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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tarnishing My Legacy.

These are highlights from the obituary appeared in the Hollywood Reporter a few days ago:

"Bob Brunner, a writer-producer on the classic ABC sitcom Happy Days who named Henry Winkler's "Fonzie" but also -- as legend has it -- suggested the character jump a shark in a now-infamous 1977 episode, has died. He was 78.

Brunner invented the nickname "Fonzie" for Winkler's suave biker character, whose birth name was Arthur Fonzarelli. He also came up Fonzie's insulting comeback catch phase "Sit on It!" which wildly caught on in America as the show became a huge ratings hit.

With TV's No. 1 show returning in 1977, the show decided to set the season-opening three-part episode in Hollywood, where Fonzie is invited to take a screen test. In one storyline, he engages in a water-skiing challenge with a local kid and, as a tiebreaker, has to jump a shark in a netted area in the ocean. (Of course, Fonzie is wearing his trademark black leather jacket as he attempts the feat.)

The phrase "jump the shark," coined by radio personality Jon Heim and his college roommate, has since come to signify the precise moment when a popular TV show begins its inevitable decline.

In a September 2010 article for the Los Angeles Times, Happy Days writer-producer Fred Fox Jr. wrote about who came up with the shark idea.

Q&A: Garry Marshall on Earning Laughs in TV and Why Fonzie Jumped That Shark
"Amazingly, I can't remember — which is frustrating, as I can usually watch a Happy Days episode from any season, hear a joke and recall who wrote it," he wrote. "My friend Brian Levant, then a talented new member of the writing staff, believes that Garry Marshall, the show's co-creator and executive producer, and Bob Brunner, the showrunner at the time, made the suggestion. But what I definitely remember is that no one protested vehemently; not one of us said, 'Fonzie, jump a shark? Are you out of your mind?'"

Fox wrote that the Sept. 20, 1977, episode attracted 30 million viewers and was the No. 3-rated show on TV that week. Happy Days remained on the air for another six seasons."
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Interestingly, about five years ago, I read an obituary of Bob Brunner in some outlying publication on-line.
But I couldn't find any corroboration.
And it's not that I didn't try.
I asked several people who knew him "Is Bob Brunner dead?"
Nobody knew.
This recent obituary seems to put that speculation to rest.
I am commenting on this obituary for one reason and one reason alone.
One look at Brunner's IMDB page will give you an indication of what kind of writer he was.
It's not all that different from my IMDB page.
We both spent considerable amounts of time in the Toy Department of TV sitcom.
If we might have had any difference, I suspect that it was that Brunner never had a burning desire to write the Great American Novel, or Play, or Movie, something I am afflicted with, much to my frustration.
So I'm not writing this to comment on his writing.
I always liked Bob Brunner.
He was always nice to me.
I would describe him as a hale fellow well met.
He seemed very happy to have attained whatever he attained in show business.
But I'm not writing this to express my personal feelings about him.
I am writing this because once again, the media has not done its homework, and in
the process is unjustly robbing me of credit and credibility.
As has been the case relentlessly that whenever "Laverne & Shirley" is mentioned,
the fact that I co-created it is usually lost in deference to Garry Marshall, so here, my second most noteworthy accomplishment, the introduction of the expression
"Sit on it" has been credited to someone else.
Because it is in the Introduction to this blog and my e-books, I have already received e-mails doubting my veracity on this issue.
From my own loyal readers.
Because it was credited to Brunner in his obituary.
In print.
In letters you can read.
I feel I must respond in my own letters that you can read.
The expression "Sit on it" came out of a writing session between Lowell Ganz and myself, as we were writing the first live audience episode of Happy Days in 1975.
Our writing took the form of verbal ping-pong matches, during which, always bearing in mind that Garry Marshall was always looking for catchphrases, the words "Sit on it" came out of my mouth to be put into Fonzie's mouth.
Lowell and I looked at each other instantaneously and knew immediately that we had found the new catchphrase.
Bob Brunner didn't come to work on Happy Days until 1977, at which point I was already doing other things.
Bob was very "earthy".
The kind of person you would have expected to have come up with "Sit on it" in perhaps its most vulgar connotation.
But it wasn't his vulgarity at work.
It was mine.
So this is another example of "Caveat Emptor" when you read anything in the press.
Who knows? When I die, somebody might write that I came up with the idea of Fonzie jumping the shark, which I emphatically did not.
If I had still been the Show Runner then I would have been the huge naysayer in the
room.
I would have been the one saying "Are you all crazy?"
But as I said, I was no longer on the premises.
I know that "Sit on it" may not seem like much to you.
And maybe it isn't much.
Maybe it's a little thing, but it's mine own.

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My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperback, "Mark Rothman's Essays" is still available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at macchus999@aol.com.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

******


6 comments:

  1. The first episode of the third season of "Happy Days" (air date 9/9/75, co-written by you) includes the line "Sit on it"... but it's Joanie saying it to Ralph.

    Then, Bob Brunner wrote the episode that aired three weeks later, so obviously he got there before 1977.

    THE MYSTERY DEEPENS!

    ReplyDelete
  2. In my mind, Joanie always bore a striking resemblance to Fonzie, so forgive me for that mistake.
    As far as Brunner goes, he only wrote whatever episode he wrote in 1975.
    He was NOT on the writing staff, which is the only way he could have possibly come up with "Sit on it"
    He joined the writing staff in '77.
    Lowell and I were the Show Runners in '75.. We were in charge of all aspects of the writing.
    Everything else I wrote about the birth of "Sit on it" is true.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brunner also wrote an episode in the 1974-75 season, the one with Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody. Brunner is also credited with playing Clarebelle the Clown in that episode (though not on the acutual 1950s Howdy Doody series.) Nothing to do with "sit on it", I just happen to think that was one of the funniest shows of the second season.

    Now, here IS something that has to do with "sit on it". The term appears written on the wall in the third season's opening credits.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You could be eligible to receive a Apple iPhone 7.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at macchus999@aol.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."