Saturday, June 11, 2011
The Greatest TV Comedies - LAVERNE & SHIRLEY (1976 - 1983)
A wonderful mix of I Love Lucy and The Odd Couple produced this entertaining sitcom, which was spun off from Happy Days. Set in the 1950s, the story has roommates and friends Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall, who would later go on become a top female director with A League Of Their Own and Awakenings) and Shirely Feeney (the always sweet Cindy Williams). The girls worked at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee and got into several zany situations through the course of the series run. Marshall and Williams made an awesome team, and played off each other well. Laverne with her New York accent and take no crap mentality. And always wearing an embroidered L on her clothing. While Shirley was full of sunshine and undying optimism. I recall Shirley would routinely break out in song with High Hopes which would crack me up. And the duo had a strong supporting cast that would rival any of the big time sitcoms. Their upstairs neighbors Lenny and Squiggy as played by Michael McKean and David L. Lander always brought the house down when they entered the scene with their trademark "Hello..." as they flung the door open. Yes, they originated that move, not Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld). Laverne & Shirley's landlady was none other than former MGM musical star, Betty Garrett. And Shirley's on-again, off-again boyfriend Carmine, a dance instructor, played by Eddie Mekka. Those two provided many opportunities for song and dance numbers, which were always well done. And finally Laverne's dad Frank (Phil Foster) who owned the Pizza Bowl, where Laverne & Shirley frequently hung out.
There was a lot physical comedy involved in this series and it never got old. The entire cast was game for anything. One episode I remember well was the one where the girls endured a weekend of sleep and food deprivation for an experiment. The lengths the duo went would make Lucy Ricardo proud. Out of the 8 year run, the series had 5 great first years. I believe once the creators decided to move the series to California, the show suffered. By the time the eighth season rolled around, the only original member left was Penny Marshall. All the others left due the decline of the show. Give Marshall credit, she stayed to the very end and tried her best, but you can't have a show called Laverne & Shirley and have no Shirley. And there was no way you could replace Shirley at this late of stage of the series. So the show puttered out and ended on a flat note, but during it's heyday of the first 5 years, L&S was one of the best sitcoms of all time. And it produced one of the most infectious theme songs of all time. So that's why Laverne & Shirley made the list of greatest TV comedies.
And I love the catchy theme song...