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Pat Morita Filmed Fewer Episodes Of Happy Days Than You Probably Think

There are actors whose work we admire ... and those whose mere presence on screen elicits a big smile, and a warm fuzzy feeling. For several generations of film and television lovers Noriyuki "Pat" Morita was basically the poster boy for the latter category. But he was also that rarest of actor who, at the exact same time, often earned a spot in the former — I.E., the sort of actor who was seemingly incapable of delivering a wrote note anytime the cameras were rolling. That very quality helped the actor earn a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for his work in the 1984 blockbuster "The Karate Kid." And if there's a single role in Morita's mostly impressive showbiz oeuvre that he's most identified with, it's undoubtedly that of Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid" franchise. 

If there's a second, though, it would have to be that of Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi, the infamously quippy owner of Arnold's Diner on the iconic sitcom "Happy Days." Morita made his first "Happy Days" in 1975, and he went on to trade barbs with Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), the Fonz (Henry Winkler), and the rest of the gang through the series' final season on the air. But even with numerous seasons of "Happy Days" under his belt, Morita's actual episode count might surprise you.  

Pat Morita filmed less than 30 episodes of Happy Days during its run

Given how much time the "Happy Days" crew spent in Arnold's Diner, Pat Morita's episode-count might surprise even the show's biggest fans. So, too, might the fact that Morita's Arnold didn't actually make his first appearance on "Happy Days" until Season 3. That means the beloved actor was part of the "Happy Days" cast for eight full seasons. And that's precisely why it's such a surprise to learn that — according to IMDb — Pat Morita only appeared in 26 episodes of the show.

It's obviously a testament to Morita's skill and singular screen presence that his Arnold felt like such a major player in the series despite his relatively low episode count. Morita's impact was, of course, bolstered by the fact that few "Happy Days" supporting players — much less the regular cast — were gifted quite as many memorable scenes, riotous one-liners, or even quirky sideways glances. That's not because all of them weren't talented — they certainly were — but simply a testament to his incredible comedic skill. 

Pat Morita's final appearance on "Happy Days" came during the Season 11 premiere, with the series finale coming 21 episodes later. The actor clearly made out okay sans his "Happy Days" gig, booking "The Karate Kid" as his first post-Arnold job. Surprisingly, Morita's comedic work on "Happy Days" almost kept him from landing the role of Mr. Miyagi. Thankfully he was able to change a few minds during the casting process, because one simply cannot imagine "The Karate Kid" without Pat Morita (and the same is certainly true for "Happy Days").