Laverne & Shirley

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Laverne & Shirley
Laverne & Shirley.png
Genre Sitcom
Created by Garry Marshall
Lowell Ganz
Mark Rothman
Starring Penny Marshall
Cindy Williams
Michael McKean
David L. Lander
Theme music composer Norman Gimbel
Charles Fox
Opening theme "Making Our Dreams Come True", performed by Cyndi Grecco
Composer(s) John Beal, Frank Comstock, Charles Fox, Jack Hayes
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 178 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) Henderson Productions
Miller-Milkis Productions (seasons 1–6)
Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions (seasons 7–8)
Paramount Network Television
Distributor Paramount Domestic Television (original)
CBS Television Distribution (current)
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run January 27, 1976 (1976-01-27) – May 10, 1983 (1983-05-10)
Chronology
Preceded by Happy Days
Related shows Blansky's Beauties, Mork & Mindy, Out of the Blue, Joanie Loves Chachi

Laverne & Shirley (credited as Laverne De Fazio & Shirley Feeney in the first season) is an American television sitcom that ran on ABC from January 27, 1976 to May 10, 1983. It starred Penny Marshall as Laverne De Fazio and Cindy Williams as Shirley Feeney, single roommates who worked as bottlecappers in a fictitious Milwaukee brewery called "Shotz Brewery."

The show was a spin-off from Happy Days, as the two lead characters were originally introduced on that series as acquaintances of Fonzie. Set in roughly the same time period, the timeline started in approximately 1958, when the series began, through 1967, when the series ended. As with Happy Days, it was made by Paramount Television, created by Garry Marshall, and executive produced by Garry Marshall, Edward K. Milkis, and Thomas L. Miller.

Plot[edit]

Opening sequence[edit]

Shirley and Laverne

At the start of each episode, Laverne and Shirley skip down the street, arm in arm, reciting a Yiddish-American hopscotch chant: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated," which then leads into the series' theme song entitled "Making Our Dreams Come True," sung by Cyndi Grecco. In seasons six and seven (set in Southern California), the intro features them coming out of an apartment building, but still singing their original chant, and then a re-recorded version of the theme song is played. During the final season (after Cindy Williams had left the show), it opens with Laverne watching a group of schoolchildren perform the chant before the theme song begins.

In the first season, the main title shows the full names of the characters (i.e., "Laverne De Fazio & Shirley Feeney"), but in subsequent seasons this was reduced to just their first names (i.e., "Laverne & Shirley"). During its syndicated run, the series was retitled Laverne & Shirley & Company from 1981 to 1983 due to the series still airing on ABC at the time (at the time, distributors would sometimes change the name of a show for syndication if it was still producing new episodes on a network—such as was the case with Happy Days, when it was retitled Happy Days Again in syndication).

Setting: Milwaukee[edit]

When Laverne's New Year's Eve date dumps her, an ailing Shirley comforts her

For the first five seasons, from 1976 to 1980, the show was set in Milwaukee (executive producer Thomas L. Miller's home town), taking place from roughly 1958–59 (one early episode involves the girls' three-year high school reunion of the Fillmore High Class of 1956) through the early 1960s. Shotz Brewery (a fictitious analog of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company) bottle cappers and best friends, Laverne and Shirley live in a basement apartment on Knapp Street (a real street near the Schlitz Brewery in Milwaukee), where the feet of pedestrians are visible from their front window. The two women communicate with upstairs neighbors Lenny and Squiggy by screaming up the dumbwaiter shaft connecting their apartments instead of using the telephone. Also appearing were Laverne's father, Frank, proprietor of the Pizza Bowl, and landlady Edna Babish. Shirley maintained a stormy romance with dancer/singer Carmine Ragusa ("I can date other men and Carmine can date ugly women", she tells Laverne). During this period, characters from Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley would make occasional guest appearances on each other's shows. During the season, the girls went into the army, and they contended with a mean drill sergeant named Alvinia T. Plout (Vicki Lawrence). In the next season, she visited the girls.

Michael McKean and David Lander created the characters of Lenny and Squiggy while both were theater students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[1] Lander told an interviewer in 2006 that they created the characters while high on marijuana.[1] After graduating, they continued to perform the characters in live comedy routines before joining the show's cast.

