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The threat of being drafted loomed over Ron Howard in the beginning of Happy Days

By the time he was a USC undergraduate, Ron Howard was hoping audiences would allow him to reintroduce himself as a more mature television performer. He'd, of course, been famous as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, but that was when he was a kid. He'd since spent time learning the filmmaking craft, observing many directing greats in their element. Now, it was time to re-emerge on TV as a young man. 

The gambit: Howard would star in Happy Days, a brand-new sitcom set in the golden age of the 1950s. Doo-wop and poodle skirts would make the scene once more, but only if the network agreed to air the show.

In a 1984 interview with The Washington Post, Howard discussed efforts to get Happy Days onto TV, and how the show may have saved more than his career.

"ABC didn't feel that the '50s would fly," said Howard.

That changed quickly, when Howard starred in George Lucas' hit movie American Graffiti which was set in the same decade. Suddenly, mid-century nostalgia was all the rage once again, and ABC wanted to hop on the trend. 

There was just one issue: Howard was still at risk of being drafted for the Vietnam War.

"The war was still going on and I had a lousy number," he recalled. "But I had read somewhere that if your job could be directly related to the employment of 30 or more people, that would be a deferment. I thought, 'If this series goes, I bet you could get that deferment.'"

The draft ended just a few months later. Happy Days well outlasted it, running for 11 years and spinning off several successful sitcoms and stars.

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