Laverne & Shirley

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Laverne & Shirley
Laverne & Shirley.png
Genre Sitcom
Created by
Starring
Theme music composer Norman Gimbel (lyrics)
Charles Fox
Opening theme Making Our Dreams Come True, performed by Cyndi Grecco
Composer(s)
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)
Distributor Paramount Domestic Television (original)
CBS Television Distribution (current)
Release
Original network ABC
Original release January 27, 1976 (1976-01-27) – May 10, 1983 (1983-05-10)
Chronology
Preceded by Love, American Style
Happy Days
Related shows

Laverne & Shirley is an American sitcom that ran on ABC from January 27, 1976, to May 10, 1983. It starred Penny Marshall as Laverne DeFazio and Cindy Williams as Shirley Feeney, single roommates who work 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 (Henry Winkler). 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 (left) and Laverne (right)

At the start of each episode, Laverne and Shirley are skipping down a Milwaukee 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 titled "Making Our Dreams Come True," performed by Cyndi Grecco. The hopscotch chant is from Penny Marshall's childhood.[1] In seasons six and seven (set in 1960s Southern California), the intro features Laverne and Shirley exiting their apartment building, but still reciting their original chant, and then a re-recorded version of the theme song is played. During the final season (after Cindy Williams left the show), it opens with a group of schoolchildren performing the chant and marching toward an amused Laverne before the theme song begins.

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 through the early 1960s. Shotz Brewery bottle cappers and best friends, Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, live in a basement apartment, where they communicate with upstairs neighbors Lenny and Squiggy by screaming up the dumbwaiter shaft connecting their apartments. Also included in the show are Laverne's father, Frank DeFazio, proprietor of the Pizza Bowl, and Edna Babbish, the apartment building's landlady, who would later marry Frank. Shirley maintained an off-again on-again romance with dancer/singer/boxer Carmine Ragusa. During this period, characters from Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley would make occasional guest appearances on each other's shows. During the fifth season, the girls went into the Army, and they contended with a tough-as-nails drill sergeant named Alvinia T. Plout (Vicki Lawrence).

Michael McKean and David Lander created the characters of Lenny and Squiggy while both were theater students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[2] Lander told an interviewer in 2006 that they created the characters while high on marijuana.[2] After graduating, they continued to perform the characters in live comedy routines before joining the show's cast.

Setting: Burbank[edit]

For the fifth season in 1980, Laverne and Shirley and their friends all moved from Milwaukee to Burbank, California. The girls took jobs at a department store, Frank and Edna managed a Texas BBQ restaurant, and Carmine delivered singing telegrams and sought work as an actor. From this point until the end of the series' run, Laverne & Shirley was set in the mid-1960s. In one of the shots in the show's new opening sequence, the girls are seen kissing a 1964 poster of The Beatles. 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.

When the show moved 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.

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 to accommodate her pregnancy and pending child birth, which Paramount refused. In August, two episodes into production of the series' eighth season, Williams left the show and filed a $20 million lawsuit against Paramount. The case was later settled out of court and Williams was released from her contract.[3]

As for Shirley, 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.

Despite the departure of Williams, 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. Eyeing 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, which showed him 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 DeFazio (Penny Marshall) – Laverne DeFazio is known for being a tough-talking tomboy. She grew up in Brooklyn, with her Italian immigrant parents. Laverne's parents moved to Milwaukee, where her mother died and was buried. Laverne works alongside best friend and roommate Shirley. Milk and Pepsi is Laverne's favorite drink. Her trademark is the script letter "L" monogrammed on her shirts and sweaters.

Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) – Shirley is the perky, positive one. She also tends to be meek, while Laverne is more outspoken. She later becomes a huge fan of teen-idol Fabian. She has an overbearing mother who expects more from her than what she can give, named Lily (Pat Carroll). Shirley is sensitive and she tends to overreact. When Shirley tries to hold back a laugh, she bites her knuckle on her index finger. Shirley works at Shotz brewery with Laverne. Her lucky charm is a stuffed cat called Boo Boo Kitty.

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. 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" Squiggman (David Lander) works and lives with childhood friend Lenny. Squiggy makes nearly every entrance with his trademark "Hello" said in a comically dopey voice. In the final season, Squiggy's lookalike sister Squendoline is introduced.

Frank DeFazio (Phil Foster) is Laverne's father who runs the Pizza Bowl, a local hang out. 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 loves 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. "The Big Ragoo" 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 DeFazio (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.

(Big) Rosie Greenbaum (Carole Ita White) is 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. Rhonda usually (always?) refers to herself in the third person, by her first name. 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.

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.)

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 15 January 27, 1976 May 18, 1976
2 23 September 28, 1976 April 5, 1977
3 24 September 20, 1977 May 30, 1978
4 24 September 5, 1978 May 15, 1979
5 26 September 13, 1979 May 13, 1980
6 22 November 18, 1980 May 26, 1981
7 22 October 13, 1981 May 11, 1982
8 22 September 28, 1982 May 10, 1983

Dramatic episodes[edit]

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

  • "Look Before You Leap" (season two, episode 21) – Laverne is sick and thinks that she might be pregnant 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. In the end, Laverne and Shirley head to the pizza bowl and whisper in everyone's ear. After that, everyone starts singing "Hallelujah", implying that Laverne's not pregnant after all.
  • "The Slow Child" (season three, 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, but in the end, she realizes she has been treating her daughter as if she is disabled and not allowing her to grow.
  • "A Visit to the Cemetery" (season four, episode nine) – 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 five, episode five) – 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 five, episode 18) – Laverne mourns the death of her boyfriend, firefighter Randy Carpenter (played by Ted Danson), who dies in the line of duty the night before he intended to propose to her. Laverne refuses to accept his death and waits up all night for him to return home from his shift. The father-daughter scene between Laverne (Marshall) and Frank DeFazio (Phil Foster), in which he gently consoles his daughter with the hard truth, is an example of the dramatic acting uncharacteristic of the series.
  • "Airport '59" (season three, episode one) - While still considered a funny episode, it did have those moments of seriousness when Laverne had to figure out how to land the plane they were on when the pilot was knocked cold, and at one point Shirley and she tearfully hugged goodbye over their impending death from the plane crashing...which did not, as she landed the plane safely.
  • "One flew over Milwaukee" (season one, episode eight) - Shirley comes home with a canary named Dwayne, which retired from working in a mine and is a very sick bird with bronchitis. He wheezes when he whistles. Laverne tells Shirley to take him back. Shirley promises that she will not get crazy about the bird. Shirley later ends up banging on a rock to lull Dwayne to sleep. At a party, Shirley loses Dwayne and waits all night for him, with her finger held out the window all night.

Broadcast history and ratings[edit]

Laverne & Shirley premiered in the 1975–76 TV season, with its first episode airing in January 1976. By its third season, it had become the most-watched American television program. In August, 1979, before the start of its fifth season, Laverne & Shirley was moved to Thursday nights at 8:00 pm opposite The Waltons on CBS and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on NBC. Viewership fell sharply. In an effort to improve the show's ratings, ABC moved Laverne & Shirley to Monday nights at 8:00 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. By the end of the fifth season, however, 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 four years on the air. By the time of its cancellation in 1983, it had ranked at number 25 for the season.

Season Time Rank Rating
1 (1975–76) Tuesday at 8:30–9:00 pm #3[4] 27.5
2 (1976–77) #2[5] 30.9
3 (1977–78) #1[6][7] 31.6
4 (1978–79) 30.5
5 (1979–80) Thursday at 8:00–8:30 PM (September - December 13, 1979)
Monday at 8:00–8:30 pm
(January 7 - February 11, 1980)
Tuesday at 8:30-9:00 pm (February 26 - May 13, 1980)
Not in Top 30
6 (1980–81) Tuesday at 8:30-9:00 pm #21[8] 20.6 (Tied: Monday Night Football)
7 (1981–82) #20[9] 19.9
8 (1982–83) #25[10] 17.8

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, and featured the voices of Marshall and Williams playing Laverne and Shirley in the Army 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.

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[11] 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 with music substitutions and scene deletions.[12]

On June 16, 2015, CBS DVD will release Laverne & Shirley – The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.[13]

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
The Complete Series 178 June 16, 2015 TBA TBA
"Laverne & Shirley Sing" (1976) cover
"Lenny and the Squigtones" (1979) cover

Music[edit]

The theme song from the series ("Making Our Dreams Come True" as performed by Cyndi Grecco) was released as a single from Cyndi's LP by the same name and became a radio favorite, becoming a top-30 American hit in 1976.[14]

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 originally 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.[15][16]

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

In 1980, Romina Power (of Al Bano and Romina Power fame) recorded a separate theme tune for the show when it was introduced to the Italian market. The track, simply titled "Laverne & Shirley" featured verses in English and Italian. Released as a single in the same year, the track failed to chart.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

  • 1992: 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.
  • 1994: An episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by John Travolta featured then-SNL cast member Michael McKean and David Lander reprising their roles as Lenny and Squiggy in a Welcome Back, Kotter parody.
  • 1995: 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." David Lander sort of reprises his role as Squiggy, using the signature "Hello" greeting. He says that his gay partner's name is Leonard and that they have been together for 17 years.
  • 2000: In Scary Movie, Squiggy is shown to be the principal of the school attended by the main characters (a parody of Scream (1996), where the principal is played by Henry Winkler).
  • 2000: On Saturday Night Live, a faux Japanese version titled Rabun to Shuri is featured as a sketch.
  • 2002: The Simpsons episode "Helter Shelter", Squiggy joins the family on a reality show, in an attempt to boost its ratings. While he is sleeping, he says his famous line "Hello, Laverne!".
  • 2006: 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.
  • 2007: chapter 15 of R. Kelly's rap opera, Trapped in the Closet, Twan calls Tina and Roxanne, "Laverne and Shirley".
  • 2013: "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.
  • 2014: All Hail King Julien, Clover refers to her fists as Laverne and Shirley.
  • 2014: Supernatural, during an episode entitled "Road Trip", Crowley refers to Dean and Castiel as "Laverne and Shirley".

References[edit]

External links[edit]