‘Happy Days’: Why Chuck Was Written Out of the Show Completely

Sometimes characters get written out of television shows. But they’re usually not characters who are part of the main characters’ family.

Chuck Cunningham was written out of Happy Days early on after the first actor was replaced. This is what happened to the missing Cunningham child.

‘Happy Days’ started with Chuck Cunningham

Fonzie (Henry Winkler) talks to Chuck (Randolph Roberts) on 'Happy Days'
Fonzie (Henry Winkler) talks to Chuck (Randolph Roberts) on ‘Happy Days’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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The show followed the Cunningham family. In the beginning, Marion (Marion Ross) and Howard (Tom Bosley) are seen with their three children. Chuck, who played first played by Gavin O’Herlihy then Randolph Roberts. Then there were Joanie (Erin Moran) and Richie (Ron Howard).

Chuck was a college basketball player and wasn’t seen on the show that often. He was written off the show in season 2 with the explanation that he was attending school by the end of the first season. But he was never seen again and the other characters later said there were only two Cunningham kids.

Gavin O’Herlihy asked to leave

Gavin O'Herlihy as Dan Suggs in 'Lonesome Dove' Image dated June 7, 1988
Gavin O’Herlihy as Dan Suggs in ‘Lonesome Dove’ Image dated June 7, 1988 | Tony Esparza/CBS via Getty Images)

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It’s strange that the character was played my two actors, but O’Herlihy explained his exit to OnMilwaukee. “I hung around for the first half-season, then asked out of the contract. It wasn’t my cup of tea. It raised some eyebrows, but I’m glad I did,” the actor explained.

Chuck was O’Herlihy’s second role. He continued his career with smaller roles on different shows. By 1980 he moved to England and worked on the successful show, We’ll Meet Again.

Garry Marshall wrote Chuck out and waited for backlash

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Writer Garry Marshall talked about the missing brother. He also mentioned O’Herlihy quitting because he wanted to go to school and become a poet. Marshall also said the character still didn’t work with his replacement.

“You gotta pay attention to what’s happening,” Marshall said. “It soon became obvious because we heard the audience loved Fonzie. It soon became obvious that Fonzie was like the older brother and that was the relationship that was working.”

Marshall then came up with an idea on how to get rid of the character. “So I just said let’s just have Chuck disappear and let’s see how much mail we get. We didn’t get much,” he said.

It looks like the writers managed to get away with disappearing one of the kids. The move of getting rid of a kid from a sitcom has been repeated in shows like Boy Meets Word, Family Matters, Party of Five, and more. This phenomenon has been referred as “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome”. It’s usually seen as a negative thing, but writing out a child has worked multiple times.