2021-11-12 22:11:09 UTC
Gavan O’Herlihy, who played Chuck Cunningham on Season 1 of “Happy
Days,” has died, according to Metro UK. He was 70.
Chuck Cunningham, the older brother of Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie
(Erin Moran), appeared in 9 episodes of Season 1. By Season 2, the part
was recast to be played Randolph Roberts. But after two episodes with
Roberts, Chuck just disappeared and was never heard from again.
The vanishing spawned the phrase “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome,” which is
used when a character just goes away without any explanation. In the
real world, the Chuck character was cut from the plans in response to
the popularity of Fonzie (Henry Winkler), who took on the role of the
unofficial big brother to Richie and his friends.
The show would go on to be quite a hit before jumping the shark.
Literally, in this case. In a Season 5 episode, the Fonz, wearing his
trademark leather jacket, water-skied up a ramp and leapt over a shark.
That would spawn another phrase commonly used to mean when a television
show goes too far with a plot point and becomes a parody of itself.
That’s usually the beginning of the end.
Tropes on tropes on tropes from “Happy Days.”
Anyway, O’Herlihy also had an arc in “Lonesome Dome,” and appeared in
films “Willow” and “Superman III.” TheWrap reached out to a rep for
O’Herlihy for this story, but we did not immediately hear back.
Watch “Happy Days” creator Garry Marshall explain the whole Chuck
Cunningham thing in the video below.
“The first kid we hired — which honestly, it happens — he came to me and
said, ‘I don’t like this’ — it was after like two or three episodes — ‘I
don’t think I should be doing this.’ I said, ‘Alright, what do you want
to do?’ I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ He said, ‘I want to quit and
go back to school.’ I said, ‘What is it you want to be?’ He said, ‘I
want to be a poet.’ I said, ‘Well, I’d keep this in your back pocket
once in a while to eat as a poet. It’s nice.’ But he literally went to
Ireland, he was an Irish kid, and he went to Trinity College,” Marshall
explains. “The other guy we hired because we though Richie needed a
brother. And he was a basketball player and he lasted. But see, again,
you’d rather pay attention to what’s happening. And it soon became
obvious, because we heard the audience loved Fonzie, it soon became
obvious that Fonzie was like the older brother and that was the
relationship that was working… So I just said, let’s just have Chuck
disappear, and let’s see how much mail we get. We didn’t get much. But
the cast, for 11 years, whenever they would forget a line or get mixed
up, they would say, ‘Was that Chuck? Who’s on the phone? Is that Chuck?’”