Setting: Burbank[edit]

For the sixth season in 1980, the show shifted from the year 1962 to 1965,skipping 2 and half years in the lives of the characters. The girls and their friends all moved from Milwaukee to Burbank, California, with the catalyst behind the move as the girls losing their bottlecapping jobs to new automation installed at Shotz Brewery. Wanting to start fresh,they didn't want to take Mr. Shotz's offer to become the company's truck washers. Their friends and family are inspired by the idea and also pack up to move out west.

Laverne and Shirley took jobs as gift-wrappers at Bardwell's Department Store, Frank and Edna managed a Texas BBQ restaurant called "Cowboy Bill's", and Carmine delivered singing telegrams and sought work as an actor. From this point until the end of the show's run, Laverne & Shirley was set in the mid-1960s. The girls are seen kissing a 1964 poster of The Beatles in the new opening credits. With each season, a new year passed in the timeline of the show, starting with 1965 in the 1980–81 season, and ending in 1967 with Carmine heading off for Broadway, to star in the musical Hair. The opening credits of the California seasons feature the cast toasting at New Year's, and visible on a large banner is the year depicted in that season.

When the show moves to California, two new characters are added: Sonny St. Jacques, a stunt man, landlord of the Burbank apartment building, and love interest for Laverne, as well as Rhonda Lee, the girls' neighbor and an aspiring actress. Marinaro had previously been cast a year earlier as Laverne's cousin Antonio from Italy (who had a talent for taming wild animals). Marinaro's character was gone after one season in California, Betty Garrett's character Edna DeFazio, was gone by the end of the 1981 season (It was mentioned late in the last season that Edna dumped Frank, a peculiar development, as viewers never saw a rift), Cindy Williams was let out of her contract in 1982, and Michael McKean vanished from the show in the final dozen episodes without explanation (he was filming This is Spinal Tap), though he is seen in the theme montage shots.

Laverne without Shirley[edit]

In March 1982, Cindy Williams became pregnant with her first child. In May, Williams and her manager-husband Bill Hudson presented a list of demands, which Paramount refused. In August, two episodes into the season, Williams left the show and filed a $20,000,000 lawsuit against Paramount. The case was later settled out of court and Williams was given an exit payment and released from her contract.

As for Shirley Feeney, she quickly falls in love in the two episodes produced before Williams' departure, and marries Army medic Walter Meany, making her Shirley Feeney-Meany. In Williams' final scenes, Shirley discovers that she is pregnant. Shirley's absence is explained with a note left for Laverne saying that she had left town quickly to join her husband overseas.

The show retained its title, although Shirley never appeared again and was removed from the opening credits. Completed scripts, intended to show a pregnant Shirley, were to be shot out of sequence and aired in between episodes featuring Laverne alone. Those scripts, including Shirley's birth episode, titled "The Baby Show," were re-worked for guest stars, including Carrie Fisher, James Belushi, Adam West, Vicki Lawrence and Louise Lasser.

Despite the turmoil and the departure of one of its title stars, ratings held steady and Laverne & Shirley ranked at #25 for the 1982–83 season. ABC asked Penny Marshall to return for a ninth year, but she insisted that the show move its production base from Los Angeles to New York. Eying the cost of such an endeavor, and given the age of the show, ABC quietly canceled Laverne & Shirley in May 1983 after 178 episodes.

The final episode was produced like a backdoor pilot for a spin-off series for Carmine, as he was moving to New York City to star in the Broadway show Hair. Laverne was seen only at the beginning and end of the episode. The spin-off show never materialized.

Characters[edit]

The cast in 1976

Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) – Laverne Marie De Fazio [2] is known for being a tough-talking tomboy. She grew up in Brooklyn, with her Italian immigrant parents and grandmother; Laverne's parents moved to Milwaukee, where her mother died and was buried. Laverne works alongside best friend and roommate Shirley and is known for being the cynic of the pair. Despite her cynicism, she was also known for being hurt easily. Laverne enjoys dating tough guys of the "Purple Fiends" gang and picking up sailors at the dock with old lady neighbor Mrs. Colchek. Laverne is also a fan of the TV show Sea Hunt and enjoys 3-D Monster Movies, such as The Bride of Bwana Devil. Milk and Pepsi is Laverne's favorite drink. Along with her poodle skirts, her trademark is the letter "L" monogrammed on her shirts and sweaters.

Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) – Shirley Wilhelmina Feeney is the perky, positive one. She also tends to be meek, while Laverne is more outspoken and athletic; this doesn't mean that Shirley is a wimp or a pushover, as she is quite capable of standing up for herself when necessary—she just isn't quite as aggressive about it as her friend. One of Shirley's most prized possessions is "Boo Boo Kitty", a large stuffed cat which sits next to her bed. Her favorite song is Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes" and that song is featured in several episodes, often used by one of the girls to cheer the other up. She later becomes a huge fan of teen-idol Fabian. She has an overbearing mother named Lily (Pat Carroll) who had moved to California, and an alcoholic sailor brother Bobby (Ed Begley, Jr.). In the episode "Buddy Can You Spare a Father?", Shirley's father Jack Feeney is played by Scott Brady. Shirley dotes on her never-seen nieces, nephews, and cousins and adores her "Feeney Family Photo Album". She also has a diary which she protectively guards from prying eyes.

Leonard "Lenny" Kosnowski (Michael McKean) is a lovable goof who pesters Laverne and Shirley, along with his best friend and roommate Squiggy, both of whom live upstairs from Laverne and Shirley's lower-level apartment. Lenny works as a truck driver at the Shotz brewery, and prizes a stuffed iguana named Jeffrey. Raised by his father after his mother abandoned them, during the series it was learned that Lenny was the 89th in line to the Polish Throne. Lenny says that, while he is not completely sure, he thinks his last name (Kosnowski) is Polish for "Help, there's a hog in my kitchen".

Andrew "Squiggy" Squigman (David Lander) is an obnoxious anti-hero, a parody of the 1950s tough guy with trademark greased hair and black motorcycle jacket. Squiggy works and lives with childhood friend Lenny. Squiggy grew up with neglectful and abusive parents, and is often scheming to get rich or succeed by somewhat devious means. He collects moths due to being repeatedly locked in a closet as a child with them. Squiggy, like Lenny, loves the chocolate-flavored drink Bosco Chocolate Syrup, and makes nearly every entrance with his trademark "Hello" said in a slightly dopey voice. In the final season, Squiggy's lookalike sister named Squendoline is introduced.

Frank De Fazio (Phil Foster) is Laverne's Italian-born father who runs the Pizza Bowl, a local hang out featuring pizza, beer, and bowling. He later opens up Cowboy Bills in Burbank, California. Although he could be harsh and lose his temper, he did have a heart of gold. He loved Laverne very much, having been her only parent for years. His pet name for his daughter was "Muffin." Frank is also protective of Shirley, becoming somewhat of a surrogate father to her since her family was far away.

Carmine Ragusa (Eddie Mekka) is Shirley's high school sweetheart and on-again, off-again romance. His nickname for Shirley was Angel Face. Carmine's occasional lady companion was wealthy divorcee Lucille Lockwash, which made Shirley jealous. "The Big Ragu" is a part-time boxer and former Golden Gloves champion who owns a dance studio and is constantly working to make it big as a dancer and singer. In the final episode of the series, he auditions for the musical Hair, at last landing a major role on Broadway.

Edna Babish De Fazio (Betty Garrett) is the five-time-divorced landlady who eventually marries Laverne's father. Edna also occasionally sings and dances in the local brewery talent shows. When the series was extended beyond the intended final season, actress Betty Garrett committed to another project and was written out as having left Frank. In one episode, Edna's daughter Amy is introduced. She has been away at "school" and it is implied she is handicapped or a slow learner.

Big Rosie Greenbaum (Carole Ita White) is a snob, and the girls' childhood nemesis. She married a rich doctor and rubs this in the girls' faces, though they make fun of the fact that he is a proctologist. She is Laverne's rival and upsets her by calling her a "bimbo". Big Rosie and fellow Milwaukee classmate Terri Buttefuco both return in the season seven episode Class of '56.

Rhonda Lee (Leslie Easterbrook) is a tall, voluptuous ditzy blonde actress/singer/dancer/model trying to make it big. She is Laverne and Shirley's neighbor and a regular character after they move to Burbank. Egotistical and often insensitive, sometimes approaching the point of boorishness, Rhonda usually (always?) refers to herself in the third person, by her first name. A woman taller than both Laverne and Shirley, Rhonda often bursts into Laverne and Shirley's apartment (occasionally at inopportune times, much like Lenny and Squiggy often do) to borrow things without really asking and to brag about her social engagements or romantic dates with desirable men with the intention of making the girls envious, which sometimes works. Therefore, she is generally an antagonist of Laverne and Shirley, although at some times she behaves as a friend.

