Not So Happy Days: Cast Sues CBS

By Seth Abramovitch

Apr 19, 2011

While Sunday night’s TV Land Awards saw reunions of sitcom classics like Welcome Back, Kotter and The Cosby Show, another iconic TV cast -- that of Happy Days -- are reuniting for a different reason: They’re suing CBS for defrauding them out of 37 years’ worth of cash they feel they're owed from profits from Happy Days-branded products.

You won’t see Ron Howard’s or Henry Winkler’s name anywhere on the lawsuit, but four of the show's core players -- Anson Williams (Potsie), Don Most (Ralph Malph), Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham), and Marion Ross (Marion Cunningham), along with the estate of the deceased Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham) -- are claiming to be owed millions by Happy Days-owner CBS in merchandising fees. Their outrage had turned to complacency in the 37 years since the show went off the air. But a new line of Happy Days slot machines, which featured the actors’ likenesses in place of cherries and bells, has now gotten them angry enough to sue.

Their contracts stipulated they were to receive a percentage of all net merchandising revenue. When you consider how many Happy Days lunch boxes, collectibles and board games have been sold since the show premiered in 1974, that number should be well into the millions. Yet the actors claim they have received close to nothing by way of payment. For example, Moran, whose home was foreclosed upon last year, acknowledges having received a single check from CBS in the amount of $692.

A spokesperson for CBS offered: "We agree that funds are owed to the actors and have been working with them for quite some time to resolve the issue."

As The Fonz might say, not cool.

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  • txgirl75 Apr 20, 2011

    Sounds silly to me I mean the show has been off over 30 years so why get all upset about it now.. Sounds like greed to me and away to get back in the spot light.

  • CmdrX3 Apr 20, 2011

    Ron Howard is firmly established as one of Hollywood's top directors/producers. I doubt he needs the money enough to risk his reputation with this lawsuit.

  • docspector Apr 20, 2011

    Other possibilities, tbrittreid, are that Winkler and Howard, having been more important to the show, actually had enough leverage to get paid all along, or the possibility that they have enough money that they can afford to let this go. (After all, they were the "faces" of the show, so they were used in more licensed materials than the others were. The guy who REALLY got ripped of is the guy who played Chuck Cunningham... nobody even knows who he is.

  • Writerpatrick Apr 19, 2011

    It's likely that these people really are owed the money, but after this point it's very unlikely they'll ever see a penny from it. One would think that the actor's union would be doing something about this.

  • etong87 Apr 19, 2011

    Thinking about Happy Days makes me nostalgic.

  • DavidJackson8 Apr 19, 2011

    Henry Winkler and Ron Howard are often spoken as two of the nicest guys in Hollywood -- they're too nice to sue anyone.

  • dude6363 Apr 19, 2011

    They probably just didn't want to drag their names through the mud

  • tbrittreid Apr 19, 2011

    "Happy Days" is owned by Paramount which is owned by Viacom which owned CBS briefly in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I don't see how this suit has a legal leg to stand on, probably explaining Howard's and Winkler's non-participation.