It’s impossible to overstate just how wildly successful Happy Days was. The sitcom, which aired from 1974 to 1984, ushered in a trend for ’50s nostalgia and spawned seven spinoff series of varying success. One of these short-lived spinoffs was Joanie Loves Chachi.
Set in the ’60s, Joanie Loves Chachi, which ran two seasons from 1982 to 1983, starred Erin Moran (who sadly passed away at 56 in 2017) and Scott Baio as the title characters, who were both family members of Happy Days‘ protagonists — Joanie was Richie’s (Ron Howard) little sister, while Chachi was the Fonz’s (Henry Winkler) younger cousin.
What was Joanie Loves Chachi about?
Over the course of its 17 episodes, Joanie Loves Chachi followed the protagonists as they moved to Chicago and tried to strike it big in the world of ’60s rock music (there was even an episode centered on Beatlemania!). The sitcom combined comedy and nostalgia with musical performances from Joanie and Chachi, and helped to further Baio’s reign as a teen idol.
Because it was so short-lived and emblematic of such a specific moment in pop culture history, Joanie Loves Chachi has long been regarded as a TV oddity. Given this quirky status, we’ve gathered a variety of fun facts you likely didn’t know about the show.
Baio and Moran had very mixed feelings about it
In the early ’80s, Baio’s star was on the rise and Joanie Loves Chachi was meant to establish his musical career (he even released albums in 1982 and 1983). However, Baio has — shall we say — complicated feelings about the show.
In a 2014 AV Club interview, Baio detailed out the show’s messy production history — the Happy Days writers wrote the first four episodes, only to then return to Happy Days, giving the remaining episodes of Joanie Loves Chachi a less cohesive feel.
As Baio explained, “it just sort of all crumbled and fell apart. In retrospect, if given the choice again, I would not have done that show. That was just the wrong idea. If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve waited ’til Happy Days was over until I did anything else.”
Lest you think Baio is totally negative about the show, he did have some nice things to say about it, claiming that “as an actual experience, it was great. It taught me a lot about how to handle people.”
Erin Moran also expressed her reservations about Joanie Loves Chachi, saying she had been “talked into it” and, like Baio, she would’ve preferred to stay on Happy Days, though she added that she “I liked working with the people” on its spinoff.
Moran and Baio did ultimately return to Happy Days, as Joanie and Chachi got married in the final episode.
The ratings were good … at first
Joanie Loves Chachi wasn’t necessarily fated to fail. When it debuted in 1982, it had high ratings, due to airing directly after Happy Days and being up against reruns rather than new shows. (It was even popular enough to merit a novelization!). In season two, the ratings plummeted, as it was competing with more popular shows like Magnum, P.I. and The A-Team, leading to its ultimate cancellation.
The show gave Henry Winkler his directorial debut
Not only did Henry Winkler show up on a season two episode of Joanie Loves Chachi (aptly titled “Fonzie’s Visit”), he also stepped behind the camera for the first time to direct an episode. In the episode, Joanie and Chachi go to see a French film, only to then attempt to leave when Chachi’s mom and stepdad show up.
Winkler will always be best known as an actor, but following Joanie Loves Chachi, he’d also go on to direct episodes of CBS Schoolbreak Special, New York Daze, Dave’s World, Clueless and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He also directed two movies, Memories of Me, a Billy Crystal vehicle from 1988, and Cop and a Half, a 1993 comedy starring Burt Reynolds. He even directed a Dolly Parton TV movie, A Smoky Mountain Christmas, in 1986!
(Click through to for more Dolly Parton movies)
The show became a popular reference point
Even if you didn’t watch Joanie Loves Chachi, you may have seen references to it in movies and TV. The name of the show was memorably used as an insult by Ben Stiller in the 2004 comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and it was also a surprising topic of conversation in the 1998 Will Ferrell movie A Night at the Roxbury and the teen movie Can’t Hardly Wait, from the same year.
Joanie Loves Chachi has also come up as a funny pop culture reference in shows like Scrubs, The Goldbergs, Family Guy, The O.C., Gilmore Girls and Friends. So why did Joanie Loves Chachi keep popping up years after its cancellation? We suspect it has something to do with the fact that it was widely known as a flop and its name is fun to say.
There’s a naughty rumor about the show
In an interview, Joanie Loves Chachi co-creator Garry Marshall called it “a sweet show at a time when sweet shows were on their way out.” He also claimed it was a big hit in Korea because Chachi is similar to a Korean word for male anatomy. This turned out to be an urban legend, as the sitcom never actually aired there!
Read more about ’80s sitcoms here!