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There Are More Happy Days Spin-Offs Than You Probably Realized

"Happy Days" was an ABC sitcom which followed the Cunningham family (plus some dude in a leather jacket who rents out the room above their garage) as they go about their daily lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The series spawned a number of cultural touchstones, from birthing a virally catchy theme song to the genesis of the phrase "jumping the shark." In the grand scheme of popular media, seems as if — even in moments of failure — "Happy Days" could never do wrong. 

What's more, there are a startling number of productions that trace their roots back to Garry Marshall's little nostalgia project. That's right, "Happy Days" has enough spin-offs that if they were to be collated into a single, family tree, then the results would rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and we're not even diving into the whole "St. Elsewhere" thing, because that's just too complicated). Amid the mind-boggling number of "Happy Days" spin-offs out there, a few of them held their own in the spotlight while a few of them crashed on arrival, and one particular spin-off even plunged this universe into the realm of science fiction.

One thing is for sure: "Happy Days" has infinitely more spin-offs than most people ever realized. Here is a lookback on every single one.

Laverne & Shirley (1976)

Let's do these as chronologically as possible. The first spin-off -– and almost certainly the most popular -– was "Laverne & Shirley," which starred Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams in the titular roles. The series follows the two single women (and roommates), and their misadventures in the city of Milwaukee. In "Happy Days," Laverne and Shirley were introduced as one-off characters in the third season that went on a double date with The Fonz (Henry Winkler) and Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard).

Hilariously, "Laverne & Shirley" became a more highly rated production than that of its mother series, although the latter ran for far longer. Another interesting piece of trivia to note is that the actress who portrays Laverne DeFazio, Penny Marshall, is the younger sister of the man who originally created "Happy Days," per a 2005 A&E Biography. According to that same special, while the duo were originally only intended for that one-off appearance on "Happy Days," everyone involved was so impressed with the combo of both performers that when executives asked Gary Marshall to come up with a new show to run right after "Happy Days," he felt the women stood out on their own merits strongly enough to merit the slot. 

Blansky's Beauties (1977)

Next up is "Blansky's Beauties," which starred Nancy Walker in the titular role. 

The character of Nancy was introduced briefly in the fourth season as the cousin of Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley) who owns an apartment complex in Las Vegas. The spin-off series, then, follows Nancy juggling home life and show business, and ran for exactly thirteen episodes before it was canceled. 

The early cancelation was due to horrible ratings, meaning that almost no one chose to watch it, and those who did ... well, didn't like it. Ironically enough, later critics (such as Jaime J. Weinman of This Was TV) have speculated that "Blansky's Beauties" was formulated to be a Frankenstein-like amalgamation of base visuals designed to explosively appeal to a wide audience. After all, the role of Nancy (the character, not the person — they just shared a first name) in show business was literally to den mother a group of Vegas showgirls. And yet, "Blansky's Beauties" failed to appeal, and is one of the least remembered "Happy Days" spin-offs.

Mork & Mindy (1978)

Then came "Mork & Mindy," which starred Robin Williams and Pam Dawber in the titular roles. The series follows Mork, a space alien, learning about humanity from Mindy, an Earthling woman. The character Mork was introduced in the fifth season of "Happy Days" — unsurprisingly, the same season as that whole shark jump incident — where the alien attempted to kidnap Richie and take him back home as a pet, sort of, until The Fonz interfered with his powerful thumbs. It's exactly as weird as it sounds.

The secret ingredient that allowed this weird one-off to make for a great series, though, was a fresh-faced Robin Williams, who turned Mork's outsider experiences into a gold mine of comedy. How could it not be, with Williams behind the wheel? "Mork & Mindy" was successful enough that it would go on to cross back over with "Happy Days" for an episode in the sixth season where Richie and The Fonz attempt to explain their lives to the Orkan (yes, Mork is from Ork, it's not the silliest thing happening here). The crossovers casually mention that Mork has the ability to time travel, too, which is hardly -– if ever –- touched upon in the spin-off's main storylines.

Out Of The Blue (1979)

Another bizarre "Happy Days" spin-off that you've certainly forgot about is "Out Of The Blue," which starred Dixie Carter and Jimmy Brogan. The series follows an angel named Random (Brogan) earning his wings while living with a human woman (Carter) and her hectic family. 

The angel appears in a single episode of the seventh season of "Happy Days," where Chachi (Scott Baio) literally tries to sell his soul. If "Mork & Mindy" was a stretch for the Wisconsin-based sitcom, "Out Of The Blue" is the mental breaking point.

There is an interesting debate around this spin-off, though (per Poobala.com), which argues the validity of its status as a true spin-off. Those viewers who are against the canonical continuity claim that the episode of "Happy Days" in which Random appears is more accurately labeled a cross-over because of the behind-the-scenes shooting calendar. Those in favor of it being a spin-off suggest that the semantics are ridiculous, and "Happy Days" has a long track record of introducing characters for new projects. Which is, honestly, fair. Regardless, precious few people watched it, "Out Of The Blue" was out of luck before the first season even finished, and this debate might be the only thing that anyone still remembers about the show.

Joanie Loves Chachi (1982)

Coming in as the fifth spin-off is "Joanie Loves Chachi," which starred Erin Moran and Scott Baio in the titular roles. This particular project is the first of its kind in that it follows two characters who were legitimately significant players in "Happy Days," rather than guest stars — with Joanie, in particular, being "Happy Days" protagonist Richie's younger sister. 

Evidently, the writers and producers felt that the characters and their relationship simply needed more room to breathe on their own. The premise sees the couple pursuing musical careers in Chicago. While the spin-off was praised for the titular couple's obvious chemistry, little else drew in viewership, and the series barely received two seasons. The two characters returned to "Happy Days" when their spin-off failed to woo audiences, and the conclusion of the series ended up being their wedding, which closed out with a surprising fourth wall break from Joanie's father, Howard (per MeTV).

 "Joanie Loves Chachi" is considered to be the last official live-action spin-off series to "Happy Days" ... and yes, it is important to make the distinction about it being live-action, because there's a lot more to cover. 

Cancelled spin-offs, animation, and a musical

Before moving forward, there are two alleged spin-offs that failed to make it to series: first, there was a potential spin-off featuring the duo of Ralph and Potsie (via Foundation Interviews), and there was also talk of a Pinky Tuscadero show, as well, until the lead actress, Suzi Quatro, turned it down (via an ABCMallorca interview archived by the Way Back Machine). As she explained, "It was enough. Time to move on. And I was proved right."

If these two concepts had succeeded at all, "Happy Days" would have launched seven live-action spin-offs. Both were seeded in the mother series, but the interest simply wasn't there to justify their creation. However, "Happy Days" kept churning out content — just in animated form. "The Fonz And The Happy Days Gang" was a cartoon adventure that saw the familiar characters traveling through time with an alien named Cupcake. Both "Mork & Mindy" and "Laverne & Shirley" received the animation treatment, as well, in the "Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour."

And, somehow, this still isn't the end. In 2007, Garry Marshall returned to Milwaukee one last time with "Happy Days The Musical," which features wrestling luchadores, barbershop quartet songs about bikinis, the ghosts of both James Dean and Elvis Presley, and a weirdly extended soliloquy about an avocado.

So while there are currently no more "Happy Days" spin-offs in the works, never say never. Maybe these happy days are here to stay, after all.