Laverne & Shirley


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

Originally introduced as characters on Happy Days, Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) "schlemiel-schlamazeled" their way into the Tuesday night ABC prime time line up and into the hearts of television viewers in 1976. The show, set in the late 1950s, centered on the two title characters, and was rated the number one program in its second year of airing. In the earliest years of the long-running sitcom, the two twenty-something women shared an apartment in Milwaukee and worked at Shotz Brewery, the local beer bottling plant. Many of the episodes focused on the humorous complications involving the women or their friends. From ditching blind dates to goofing up on the conveyor belt at the bottling plant, Laverne and Shirley "did it their way" in Milwaukee until 1980 when ABC decided to change the setting of Laverne & Shirley to Burbank, California for a new twist. Aside from a change of climate and employment, now in Bradburn's Department store, the central characters and structure of the program remained the same until Williams left the program in 1982. Following her departure, the program continued for one year under the original title, but with Laverne alone as the central character.

"There is nothing we won't try, never heard the word impossible, this time, there's no stopping us, we're gonna do it!" This line from the theme song of the sitcom describes the state of mind of the program's two main characters. With the advantage of two decades of hindsight, Laverne and Shirley painted a picture of the 1950s from the single, independent woman's point of view. The plots of the episodes reflected concerns about holding a factory job, making it as a independent woman, and dealing with friends and relatives in the process of developing a life of one's own. Many plots revolved around the girls dating this man or that, or pondering the ideal men they would liked to have met: sensitive, handsome doctors. If on the surface the characters appeared to be longing to fulfill the stereotypical 1950s role of woman, their true actions and attitudes cast them as two of television's first liberated women. They thought for themselves and made things happen in their social circles. Together they fought for causes, from workers' rights at the bottling plant to animal rights at the pound. They helped each other and they helped their friends, who added much texture and comic effect to the program.

Their two male neighbors, Lenny and Squiggy provided much of the humor in the program with their greasy-1950s appearance and their ironic knack of entering at just the wrong time. If someone said "Can you imagine anything more slimy and filthy than that?", in would charge Lenny and Squiggy with the famous, distorted "hello!" Despite the fun poked at the two men, they were still portrayed as friends and thus were often caught up in the "Lucy-esque" escapades of Laverne and Shirley. Another prominent character, Carmine Ragusa or "The Big Ragu" was an energetic Italian singer. Friend to both women, Carmine was after Shirley's heart. Laverne and Shirley gave its lead characters room to explore boundaries and break some stereotypes common in television portrayals of women prior to the 1970s. Shirley was portrayed as interested in marriage, yet she was not sure that Carmine was "the one"; instead of settling, she kept her independence and her friendship with Carmine.

Among the loudest characters on the program was Mr. Frank De Fazio, Laverne's widowed father who owned the local Pizza-Bowl where everyone congregated. In his eyes Laverne was still a little girl, and he frequently checked up on her, evaluated her dates, and attempted to invalidate her decisions. Edna, Frank's girlfriend acted as a buffer between father and daughter, and even more as a motherly figure to Laverne after she married Frank midway through the program's network run. Though Frank would express his overly protective and chauvinistic views, Edna's buffering reason and Laverne's stubbornness always won out. Laverne & Shirley was an early prime-time proponent of women's rights and placed much value in the viewpoints and experiences of 50's women, suggesting that even in that decade women could be independent.

Since Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off of Happy Days, and because the programs aired back to back, it was easy to cross over characters from one to another. Often Laverne and Shirley were visited by Arthur Fonzerelli (better known as The Fonz), or ran into Richie Cunningham or Ralph Mouth (all from Happy Days) camping in the woods. Viewers were able to carry knowledge from one show (Happy Days) to the next (Laverne & Shirley) as characters shared experiences with each other outside the context of their own programs. The programs were thus able to layer meanings or overlap realities between previously mutually exclusive television families.

