Last night I went to BAM and saw Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days , starring Fiona Shaw. When I was a kid, I loved Happy Days, but I had no idea it was set in the 1950s. Being only nine or ten, living in a Southern California hippie/surfer community, and having only limited access to TV, I thought Fonzie, Richie, Potsie, and the gang were just a typical high-spirited group of teenagers. In my relative isolation from the rest of pop culture, I imagined “normal” surburban American teenagers wore cuffed jeans, rode old motorcycles, and hung out in diners run by middle-aged avuncular proprietors. It totally went over my head that the show “took place” during my parents’ adolescence.
Also, much as I liked the Fonz, it bothered me that he was clearly not age-appropriate. I could buy Ron Howard, Anson Williams, and Erin Moran as teenagers, but Henry Winkler’s lupine mug clearly belonged to that of a grown man. How come no one ever noticed that???