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In the early 1970s, director and TV creator Garry Marshall was putting together a brand new comedy about an All-American family living in the 1950s. The show, Happy Days, ended up airing for 11 seasons and become one of the more famous shows in television history. Its name, its premise and its jokes were all timely, but Happy Days was almost never Happy Days. In fact, Garry Marshall recently revealed that he wanted to call the series by the bizarre title COOL. That’s all caps, mind you.
Marshall was recently reminiscing about Happy Days in an interview with The Guardian when he revealed that COOL ended up getting vetoed by ABC. Here’s why:
I wanted the show to be called COOL, but test audiences thought it a brand of cigarette, so my producer said: ‘How about Happy Days? That’s what we’re going to show.’
Happy Days is probably best known for The Fonz, a cool cat from the wrong side of the railroad tracks who finds love and acceptance with the Cunningham family. Although, Fonzie wasn’t part of the original concept for Happy Days, his character was cool enough that I suppose the title would somewhat have been justified once The Fonz was added in. It’s pretty hilarious, though, that TV viewers didn’t dig it, and ultimately, the Happy Days title has become iconic—especially with the help of the theme song that was written for the series.
Originally, Garry Marshall told The Guardian that he was also initially asked to put together a show about flappers in the 1920s. He was fine with making a period drama, but flappers weren’t exactly his forte. Instead, he figured out a way to make a nostalgic series that worked for the network and worked for his own creative sensibilities.
In 1971, I was asked to make a show about flappers in the 1920s and 30s. I said I know nothing about that era, but I’ll do it if it’s set in the 50s. Back then, it would have been hard to do an honest depiction of teenagers without showing drugs and booze – and we didn’t want to do that. By making it nostalgic, we avoided all that.
Focus groups are often discussed in extremely negative terms, but in this case, one seems to have produced a very positive result. Happy Days eventually grew into one of TV's most loveable shows that was on for a decade, but it's unclear whether anyone would have even tuned in to give Cool a try.