Are These Happy Days Yours and Mine Happy Days II: The Curse of Ted McGinley

TV oddity Ted McGinley - charasmatic or cursed?

TV oddity Ted McGinley - charasmatic or cursed?

For 25 years there has been an entity that has plagued the sets of popular television programs. It is said that this entity comes with a curse. A curse that drives the hit television series to it’s doom. This entity has natural good looks, fluffy blonde hair and giant white teeth. This entity? His name is Ted McGinley and his presence on a television set means certain DOOM!

Now it’s possible that you have never heard of Ted McGinley but by the time we’re through I will find it hard to believe that you don’t realize who this man is. The Ted McGinley Curse has become legend as a result of the brilliant web site “Jump the Shark” where Ted is the site’s “Patron Saint”. However I was first made aware of Ted’s curse years ago during an episode of A&E’s old stand up comedy series “Evening at the Improv”. Ted was the host that evening and introduced himself by commenting on how many shows he had been on right before their cancellation. The truth is Ted McGinley has a wonderful sense of humor about his role as the executioner of classic shows. It almost has to be wondered whether network execs, knowing a show is on its last legs, hire Ted on purpose as a new addition to their cast on purpose. Perhaps it’s a universal joke on him.. Anyhow, let’s take a look at the Ted McGinley curse and his role in the demise of many sitcoms that have felt his wrath.

CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE PRESENTS

ARE THESE HAPPY DAYS YOURS AND MINE HAPPY DAYS? II:

THE CURSE OF TED MCGINLEY

Ted McGinley with the cast of Happy Days in 1980...but were they really happy days?

Ted McGinley with the cast of "Happy Days" in 1980...but were they really "happy days?"

Ted McGinley’s big break in Hollywood came in 1980 on the hit show Happy Days. Now when Gary Marshall comes a calling and offers a young actor with little television or film work on his resume a starring role on a hit show who wouldn’t jump at the chance to hang out at Arnold’s with Fonzie, Potsie, Ralph and Ritchie? You’d have to be an idiot to refuse and Ted McGinley was no idiot. However there was one stipulation. Ralph and Ritchie weren’t going to be there. Oh no. That’s right – Donny Most and Ron Howard were finished with the series and were shipping their characters to Greenland. In fact, Ted McGinley, in his role as cute but square school teacher Roger Phillips, was going to be the “new” Ritchie for the series. If only Robert Wightman, who had replaced Richard Thomas as John Boy Walton for The Waltons’ disastrous final two seasons, had called Ted McGinley and warned him “DON’T DO IT TED!” No, Ted wasn’t warned and in 1980 Roger Phillips walked into Arnold’s for the first time as the harbinger of doom to Happy Days. Now to be fair to Ted, Happy Days did last another four years but it was never quite the same. In 1984 viewers bid farewell to our friends in Milwaukee and Ted McGinley was made the scapegoat. The blame for the end of the series was put on him. Thus, the Ted McGinley curse was born.

Ted McGinley with the cast of The Love Boat, shortly before the show sank.

Ted McGinley with the cast of "The Love Boat," shortly before the show sank.

Yet it looked like luck was smiling down on Ted McGinley. Luck came in the form of legendary television producer Aaron Spelling. While all the rest of the Happy Days cast was bumbling around looking for work but finding it impossible due to ten years of typecasting, Ted was about to get another offer to star in another classic television series. The show was Love Boat. After six years on the air, the show’s ratings were sinking faster than the Titanic. Aaron Spelling sat in his office and with a thunderous roar he screamed, “We need a new character! Get me that fresh-faced kid who used to be on Happy Days.” Perhaps he meant Ron Howard, but Spelling’s flying monkeys brought him back Ted McGinley. Soon Ted was sporting the now famous white and black uniforms of the Island Princess. As Ace Evans, Ted McGinley was your photographer. However, the Ted McGinley curse was about to rear its ugly head again. Ted’s watch on the Love Boat only lasted two years and soon the Island Princess sailed its final voyage. That was two classic sitcoms dead with Ted McGinley as an addition to the cast.

Ted McGinley as Clay Falmont on Dynasty

Ted McGinley as Clay Falmont on "Dynasty"

However Aaron Spelling wasn’t quite finished with Ted McGinley yet. Ted jumped right out of his Island Princess uniform and into designer suits in the role of Clay Falmont in the 1986-1987 season of Dynasty. Now I must admit that I have never watched Dynasty. Prime time soaps are not exactly this pop culture addict’s genre of expertise. However, as taken directly from www.answers.com, here is the lowdown on Ted’s year on Dynasty: “Clay Falmont: The illegitimate son of Ben Carrington and Emily Falmont, who engaged in affairs with Amanda Carrington, Sammy Jo Reece and Leslie Carrington. The last relationship ended, and he left Denver, when it was confirmed that Leslie may have been his sister by blood. (Although it was never clarified, Ben Carrington may have been his biological father).” Got all that? Well it doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. Anyway, after one season Ted McGinley left the series. Why and what happened to his character is unknown to me. However, what is known is that Dynasty went off the air two years later in what has been said to be one of the most dismal endings to a series ever. One has to wonder if the Ted McGinley curse had lingered on the Dynasty set and whether perhaps it was angry that Ted was no longer on the series. At any rate, the tally was now three dead classic series connected to Ted McGinley.

