Long before the Love Boat set sail in a search of romance on the high seas, there was another series where love was perpetually in the air. From 1969 – 1974, Love, American Style gave television viewers a comedic glimpse into the lives of those caught up in the various stages of romance. And while it seemed at the time like there must be something lewd about the show, looking back it was all pretty innocent. It did, however, bestow a priceless gift upon television viewers that many would forever cherish. For had it not been for this quirky little amorous show, we might never have come to know Fonzie.
Love, American Style was part of ABC’s Friday night lineup in the late 60s and early 70s alongside shows like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and The Odd Couple. While it didn’t enjoy the same success as these other shows, people still have fond memories of the comical little vignettes that were presented each week, usually 3 or 4 of them, which would show how various people were dealing with their love life. Each vignette was titled, always starting with the words “Love and …” There was no regular cast, but rather a series of guest stars that would often appear in different episodes as different characters. The list of stars that appeared on Love, American Style is extensive and includes people such as Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Roddy McDowall, Jack Klugman, Burgess Meredith and Ruth Buzzi among many, many others. Basically, anybody who was a television star in the 50s and 60s probably wound up on Love, American Style at one time or another.
One particular episode, titled “Love and the Happy Days” featured actors Ron Howard, Anson Williams, and Marion Ross. It was the result of a pilot that Garry Marshall was trying to shop around the networks about a 50s family called the Cunninghams. Not having any luck, he turned it into a vignette for Love, American Style. Shortly after that, a film by George Lucas called American Graffiti was released which became a huge success. Suddenly, all the networks had an interest in shows about the 50s and Marshall’s pilot would go on to become Happy Days. It would later spawn a few spin-offs of its own, including Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. Noticeable absent in the vignette was Tom Bosley as Howard Cunningham. He did appear, however, in another episode of Love, American Style, one that would manage to produce an animated spin-off called Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. Bosley would reprise his role in animated form on the 70s Hanna-Barbera cartoon that followed.
Here’s the episode that spawned Happy Days:
In 1985, ABC tried to resurrect Love, American Style with New Love, American Style but they couldn’t recapture the simple charm of the original. That didn’t stop them from trying again in 1999 before realizing that some things just weren’t meant to be. The format and premise are quaint by today’s standards and now viewers expect a lot more graphic sexuality than a show like Love, American Style ever resorted to. In fact, you would probably have to put a series like this on HBO just to get some positive ratings. Yes, the times have certainly changed.
If you have fond memories of Love, American Style, either from watching it during its original run, or in syndication, we invite you to share your thought and memories in our comments section.