October 19, 2010

Tom Bosley, 1927–2010

Yep, Mr. C went to that hardware store in the sky (heart failure, not the Big C, which would have been sadly appropriate). Happy Days was a huge part of my formative years—it's not so much that I loved the show, but rather that it seemed to be a baseline element of the culture I found myself growing up in. It was comforting—oh, for a world in which the coolest guy in town is a sanitized greaser who was polite to grown-ups and stuck up for the school geeks. That show, indeed, was yours and mine.

Tom Bosley was basically the TV dad of my early televisual experiences—I just look at his face and I feel an instant wave of familiarity, oddly similar to seeing my actual dad's face (without the complicated psycho-paternal undertones). His voice, too—in my mind, I can hear his "Ya know, Fonzie…" as clear as if it were still 1958-by-way-of-1982. When's the last time you saw one of these?



Whoever was the mid-'80s Don Draper who convinced the Glad Corporation to shell out for the Boz as their pitchman, I hope that guy got a big fat bonus, because you could not have found a better pitchman for that product than that guy. You've got no hope of making trash bags sexy—reliability is the key, with the chance to throw in some humor. The Big Bosman was not pretty, no, but he effortlessly came across as the nicest guy in the world, and as the über–sitcom dad, he maintained an air of comforting authority. He was perfect for a product whose looks don't matter, but that needs to be strong in the clutch. And Tommy B. was a good enough actor (Tony winner!), you don't doubt for a second that if he trusts Glad, you could trust it too. Bosley's Law, my friends…

After HD folded (I recall about ten years ago, an interview in which he was asked when he believes Happy Days jumped the shark; he said it was when Ron Howard left, a reasonable answer), the Bosmaster settled into happy character-actor-hood. The Father Dowling Mysteries was a midsize hit (irony: T.B. was Jewish), and he popped up in all manner of family-friendly fare. Good for him—he seemed like a genuinely decent guy. He was married twice; his first wife died in 1978, he remarried two years later and stayed with her till the end. Evidence that you don't have to be a raging douchebag to be a success in Hollywood.

I'm not going to bother posting a video from Happy Days here; too many to choose from, and you know how to use YouTube. But here's an amazing fact: More than 26 years after it left the air, I believe this is the first significant Happy Days casualty. Yes, Marion Ross is still alive, Ron Howard runs part of Hollywood, Henry Winkler and Scott Baio still turn up on a typical scan through the cable channels. I just checked, and Erin Moran, Donny Most and Anson Williams are all still in the land of living, as are both Chuck Cunninghams. Even Al Molinaro, who's up there with Bozzy Bosbourne as one of my all-time favorite character actors, is alive, 91 years young. I guess you have to go down to Pat Morita to find another dead member of the Milwaukee gang, but his Miyagi-san legacy has basically obscured his days of Arnoldhood. Sit on it, death.

18 comments:

Our founder said...
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mike wolf said...

This is so very much what I might have said that it's hard to reconcile with the fact that I'm 70 years older than you.

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