Sonny St. Jacques (Ed Marinaro) is a stuntman and Laverne and Shirley's landlord in Burbank. A tall, handsome, muscular man, Sonny is often seen with his shirt off or open. He was intended as a love interest for Laverne. After several episodes in Burbank, Sonny was written out of the show and rarely if ever mentioned again. (In reality, Marinaro left the series to star in Hill Street Blues.)

Broadcast history[edit]

  • Tuesday at 8:30–9:00 PM: January 27, 1976 – May 15, 1979; February 26, 1980 – May 10, 1983
  • Thursday at 8:00–8:30 PM: September—December 13, 1979
  • Monday at 8:00–8:30 PM: January 7 – February 11, 1980

Ratings[edit]

Laverne & Shirley premiered in the 1975–76 TV season, showing its first episode in January 1976. By its second season it had become the most-watched American television program, even surpassing the ratings for Happy Days, the show it spun-off from as a series. It retained its Number One position throughout the 1978-1979 season. As the show progressed through the years, both Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall were among television's best-paid actresses. Then, in August, 1979, before the start of its fourth year, Laverne & Shirley was moved to Thursday nights at 8:00 P.M. opposite The Waltons on CBS and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on NBC. As a result, viewership fell drastically. In an effort to improve the show's ratings, ABC moved Laverne & Shirley to Monday nights at 8:00 P.M. in December, 1979. The ratings fared no better, so in February, 1980, the network moved the series back to its familiar Tuesday night berth right after Happy Days, where it remained for the next three years. However, by the end of the fourth season, due to the network constantly changing the show's broadcasting schedule, the sitcom failed to make the list of the top 30 programs. Between 1980 and 1982, the ratings improved considerably. But despite having regained its Tuesday night time slot and changing its format, Laverne & Shirley never achieved the popularity it had attained during its first three years on the air. By the time of its cancellation in 1983, it had ranked at #25 for the season.

Season Rank Rating
1975–1976 #3[3] 27.5
1976–1977 #2[4] 30.9
1977–1978 #1[5][6] 31.6
1978–1979 30.5
1979–1980 Not in the Top 30
1980–1981 #21[7] 20.6 (Tied with Monday Night Football)
1981–1982 #20[8] 19.9
1982–1983 #25[9] 17.8

Episodes[edit]

Dramatic episodes[edit]

Although generally viewed as a slapstick comedy, a number of episodes included more dramatic storylines:

  • "Look Before You Leap" (season 2, episode 21) – Laverne is sick and thinks that she might be pregnant. This is because of an incident the previous month where she comes home wearing men's undershorts. Lenny asks her to marry him, but she gently declines. When Frank comes to the apartment, Laverne tells him about the situation. He comforts her for a moment and then Shirley takes her to the hospital to see if she is pregnant or not. In the end, Laverne and Shirley head to the pizza bowl and whispers in everyone's ear. After that, everyone starts singing "Hallelujah", implying that Laverne's not pregnant after all.
  • "The Slow Child" (season 3, episode 15) – The girls befriend Mrs. Babish's mentally challenged daughter, Amy (played by Linda Gillen). Mrs. Babish does not care for how they treat her daughter as one of the girls, especially when Amy and Lenny begin to date.
  • "A Visit to the Cemetery" (season 4, episode 9) – Laverne has a fight with Frank about Laverne not wanting to visit her mother's grave. Shirley tries to fix it, but only makes it worse, to the point where Frank does not want to see Laverne ever again. After Lenny gives Laverne some surprisingly wise advice and tells her that he does not have a mother himself, she decides to make up with her father and go to the cemetery.
  • "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?" (season 5, episode 5) – Shirley's brother Bobby (played by Ed Begley, Jr.) comes home from the navy for a visit and everyone finds out that he is an alcoholic.
  • "Why Did The Fireman...?" (season 5, episode 18) – Laverne mourns her boyfriend's death. Firefighter Randy Carpenter (played by Ted Danson) is Laverne's boyfriend, who heroically dies in the line of duty the night before he intended to propose to her. Laverne, completely in shock, refuses to accept his death and waits up all night for him to return home from his shift. The father-daughter scene between Marshall (Laverne) and Phil Foster (Frank De Fazio), in which he gently consoles his daughter with the hard truth, is an example of the dramatic acting uncharacteristic of the series. (This episode was directed by Joel Zwick and was written by Roger Garrett.)

