Happy Days cast not so happy

The former cast of 1970s sitcom Happy Days aren’t very happy right now, having filed a $10m lawsuit against CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures.

The suit by Anson Williams, Marion Ross, Don Most, Erin Moran and the estate of the late Tom Bosley claims they have not been paid for their share for video releases and licensed merchandise that used their images and voices.

Ron Howard and Henry Winkler are not part of the suit (and like this photo, everybody forgot about Scott Baio aka Chachi?).

Happy Days epitomises what is best in America,” says the lawsuit, while CBS and Paramount “epitomise what is worst in corporate America, exemplifying the worst business practices.”

The show ran from 1974 until 1984, originally produced by Paramount, but after a corporate split in 2005 it became part of CBS Studios.

In 2002, Moran (Joani Cunningham) contacted the studio after seeing their images on slot machines at a casino, but was told no money was owed. Happy Days t-shirts, DVDs and memorabilia have also been sold across the years.

In a statement, a spokesperson for CBS Consumer Products said: “We agree that funds are owed to the actors and have been working with them for quite some time to resolve the issue.”

Reminds me of that line in The Simpsons:
Homer: I remember the good old days with Potsy and The Fonz.
Marge: That wasn’t you. That was Happy Days!
Homer: No, they weren’t all happy days….

Source: Hollywood Reporter


  1. Sorry to say this but they don’t stand a chance.

    These studio contracts are compiled by platoons of lawyers who have everything so carefully worded to make sure they are inpenetrable from those making claims or lawsuits years later after, especially regarding marketing and future media — above all to save on paying out royalties. If such a case ever won, studios and media organizations would be besiged by those in similar circumstances, and dating back to the dawn of television (and movies)

    I only have to think of what Tony Bonner went through in recent years with the production company behind “Skippy” to come to this conclusion.

  2. Not Happy Sam

    Another way to look at it is

    The writers wrote the script.
    The studio took the biggest risk by investing a lot of money to pay everyone and to sell the idea.
    The actors were paid to do a job, they did that job and were paid.
    End of story. Almost

    The studio then decided to use the actors pictures and voices (without permission) to sell T-Shirst, other clocthing and even Slot Machines.
    Yes, the should now be paid for those as the initial contracts were for the taking part in the TV show only.

  3. @TVScene also Happy Days quite surprisingly hasn’t had a DVD release past season 4 for probably similar reasons.

    Agree with Koverstreet it actually jumped the shark later than when the Fonz actually jumped the shark, I’d say around the time Arnolds burned down and the whole set changed, the main characters left and all these new characters were introduced.

  4. They should definitely be paid. It’s how the system is supposed to work in Hollywood for actors. The studios have just been greedy and kept all the income.

  5. As an aside – it is also a real shame that the classic 1966-68 Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward has still not hit the DVD shelves. 20th Century Fox (who made the television series) and Warner Bros (who now own the Batman rights) are still fighting over who actually owns the show. Such a shame – they have been fighting in courts for over 20 years now! It, like Happy Days, was classic tv.

  6. Back when Happy Days first started, DVDs hadn’t been invented, video tape was in its infancy and absolutely no TV shows were released for sale to the public. The contracts the actors signed were for the original airing of the TV show and, in later years, residuals from syndication. Now, decades later, the studios are making an absolute fortune selling those actors’ performances on a medium that didn’t even exist when they signed their contracts and were paid for their work. These days, actors negotiate royalty rates for income derived from future home video releases of their performances, so whenever someone buy a DVD of (e.g.) Friends, the actors involved are paid for their work, since revenue continues to be generated by their performance. Back then, no such opportunity existed…but is it right that those actors do not receive a share of the revenue generated by their performance? No, it is not. It’s almost akin to someone claiming that an artist who released their albums back in the days of vinyl and cassettes shouldn’t be paid royalties from CD sales of their work. Would anyone dare to suggest that The Beatles shouldn’t receive royalties from CD sales (since CDs didn’t exist in the 1960s and wouldn’t have been mentioned specifically in their contracts)? I doubt it.

  7. The toyota example doesn’t quite work that way…it would be more like if toyota made you a car, and then you went out and sold pictures of that car, made toy cars and sold them, and t-shirts of said car, would you still have to pay toyota?…well, yes…

    The tv show was done and paid for, but the actors couldn’t have known how much revenue was going to be generated by what they did.

  8. Timely article, this.
    I’ve been reminiscing over a few eps of Happy Days on Ch11 lately and blow me down if they didn’t play the “Jump the shark” episode a few weeks back.
    It was as lame as I remember, but I think the real downhill slide began when Chachi appeared on the scene. The ‘miscellaneous’ cast members deserve all they can get for enduring the limp scripts of the show’s dying days. I hope they win their lawsuit.
    Wa Wa Wa, Blue eyes!

  9. What royalties? That’s just rubbish, they got paid at the time for the work they did 30 years ago just like everyone else. Stop holding things up you sour pusses and let the rest of us enjoy the DVD releases in peace.

  10. If Toyota make me a car and I pay them for it, do I have to pay them every time I drive it?
    A bit like the secret “trail commission” that mortgage brokers collect from every monthly mortgage payment.
    Work was done and paid for. End.

  11. David @ Green Point

    If every actor who’d been screwed by the studios had the oportunity to sue for a percentage of what their image, likeness or talent has made for the corporate heavies during the past 100 years, there would be no entertainment industry.

    Give them what they are owed.

  12. Armchair Analyst

    I find it interesting that we are hearing about it now. Why wasn’t this addressed years ago considering that the show has been re-running for years now.

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