Joanie Louise Cunningham Arcola is a character in Happy Days. She was originally a minor character in the earlier seasons of the series, but she gradually became one of the regulars.
She was the only daughter and youngest child of Howard and Marion Cunningham, and the younger sister of Chuck and Richie Cunningham. She became part of Fonzie's surrogate family when he moved into the rooms over Cunningham's garage in Season 3; he took to affectionately calling her "Shortcake".
She was portrayed by Susan Neher in the "Love and the Happy Days" episode of Love, American Style in 1972. By the time Happy Days premiered in 1974 Joanie was played by Erin Moran, a role she held throughout the entire series, and also in the spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi.
Personality and Early life EditJoanie was the quintessential adolescent girl from the 1950s; in the earlier seasons she was more of a typical annoying "kid sister" type, wanting to peek in on Richie's makeout sessions, as well as being a mole who was always eager to get wind of any juicy gossip. One of the earlier recurring gags in the series involved Joanie, in which she was frequently ordered (usually by Howard or Marion, but also occasionally by Richie) to "go to your room" either as punishment for her attitude, or more often to keep her from hearing things that they don't want her to hear.
Joanie also had a very sassy personality and was quick to cast off barbs at others, even her own parents. One example of this was when Marion was fitting Howard for a costume of Julius Caesar; when he asked Joanie what she thought of his outfit she quipped, "No wonder they stabbed him", which earned the deadpan observation from Howard that, "She's getting such a fresh mouth, Marion".
Growing up Edit
Howard and Marion were very protective of Joanie through her younger years, controlling almost every aspect of her life, right down to her choice of clothes. It took some time, and some persuasion, for Howard and Marion to let their guard down with her, though they did it little by little as time went on.
In season 4's They Shoot Fonzies Don't They, Joanie becomes a cheerleader. After being cut in the tryouts by an arrogant classmate named Jill Higgins (played by Charlene Tilton), Joanie is persuaded to compete against her in a dance marathon contest at Arnold's, and Fonzie is willing to be her partner after he gets back from working as a racing mechanic in Chicago earlier that evening, but his motorcycle breaks down on the way back home and he is exhausted from having to push it back on foot. Nevertheless, he still manages to help Joanie win the contest, and thus get her revenge and also win a bet she made with Jill that if she won she would be accepted on the squad (the other end of the bet would have been that Fonzie would have to get a crew-cut if they lost).
As she got older she began taking after her best friend Jenny Piccalo and became more boy crazy, much to her parents' consternation. By the middle of Season 5, after a heartfelt discussion about how she feels Howard and Marion still don't trust her, they finally agree to let her go out on her first date, at the end of which she gets her first kiss (Joanie's First Kiss).
The aggravation of parental suppresion occasionally motivated Joanie to attempt more daring steps which, had it not been for Fonzie, Richie and the others, could have gotten her into significant trouble. Case in point, in the Season 4 episode Joanie's Weird Boyfriend, Richie, Potsie and Ralph, along with Fonzie and Carmine Ragusa (from Laverne & Shirley) defend Joanie's honor against a troublesome gang called the Red Devils. Another example was in the Season 5 two-parter Fonzie, Rock Entrepreneur, in which Joanie is about to run away from home when Howard and Marion refuse to let her join Leather Tuscadero's backup band on the road, but after a heart-to-heart with Leather, she is persuaded to stay at home.
Relationship with Chachi Edit
In the beginning of season 5, Fonzie's cousin Chachi Arcola moved to Milwaukee and quickly developed a crush on Joanie, often flirtingly using the phrase "Wah wah wah" in her presence. Initially, Joanie was repulsed by Chachi's affections, but eventually by season 7, Joanie began to have a change of heart about him, and the two began dating, which turned into a steady relationship. They went off on their own and moved to Chicago in their own spinoff series Joanie Loves Chachi, but after two seasons their show was cancelled, and the two returned to Milwaukee (and Happy Days ) and Joanie began attending college. After a brief break-up, though they remained friends, Joanie and Chachi eventually realized they were truly meant for one another and married in the series finale.
Adult years Edit
Even as a grownup, there was at least one situation that Joanie was initially ill-equipped to handle. In Season 11's Kiss Me, Teach, though Chachi and Marion are worried about Joanie interning at Patton Vocational School (which had a rough reputation), Fonzie assures them that, as dean of students, he will make sure nothing happens to her, while Howard reminds Marion that though Joanie is living back at home, she is old enough to make her own decisions. Her first day at the school, Joanie tries to relate to the students and offers individual help to any one of them if needed. One of the students, Frankie, quickly takes her up on it and even pays her an unannounced visit at home, which makes Chachi suspicious, though Joanie says she can handle it. But the next day at school when the fire drill alarm is activated, all the students make their way out of the classroom except Frankie, who locks the door and tries to molest Joanie until she screams for help, at which point Fonzie bursts in and angrily goes after Frankie.