While visits to or from Happy Days characters were always extra fun, Laverne & Shirley provided seasons of hilarious antics and left behind many memorable pictures uniquely their own--Laverne's clothing, always decorated with large, cursive "L's," the milk and Pepsi concoction that was her favorite beverage, the giant posters of Fabian, and Shirley's infamous Boo-Boo kitty, a two foot stuffed cat that was the true ruler of her heart. Laverne & Shirley may have been a female "odd-couple", Shirley fanatically neat and Laverne hopelessly sloppy, but they balanced each other and provided a system of mutual support demonstrating that women could compete in the world of work as well as in the world of ideas. From a 1950s perspective, for two young women, that indeed was "making our dreams come true".

-Dawn Michelle Nill

CAST

Laverne De Fazio................................... Penny Marshall

Shirley Feeney (1976-1982)..................... Cindy Williams  

Carmine Ragusa .......................................Eddie Mekka

Frank De Fazio............................................ Phil Foster  

Andrew "Squiggy" Squigman................... David L. Lander

Lenny Kosnowski................................. Michael McKean

Mrs. Edna Babish De Fazio (1976-1981)...... Betty Garrett

Rosie Greenbaum (1976-1977)............... Carole Ita White  

Sonny St. Jaques (1980-1981)..................... Ed Marinaro  

Rhonda Lee (1980-1983).................... Leslie Easterbrook

PRODUCERS   

Garry Marshall, Thomas L. Miller, Edward K. Milkis, Milt Josefberg, Marc Sotkin

PROGRAMMING HISTORY   

112 Episodes

ABC

January 1976-July 1979   Tuesday 8:30-9:00

August 1979-December 1979   Thursday 8:00-8:30

December 1979-February 1980   Monday 8:00-8:30

February 1980-May 1983   Tuesday 8:30-9:00

FURTHER READING

Gates, Anita. "Through Thick and Thin." The New York Times, 30 April 1995.

Hammamoto, Darrell Y. Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and Liberal Democratic Ideology. New York: Praeger, 1989.

Jones, Gerard. Honey, I'm Home: Sitcoms, Selling the American Dream. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1992.

"Laverne and Shirley." Newsweek (New York), 29 March 1976.

"Laverne and Shirley." Redbook (New York), October 1976.

"Laverne and Shirley." Seventeen (New York), December 1976.

Marc, David, and Robert J. Thompson. Prime-time, Prime Movers: From I Love Lucy To L.A. Law--America's Greatest TV Shows and the People Who Created Them. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.

Marshall, Garry, with Lori Marshall. Wake Me When It's Funny: How to Break Into Show Business and Stay There. Holbrook, Massachusetts: Adams, 1995.

Mitz, Rick. The Great TV Sitcom Book. New York: R. Marek, 1988.

Newcomb, Horace, and Robert S. Alley. The Producer's Medium: Conversations with Creators of American TV. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Highlights
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on how Laverne & Shirley came about
04:19
Penny Marshall on doing physical comedy on Laverne & Shirley
01:08
Mark Rothman on his contribution to the legacy of Laverne and Shirley 
00:58
Lowell Ganz on how the writers dealt with a difficult cast on Laverne & Shirley
01:28
Winifred Hervey on becoming an intern on Laverne & Shirley
01:28
Garry Marshall on creating and producing Laverne & Shirley
06:58
Who talked about this show

James Burrows

View Interview
James Burrows on directing Laverne & Shirley
03:01

Michael Eisner

View Interview
Michael Eisner on the development of Laverne & Shirley which he worked on with director Garry Marshall; Cindy Williams' role was originally played by Liberty Williams

Charles Fox

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Charles Fox on composing the theme to Laverne & Shirley
08:10

Richard Frank

View Interview
Richard Frank on overseeing production of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley
05:51
Richard Frank on the troubled last year of Laverne and Shirley and selling it into syndication
04:04
Richard Frank on the legacy of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley
03:13

