Erin Moran).  Marion suggests that the community should celebrate a very successful harvest by organizing a feast of Thanksgiving.

Richard's friend "Master Fonzie", shows up at the house.  Howard doesn't like him due to Fonzie's "strange ways."  Fonzie has also broken the elders' rules and made friends with the Indians.

"Master Fonzie" arrives on his "motorcycle."
Later at the inn owned by Alfred (Al Molinaro), two trappers named Wolfstalker and Bearslayer (Potsie and Ralph) stop in for cider.

Fonzie confronts them and accuses the trappers of taking pelts from the Indians in exchange for "counterfeit wampum."  The Fonz brings the Indians in seeking justice.

But Howard says that inviting Indians into their compound violates the law, and Fonzie must be put in the stocks.  Richard believes this isn't fair and petitions for Fonzie's freedom.  

Mistress Joanie arrives at the inn with her foot caught in a trap.  It's the work of Wolfstalker and Bearslayer, but they don't know how to open it.

But "Pilgrim Fonzie," just like his 1950s counterpart, has super powers and uses them to free Joanie.  Howard is grateful, realizes he was wrong about the Fonz and invites him to Thanksgiving dinner.  But Fonzie has already been invited to dine with the Indians.  Howard says they may come too, and Thanksgiving Day is born!

But what about Marion of 1950s Milwaukee?  Will her family help her with food preparation and cleanup?

J.A. Morris' says:
I saw this when it first aired in 1978, so I bring some nostalgia to this review.  I should mention that "The First Thanksgiving" ran a season after  Fonzie (and Happy Days itself) famously "jumped the shark", but it's a solid, entertaining Thanksgiving episode.

It's funny to see familiar characters dressed up in Pilgrim "drag."  Fonzie's 15th century "motorcycle" is especially amusing.  Marion's garbled definition of "the meaning of Thanksgiving" is also funny.

"When Master Fonzie talks, EVERYBODY listens."
This episode will be released on dvd this December 2 as part of of Happy Days:Season 6.  But it is currently (at "press time") streaming for free at Hulu.

Ralph brings a bucket of "Plymouth Colonel" chicken to Thanksgiving dinner.
"The First Thanksgiving" is not classic television, but it's an enjoyable holiday episode and a humorous retelling of how the tradition of Thanksgiving began.  If you enjoyed Happy Days, it's a nice excuse to revisit the series. 

J.A. Morris' rating:

 3 pumpkin pies.

RigbyMel says:

Unlike J.A. Morris,  I have never seen this particular Happy Days episode before this year.
I found it to be amusing but not especially great.

I also think that a little of the "Ye Olde Speechifcation" goes a long way.   It is rather overused by writers who seem to have thought it much cleverer than it really is.   How many times can we hear "Greeteth" and "Master Fonzie" before it gets old?   (Not very many, in my estimation.)

I did enjoy "Master Fonzie's" wooden motorcycle and the message about tolerance of people who look different.  This episode is okay, but probably not worth going out of your way to watch unless you are a die-hard fan of Happy Days.  

RigbyMel's rating:

2 pumpkin pies

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