Ted McGliney joins the cast of Married with Children as neighbour Jefferson DArcy

Ted McGliney joins the cast of "Married with Children" as neighbour Jefferson D'Arcy

For the next three years Ted McGinley floated around Hollywood in a kind of limbo. Doing a television guest spot here and a film there Ted couldn’t get a regular gig. Perhaps the word was out that there was a curse around Ted that would slaughter your show. Yet fortune smiled on Ted once again in 1991. There was only one network and one show brave enough to hire him. The network was FOX and the show was “Married with Children”. When Steve left Marcy, Ted McGinley was hired on as Marcy’s new husband, the jobless slacker con man Jefferson D’Arcy. Now let’s think about this for a second. Ted McGinley’s last series was Dynasty. DYNASTY! To take a part in a show with the reputation that “Married with Children” had was five steps backward for an actor that was previously on a show with the stature of Dynasty. One must wonder how desperate Ted McGinley was at this point in his career.

Jefferson DArcy became Ted McGinleys most successful character, and he remained on Married with Children for six years.

Jefferson D'Arcy became Ted McGinley's most successful character, and he remained on "Married with Children" for six years.

However, by playing sidekick to Ed O’Neill fortune finally smiled on Ted McGinley and the curse seemed to be lifted. Ted’s time on Married with Children was another six years. While some “Married with Children” purists will argue that Ted’s appearance on the show killed the program, this pop culture addict actually blames the creation and spotlight on Al’s men’s club “No Ma’am”. From “Married with Children” Ted finally received some success. It seemed that the curse was finally satisfied and was put to rest.

Has the Ted McGinley curse been broken, or is it just laying dormant?  Only time will tell...

Has the "Ted McGinley curse" been broken, or is it just laying dormant? Only time will tell...

In recent years Ted McGinley has been in such hit films as “Dick” and “Pearl Harbor” and is currently appearing in the hit television show “Hope and Faith”. For now it seems that the Ted McGinley curse has been broken. However, what should be noted is that despite the well known curse that has surrounded Ted McGinley, he has managed to stay working in Hollywood for 25 years now. That’s more than can be said about the majority of his co-stars in all of the shows he has appeared on. How does he get work when Potsie and Ralph are signing autographs at collectable shows? Why does he have a hit show while Ed O’Neill’s brilliant remake of Dragnet lasted only a single season? How is he still on our TV sets while Isaac is literally “outta sight”? Ted McGinley keeps getting work. Has the curse been lifted? I doubt it. Like most curses perhaps it is just dormant for the time being. Another theory is that the Ted McGinley curse is a hostile and cruel one that is only pretending to be asleep and actually WANTS Ted to get work. That way it can live again to feed of the slaughter of another hit show. Thus Hollywood should be warned. Ted McGinley is out there. Past history has shown that if you allow Ted McGinley near your set that doom isn’t far behind. “Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict” wishes Ted McGinley all the luck in the world for his days to come, and thanks him for his role as one of the oddest figures in pop culture history. 

  1. Days of Broken Arrows’s avatar

    Granted, McGinley was not exactly Emmy material, but “Happy Days” had already degenerated into self-parody by the time he came on.

    The show had started as a somewhat subtle look at ’50s teen culture for its first two seasons, which were shot on film and have a look and feel that’s fairly authentic. Things flew downhill artistically in season three, when they made Fonzie the main character (and he made the character cartoonish instead of cool) and went to video and a studio audience.

    When they did that, all the subtelty went out the window and the actors started yelling and mugging to please the audience. Of course, the ratings soared. But it’s instructive to go back and watch all this now — the change was more dramatic than we realized.

    All that said, the show did have a chance to retool itself into something great — with McGinley in tow. Its second-to-last season, Season Ten (1982-83), stands as almost a complete anamoly. Baio and Moran had left for “Joanie Loves Chachi” and they brought in a first-time steady girlfriend for the Fonz in Linda Purl, who played a working single mother Ashley. The focus largely became Fonzie getting domesticated and learning to grow up a bit. At several points in this season, his character completely disappears and the Henry Winkler we see in “Night Shift” surfaces.

    What they didn’t realize is they had something innovative here: a show in which a street-smart guy dates a college-educated working mom and tries to learn to be responsible. As far as I can tell, this was relatively new to TV and would have been worth pursuing — perhaps making it into a different, more politically-conscious show. McGinley, who played a teacher, worked much better in the more adult context of the show at this point.

    Anyway, as “Happy Days” went off the air, “Who’s the Boss?” made its debut — and with some minor differences the relationship between Tony and Angela was very similar to the one between Fonzie and Ashley. Oh well.

    My larger point is that I think McGinley gets blamed a bit too much for this show’s demise. It was artistically barren before him and had a last gasp with him as an intergral character that could have spelled greatness.

  2. Joe’s avatar

    Happy Days was so cool when the show first started. The Fonz rode a Harley and Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets played on the theme song. Can’t get any cooler that…but I think it was too cool. Hollywood is run by the Dark Side, they wouldn’t let us have what we really wanted, the old cool days of the ’50s.

  3. Clint’s avatar

    McGinley joined shows that had already jumped the shark. He was great in Revenge of the Nerds. He also was the second best character on Married With Children (behind Al) The character Jefferson was ten times more funny than the Steve character from the first few seasons. The show may have stayed on a year or two too long, but that wasn’t McGinley’s fault. He was actually the funniest character on Hope and Faith as well.

  4. Sam Tweedle’s avatar

    Much of what you say is true….which is why we all love Ted McGinley so much!

  5. Isaac’s avatar

    How can anyone forget Sports Night?!?!?!?!

  6. Nadool’s avatar

    Jefferson > Steve imho so, I don’t see anything wrong with his time on Married With Children. That show could never do any wrong and when I’m up all night on the weekends and it comes on at 5 AM I don’t have to worry if it’s a “Steve episode” or a “Jefferson episode.” One of the best ever.

    I watched a lot of Happy Days as a kid and I really don’t remember him on it. Maybe it was for the best haha.

  7. Owen’s avatar

    Put him on the Office.

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