Joanie Louise Cunningham is a fictional character, played in an episode of the anthology series Love, American Style by Susan Neher and on the sitcoms Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi by Erin Moran. She was the daughter of Howard and Marion Cunningham, and the younger sister of Chuck Cunningham and Richie Cunningham. In early seasons, Joanie was always nosy toward Richie’s makeout sessions with his girlfriends. Also, in early seasons, Joanie was also a member of a girl scout-type organization called the “Junior Chipmunks.” She also developed a brief crush on Potsie after he sang to her (see “They Call It Potsie Love” from Season 3). As she grew older, Joanie became best friends with the promiscuous Jenny Piccalo, who would only be referred to but not revealed onscreen until Season 8. Joanie would always complain and pout whenever she got sent to her room by her parents for mischief, talking back, or whenever a conversation ensued that her parents didn’t want her to hear.
Fonzie became fond of Joanie, affectionately referring to her as “Shortcake,” and, like her brother Richie, Fonzie looked after her well-being. One such notable case occurred in Season 11, when Joanie took a teaching job at the high school where Fonzie and Roger were also faculty members. An obnoxious student tried to hit on her and Fonzie came to her rescue. There was also another related event that occurred in Season 4, when an arrogant classmate of Joanie’s beat Joanie out of cheerleading tryouts; and even though he was overtly tired from pushing his broken-down motorcycle home, Fonzie helped Joanie retaliate by beating her cheerleading rival in a dance marathon. Also in Season 4; Fonzie, Richie, Potsie, Ralph, and Carmine Ragusa (from Laverne & Shirley) defended Joanie’s honor against a troublesome gang called the Red Devils (see “Joanie’s Weird Boyfriend” from that season).
When Chachi came to town, he developed a huge crush on Joanie, which for a while went unrequited. However, Joanie eventually accepted a date with Chachi, making him so overwhelmed with excitement that he inadvertently sets fire to Arnold’s (see “Hot Stuff” from Season 7). A serious relationship developed between the two and episode plots were eventually written revolving around the couple. Joanie and Chachi became aspiring musicians, forming their own band, which led to their short-lived spin-off series Joanie Loves Chachi. After Joanie Loves Chachi was cancelled, she and Chachi returned to Happy Days and became married in the series finale “Passages” from Season 11.