Roger Phillips on Happy Days Should Have Been a Returned Chuck Cunningham
Today, we look at why Roger Phillips on Happy Days should have just been a returned Chuck Cunningham.
This is a brand-new feature, “Could Have Done Better,” where I note an alternate route that a TV series or film should have gone (and could have easily gone, so no, like, “ER should have not let George Clooney leave”).
While I was writing earlier today about how the original oldest sibling on Happy Days, Chuck Cunningham, was retconned out of existence on the series in the final episode, I recalled something that apparently my buddy Bill Walko told me (I know someone brought it up, but when I put that post up today, Bill brought this idea up again, so it must have been Bill who first mentioned this), which is that Happy Days really flopped in a wonderful opportunity to bring Chuck Cunningham back into the series.
As you may or may not recall, Ron Howard left Happy Days after seven seasons to concentrate on his nascent career as a film director (his first major studio film, Night Shift, actually starred his longtime Happy Days co-star, Henry Winkler). His character, Richie Cunningham, enlisted in the military. He was replaced by Ted McGinley (in his first major role) as Roger Phillips, Richie’s cousin who was a recent college graduate who came to Milwaukee to become a teacher and basketball coach.
Roger filled the role as someone for Fonzie to hang out with on the series, as Roger was sort of like Richie, only a bit more sophisticated with the ladies. Roger only recurred in Seasons 8-9 before becoming an official cast member in the final two seasons (he was pretty much a regular cast member, though, as he was in 60 episodes in those four seasons, and that was with him not debuting until four episodes into Season 8). Roger later became the principal of a vocational school, bringing Fonzie along with him, giving them new plots to deal with (and later giving Joanie a plot as she becomes a teacher in training at the school).
Here’s the thing, though, Chuck Cunningham WAS A BASKETBALL PLAYER IN COLLEGE! Why not just have McGinley play a recast Chuck Cunningham, out of college and back in Milwaukee as a teacher and basketball coach? Wouldn’t that have made a whole lot more sense than introducing a cousin like Roger? Having another Cunningham sibling would have given the whole Cunningham family unit more of a logical setup, rather than just Marion’s nephew, especially when they lost Joanie after Season 9. Heck, he’s not even a CUNNINGHAM! And, again, Roger was a former college basketball star and was now a basketball coach – CHUCK WAS A COLLEGE BASKETBALL STAR! That was, like, Chuck’s ENTIRE PERSONALITY!
McGinley was only 24 when he started, but you could have just had McGinley play Chuck at an undetermined age. Yes, Ron Howard was 27 when he left, but Howard’s whole deal was that he looked much younger than his actual age, so I think McGinley could have easily pulled off being Richie’s older brother, especially considering he was only supposed to be a few years older (as Richie was already a junior in high school when the series began, so Chuck would have been five years older than Richie at MOST) and, of course, Howard wasn’t even there to compare against.
I think this would have made so much more sense. This was a real missed opportunity.
Good idea, Bill! Okay, if you folks have future suggestions for “Could Have Done Better,” drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 thoughts on “Roger Phillips on Happy Days Should Have Been a Returned Chuck Cunningham”
It’s a good idea that makes a lot of sense!
I just realized that since Happy Days’ setting was somewhere in the 1960s when the show ended, Ritchie Cunningham probably got sent to Vietnam at some point. Where’s THAT spinoff?
He and Ralph were out of the military by the time the war started in earnest, how often were guys called back in serve in Vietnam? And I wonder if Chachi would have been drafted.
If I had to guess (assuming they even considered bringing back Chuck), maybe the thought so much time had passed without Chuck that the audience may have forgotten about him, and would therefore look at it as retconning in an older brother that hadn’t been mentioned before? (Obviously, that wouldn’t be true, but I could well imagine that’s how a lot of the audience would view it, especially if they had never seen the early episodes. Maybe if the show had at least mentioned Chuck every now and then, it would have been easier to pull off.) (But then, I have no idea if the idea of Chuck returning even occurred to anyone.)
If Ritchie did any time in military service, he probably was stationed at the same camp Gomer Pyle was.
Ted McGinley cast as a Returned Chuck Cunningham
Was a wonderful idea and it
Made a lot more sense than
having Ted McGinley play
Heck Randolph Roberts could
have returned to Happy Days
As Chuck Cunningham and Chuck Cunningham.could have
Been an assistant basketball coach to head coach Roger Phillips Ted McGinley.
Also why didn’t the producers of Happy Days keep Bag Zombroski (Neil J Schwartz) on
Bag was a member of the Demons Club and BAG was always playing Practical Jokes on Richie Potsie and Ralph and
Bag played the drums in Richie’s band.
The character of BAG Disappeared from Happy Days with no explanation after the
Season 4 episode The Book of
Records and Bag Zombroski Neil J Schwartz was very similar to the character of Wally Plumstead Skip Young on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Wally liked to play practical jokes on David and Rick Nelson.
So Bag Zombroski Disappeared from Happy Days with no explanation just like Chuck Cunningham.
Other characters who vanished into thin air besides Chuck Cunningham and Bag Zombroski were MOOSE played
By BARRY GREENBERG and Eugene Belvin Denis Mandel and Melvin Belvin Scott Bernstein.
How about a Happy Days Reunion
Movie called Whatever Happened
To Chuck Cunningham with the original cast of Happy Days including Ted McGinley as Roger
Phillips Randolph Roberts as Chuck
Cunningham Neil J. Schwartz as
Bag Zombroski Barry Greenberg as
Moose Denis Mandel as.Eugene
Belvin Scott Bernstein as Melvin
Belvin Danny Butch as Spike Hillary
Horan as Daphne and Harris Kal as
The Happy Days Reunion Movie called.Whatever Hsppened To Chuck Cunningham could be dedicated to Gavan O’Herlihy the
First Actor to play Chuck Cunningham who passed away in
2021 and to the memory of Tom
Bosley Erin Moran AL Molinaro
Pat Morita Beatrice Colen and Ed
Also Misty Rowe played Wendy on
Happy Days and Tita Bell played
Trudy and Marla Pennington played