Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The TV Sidekick Blogathon: Ralph Malph of "Happy Days"

Welcome to our second contribution to the TV Sidekick Blogathon sponsored by the Classic Film & TV Cafe!  You'll  enjoy reading all the entries in this collection of inspired posts focusing on the venerable assortment of characters who have worked tirelessly alongside TV series stars to provide the complete TV entertainment experience!  Be sure to check out all the other postings; full information available by clicking here. You've already seen in our previous post how we feel about Dr. Leonard McCoy from Star Trek but we've got a more down-to-earth candidate right now.

Happy Days, the popular ABC sitcom that ran for 11 seasons from 1974 - 1984, was a peppy and positive series, filled with appealing characters played by a talented cast.  The core family was the Cunninghams -- Richie, Joanie, Howard and Marion -- and the orbit of personalities who surrounded them started with the Fonz and included Richie's good friends Potsie Weber and Ralph Malph.  For the first seven seasons, good guy straight arrow Richie (Ron Howard) relied on his slightly more mischievous pals Potsie (Anson Williams) and Ralph (Don Most) to instigate the fun and back him up in their innocent and hilarious adventures.  The one true comic character was Ralph Malph, Richie's fellow redhead and the friend who was always a little funnier, a little more cynical -- truly a comedian -- than anyone else in the cast.

In the historical tradition of funnymen, redheads hold an exalted place.  While they might not excel or even be considered in more traditional dramatic roles -- regardless of talent the red hair actually seemed to be a drawback -- you can't beat their comedy chops.  Red Skelton, Red Buttons -- see, even identified by their red hair -- and Danny Kaye were the chief classic redheaded comedians and you can't do much better than that.  (Today you could throw Carrot Top into the mix).

Actor Don -- then Donny -- Most was a worthy inheritor of the redheaded clown position, with perfect comic delivery and a knowing (especially in early episodes) if goofy take on the world.  It was amazing that Happy Days actually had two talented redheads in the cast, with long-time show business veteran (even by that time) Ron Howard having amassed years in the movies and as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show.  But Richie was a good kid, not exactly a good two-shoes but the one in the leadership position in his trio of pals.

If Richie was the innocent redhead, Ralph Malph was the devilish one.  Potsie was someplace in the middle, definitely an Everyman who was pleasant and loyal but mostly lacking the impulse to be purposefully naughty.  Once the character of Fonzie -- played so winningly by Henry Winkler -- captured the hearts of the audience he became the magical breakout element in the show's appeal.  Even if playing disciples to a benign guru in a leather-jacket wasn't quite what they all had signed up for, all the cast's continuing chemistry made Happy Days a phenomena and cemented it into TV history.

But back to Ralph Malph.  The son of an equally wise-cracking optometrist dad (played most memorably by Ralph Dodson), Ralph loved making out with girls and being a wise guy.  Not a wise guy like Fonzie who had tough guy credentials behind him (but preferred to use his wits), Malph was more the eternal smart aleck, the friend with the quips who very much prided himself on making them.

What turned out to be Malph's trademark phrase?  "I've still got it!" which he'd crow each time he landed a comic zinger in conversation with his pals.  And he knew what it was.  It was the ability to make somebody laugh, to elicit a comic response, easier said than done and many never achieve it.  Even more importantly for Ralph Malph, he had been given (thanks to actor Don Most) the magical talisman -- a comedian's red hair -- and would not waste its power.

Especially in those early episodes -- the ones not filmed before a live audience -- the performing chops of the entire cast shine.  They're not playing to the crowd, they're creating comedy through solid writing and wonderful ensemble acting. Both styles are fun, but there's something special about those first two seasons that will really make you appreciate how good everybody is.  The scenes between Richie, Ralph and Potsie are deeper, more intimate than they would or could ever be later and the actors are up to it.  Don Most is wonderful as Ralph Malph, a guy with lots of ideas, lots of hormones and lots of affection for his pals.

So let's celebrate Ralph Malph and the actor who brought him to life with such skill and charm!  Ralph Malph's still got it and so does Don Most!  We're happy to see that in real life Mr. Most is currently enjoying a renewed career as a singer, something Ralph also enjoyed in the series.  There's that multi-talented redheaded comedian/actor trait coming out again!  Please visit his website by clicking here and become his Twitter follower @most_don.

As we stated earlier, be sure to visit all the sites offering contributions to the TV Sidekick Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe; click here for links to all of them!  Thanks for joining us!

Here are some more priceless Ralph Malph moments from Happy Days -- enjoy!


  1. I haven't watched Happy Days in about twelve years, I suddenly realize. I used to watch it in the mornings before school.

    What I remember the best about Ralph was that Don Most was also Eric the Cavalier on Dungeons and Dragons, which is a big hint that I need to reconnect with this show. I'm going to look up some early episodes and keep a close eye on Ralph and the lack of live audience.

    This is so great! I love TV mini-missions!

  2. Very nice tribute to Ralph! Sure, The Fonz evolved into the defacto star and Richie was the original star, but it was characters like Ralph that helped HAPPY DAYS run for as long as it did. And let's not forget that Donny Most was popular enough to record his own album and have a single on the Hot 100 chart for three weeks.

  3. Agreed on all points! In terms of the non-live audience episodes, check out "Haunted" which is right now available on HULU non-subscription. One of my favorites and has some great moments between Richie and his dad when they are discussing scary things. Priceless!

    Don Most is such a talent, as were all the HD gang. Even back when options were more limited you didn't last for over 250 episodes without providing something special!

    Thanks for the comments!

  4. Don Most was in town here last summer on tour and did a meet and greet after. Hopefully he will be back.

    Loved any episode with Jack Dodson playing Mickey Malph. Fonz having to deal with father and son joking with him while stressing out over needing glasses was priceless. Great post on a great character.

  5. Thank you so much for that very complimentary article. I am honored and very appreciative of what you had to say about me. I think Ralph would've said - it was very insightful and intelligently written!


    1. A very great article I agree Don Most. What I like about Ralph Malph is that he's very funny and that he has a great sense of humor and he's still young and good looking like Donny Most. Will there be another Ralph Malph in the future?

    2. A very nice article about Ralph Malph I also agree with Don Most. Ralph Malph was very funny & a great guy, just like Don Most.

  6. So honored that the man behind Ralph Malph, the talented Don Most, has commented here! Thanks so much and believe me it was a pleasure to be able to share my admiration for the character and for the series in general. It was always one of my favorites and when I was Program Director at KTLA in Los Angeles it was our crown jewel and always an audience-pleaser, thanks to talents such as Don Most et all.

    I am a fan of so many red-haired comedians and comic talents in general -- comedy is certainly the hardest of pursuits and so wonderful when it's done well, as in Happy Days.

    Thanks to Don Most for visiting here and feeling the love we all have for him!

    - lisa

  7. This is fantastic. Thanks for shedding light on a favorite character. You captured his charm and appeal on Happy Days :)

  8. A very great article about Ralph Malph. I enjoyed reading it. What I love about Ralph Malph is that he's very funny and handsome looking. Donny Most you did a great job playing Ralph Malph.