In 1969, several significant events occurred. Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon; the Chappaquiddick drowning of a young woman scandal involving Senator Ted Kennedy; the Manson killings; the Stonewall Riots; Vietnam; Woodstock — and the romantic comedy anthology TV series “Love, American Style” premiered on the ABC network on Friday nights.
For the first season, Charles Fox’s theme song was performed by The Cowsills, which was the family musical group that the television show “The Partridge Family” was based on. In future seasons, the theme song was performed by the “Ron Hicklin Singers.” They were also the voices for the TV musical group “The Partridge Family.”
The opening credits featured a big heart with the red, white, and blue patriotic symbol with “Love, American Style” appearing inside. And outside the heart, fireworks would light up the night sky.
Various television seventies guest stars would appear inside the heart as the theme song played on. Most stories used in the television program were rejected pilot scripts that wouldn’t have been seen by TV viewers otherwise.
Between the segments were 20 second drop-in silent movie-style “joke clips” and burlesque-style comedy routines performed by the series troupe cast. Future “Vegas” and “Rockford Files” stars Phyllis Davis and Stuart Margolin were among regular troupe members. If you remember James Hampton, who played Private Dobbs on the TV series “F-Troop,” he was also part of the “Love, American Style” regulars.
Now, I mentioned earlier that rejected pilot scripts were featured in the show’s segments. Out of the ashes, the Phoenix will rise. Two prime time television series emerged from the two different 1972 episodes in February.
On Feb. 11, 1972, the television program aired an animated episode, “Love and the Old- Fashioned Father.” Tom Bosley was the weary father’s voice of Harry Boyle, a restaurant equipment dealer.
The remainder of the Boyle family consisted of his suburban wife Irma, his unemployed long-haired post-adolescent lazy son Chet, his boy-crazy feminist heavyset daughter Alice, and the youngest devious son Jamie. “Bibleman” star Willie Aames (“Swiss Family Robinson,” “Eight is Enough,” and “Charles in Charge”) supplied the youngest boy’s voice.
Hanna-Barbera picked up the TV pilot, which became the short-lived animated NBC television series “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home.” It was inspired by the controversial Norman Lear CBS sitcom “All in the Family.”
Two weeks later, on Feb. 25, 1972, the comedy anthology show aired an episode titled, “Love and the Television Set.” Garry Marshall originally produced the unsuccessful pilot “New Family in Town” about growing up in the 1950s.
It wasn’t picked up by the major networks, so the rejected TV pilot script ended up on “Love, American Style.” After the ABC network executives saw the Broadway play “Grease” and the 1974 movie “American Graffiti,” they remembered the 1950s segment on the TV romantic/comedy anthology series about the Cunningham family buying their first television set.
A memorable scene in the episode was when Richie Cunningham leaned up against the doorbell while kissing his date goodnight. His date’s mother kept coming outside to check on who was ringing her doorbell. In the original “Love, American Style” episode, Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham) Marion Ross (Mrs. C) and Anson Williams (Potsie Webber) reprise their roles for the new series “Happy Days.” The segment was now retitled, “Love and the Happy Days.”
Tom Bosley replaced Harold Gould (“Rhoda”) as Howard Cunningham. His animated TV role on the NBC nighttime series “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home” abruptly ended. Erin Moran, 14, took over the adolescent Joanie Cunningham role previously played by Susan Neher in the “Love, American Style” segment.
Of course, “Happy Days” spurred three different television spin-offs—“Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy,” and the flop “Joanie Loves Chachi.”
I will say if it wasn’t for “Love, American Style” airing that rejected Garry Marshall pilot, the viewing public would’ve missed out on so much more enjoyable TV moments.
For all you “Laverne & Shirley” fans, we lost Penny Marshall last year. She will be solely missed, along with her brother, Garry Marshall. They brought us wholesome family entertainment throughout the seventies and eighties.