Animated spin-off[edit]

During the run of the main show, an animated spin-off called Laverne & Shirley in the Army began airing on Saturday mornings. The first program was aired on October 10, 1981. The show featured the voices of Marshall and Williams playing Laverne and Shirley in the Army (much like they had been during their 1979–80 season) with a talking piglet Drill Sergeant named "Squealy" (voiced by Welcome Back Kotter alum Ron Palillo). The show was renamed Laverne and Shirley with the Fonz when the Fonz began working in the motorpool as the chief mechanic, and then again renamed The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour when new segments involving a teenaged Mork & Mindy were added to the mix. The series ran until September 3, 1983.

McKean and Lander also appeared as Lenny & Squiggy on Fernwood Tonight, the satirical late night talk show hosted by Martin Mull and Fred Willard. In this appearance they claimed that their characters on Laverne and Shirley were based on their real life personae. The pair also released a live concert album of songs and skits as Lenny and the Squigtones, which featured Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel.

Merchandise[edit]

The program was so successful at the time that it spawned a merchandise franchise. Mego released two models of Laverne and Shirley dolls, and one model of Lenny and Squiggy dolls. Hot Wheels created a Shotz Brewery delivery van, and several novelty toys were sold such as Halloween costumes, a board game, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, video slot machine[10]and other toys.[citation needed]

DVD releases[edit]

Paramount Home Entertainment and (starting with season 2) CBS DVD have released the entire series of Laverne and Shirley on DVD in Region 1, albeit music substitutions and scene deletions.[11]

Season 1 has also been released on DVD in Region 2.

The first three seasons have been released on DVD in Region 4 by Paramount.

DVD Name Ep # Release Dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 15 August 17, 2004 April 7, 2008 March 4, 2008
The Complete Second Season 23 April 17, 2007 TBA September 4, 2008
The Complete Third Season 24 November 27, 2007 TBA February 5, 2009
The Complete Fourth Season 24 April 22, 2008 TBA TBA
The Complete Fifth Season 26 April 10, 2012 TBA TBA
The Complete Sixth Season 22 May 21, 2013 TBA TBA
The Complete Seventh Season 22 February 4, 2014 TBA TBA
The Complete Eighth and Final Season 22 May 6, 2014 TBA TBA

Music[edit]

"Laverne & Shirley Sing"-1976 LP cover
"Lenny and the Squigtones"-1979 LP cover

The theme song from the series ("Making Our Dreams Come True," as performed by Cyndi Grecco) was released as a single and became a radio favorite, becoming a top 30 American hit in 1976.[12]

In 1976, Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams released an album, performed in character, titled Laverne & Shirley Sing, which contained some original songs along with some 1950s and 1960s standards. The album was released on Atlantic Records. On November 11, 2003, Collector's Choice released it on CD.

In 1979, Michael McKean and David Lander followed suit with the album Lenny and the Squigtones, also performed in character, featuring mainly original songs penned by McKean. The album was released on Casablanca Records. [13] [14]

McKean and Lander also appeared together (in character) on American Bandstand performing the song "King of the Cars".

In Popular Culture[edit]

  • The opening sequence has been parodied in many pop culture outlets, including the movie Wayne's World, where Garth and Wayne perform a portion of the credit sequence while visiting Milwaukee.
  • In an episode of The Nanny entitled "Val's Apartment," Fran and Val say the chant before entering their apartment for the first time, but they stumble over the word "Hasenpfeffer."
  • In the South Park episode "Cartoon Wars Part I", Cartman believes preventing an episode of Family Guy from being broadcast will cause other people offended by the show to start demanding other episodes be pulled too, culminating in the show being taken off the air for good. Cartman says "It's exactly what happened to Laverne & Shirley." Kyle mentions this again in the second part of the episode.
  • In the "#SalmonCat" episode of Sam & Cat, the opening sequence was parodied before the theme song. The episode reunited Marshall and Williams for the first time on scripted television.
  • The sequence has also been parodied in other languages, on Friends in a Spanish-language track under the title Laverne y Shirley, and on Saturday Night Live, in faux Japanese, under the name Rabun to Shuri.
  • In Scary Movie, Squiggy is shown to be the principal of the school attended by the main characters.

References[edit]

External links[edit]