Lowell Ganz

View Interview
Lowell Ganz on spinning off Laverne & Shirley from Happy Days
04:41
Lowell Ganz on the first couple of episodes of Laverne & Shirley
01:41
Lowell Ganz on the evolution of Laverne & Shirley's characters and the introduction of "Lenny" and "Squiggy"
05:40
Lowell Ganz on making "Lenny" and "Squiggy" the "breakout" characters of Laverne & Shirley
01:35
Lowell Ganz on the evolution of Laverne & Shirley
03:58
Lowell Ganz on the female writing staff of Laverne & Shirley and the expectations of the network
01:34
Lowell Ganz on the working atmosphere on the set of Laverne & Shirley
02:59
Lowell Ganz on dealing with an unhappy cast on Laverne & Shirley
02:56
Lowell Ganz on how the writers dealt with a difficult cast on Laverne & Shirley
01:28
Lowell Ganz on the difficulty with the cast on Laverne & Shirley 
02:44
Lowell Ganz on working with the various guest-stars, co-stars, and producers on Laverne & Shirley
03:50
Lowell Ganz on the possibility of a "Lenny" and "Squiggy" spin-off from Laverne & Shirley
01:08
Lowell Ganz on leaving Laverne & Shirley
01:48
Lowell Ganz on the reputation of Laverne & Shirley and his feelings on it after he left
03:47
Lowell Ganz on his partnership with Mark Roth during Laverne & Shirley
01:21

Betty Garrett

View Interview
Betty Garrett on playing "Edna Babish" on Laverne & Shirley
03:15
Betty Garrett on working with Penny Marshall as "Laverne DeFazio" and Cindy Williams as "Shirley Feeney" on Laverne & Shirley
02:46
Betty Garrett on working with the directors of Laverne & Shirley
03:19
Betty Garrett on working with Laverne & Shirley producer Garry Marshall
00:46
Betty Garrett on the Laverne & Shirley episode "Slow Child," and on her favorite episodes
03:18
Betty Garrett on leaving Laverne & Shirley
01:14

Winifred Hervey

View Interview
Winifred Hervey on becoming an intern on Laverne & Shirley
01:28
Winifred Hervey on becoming a staff writer on Laverne & Shirley
02:28
Winifred Hervey on writing physical comedy bits on Laverne & Shirley
01:08
Winifred Hervey on tension on the set of Laverne & Shirley
00:50
Winifred Hervey on working with Garry Marshall on Laverne & Shirley
01:38
Winifred Hervey on why she was hired as a staff writer on Laverne & Shirley
00:50

Eddie Foy III

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Eddie Foy III on casting Laverne & Shirley
00:26

Vicki Lawrence

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Vicki Lawrence on guest-starring on Laverne & Shirley with director Garry Marshall
00:45

Gene LeBell

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Gene LeBell on stunt work on Laverne & Shirley
00:37

Penny Marshall

View Interview
Penny Marshall on doing physical comedy on Laverne & Shirley
01:08
Penny Marshall on auditioning actresses to play "Shirley Feeney" on Laverne & Shirley
01:52
Penny Marshall on the character of "Laverne DeFazio" on Laverne & Shirley
01:48
Penny Marshall on the writing on Laverne & Shirley
03:42
Penny Marshall on Laverne & Shirley becoming the number one show on televison
01:18
Penny Marshall on directing episodes of Laverne & Shirley
02:26
Penny Marshall on Cindy Williams leaving Laverne & Shirley and the end of the show
05:43
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on how Laverne & Shirley came about
04:19
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Cindy Williams' initial hesitancy to appear on Laverne & Shirley
02:09
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the first episode of Laverne & Shirley and early reaction to the show
01:39
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Cindy Williams' New York accent on the early episodes of Laverne & Shirley
01:11
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on how the characters of "Laverne DeFazio" and "Shirley Feeney" changed in the transition from Happy Days to Laverne & Shirley and the wardrobe and set design of the show
02:58
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on working on the set of Laverne & Shirley and how "milk and pepsi" came about
01:42
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on what they brought to Laverne & Shirley from their own lives and the dancing on the show
01:34
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the physical comedy of Laverne & Shirley 
03:23
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the writing of Laverne & Shirley and their favorite physical bits from the show
07:21
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on rehearsing the physical bits for Laverne & Shirley
02:52
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on their chemistry on Laverne & