Feature

Why are the 'Happy Days' actors suing CBS?

Former stars of the hit sitcom claim the network owes them millions. Has CBS done something "wrongamundo"?

Some stars of the classic sitcom "Happy Days" are very unhappy with CBS. Four cast members — along with the estate of another — are suing the network over merchandising revenues. Here, a guide to the case:

Who's suing, and why?
The suit was brought by Anson Williams, Don Most, Erin Moran, Marion Ross, and the estate of Tom Bosley, who died in October. They played Potsie Weber, Ralph Malph, Joanie Cunningham, Marion Cunningham, and Howard Cunningham, respectively. They say the network owes them money for using their images on all kinds of products.

What about Richie and The Fonz?
Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham) and Henry Winkler (The Fonz) aren't part of the suit. Winkler says he has his own deal with CBS and has gotten paid, but he still supports the suit by his former castmates. Also uninvolved is Scott Baio, who played Chachi. Baio has not had his likeness "used in merchandising to the same degree as the others," says attorney Jon Pfeiffer, as quoted by The Washington Post.

How much money are we talking about?
That's at the heart of the dispute. The actors want at least $10 million. The show, which aired from 1974 to 1984, has become a "merchandising bonanza," say Scott Zamost and Poppy Harlow at CNNMoney, with images of the cast appearing on products such as "comic books, t-shirts, scrapbooks, trading cards, games, lunch boxes, dolls, toy cars, magnets, greeting cards and DVDs." And when the actors found out their images were appearing on slot machines, that was just the last straw. Meanwhile, Moran recently lost her home to foreclosure.

Did they try to work things out before going to court?
Apparently, but attorney Jon Pfeiffer, who filed the breach-of-contract suit on Tuesday, says attempts at mediation failed.

What does the network say about the case?
CBS agrees that it owes the actors money, and says it has "been working with them for quite some time to resolve the issue." But the network says it only owes the actors about $9,000 each, mostly from slot machine revenue. "I'm no lawyer, but if Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham and the crew are owed money, then they damn well should get it," says Julie Ryan Evans at The Stir. "They entertained America for years with their apple-pie antics."

Are the "Happy Days" actors the only ones with a gripe?
Maybe not. "We think this is pervasive," Most says, as quoted by CNNMoney. "The fact is, we haven't gotten paid, and many other actors in other shows haven't gotten paid."

Sources: CNNMoney, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, The Stir, The Washington Post

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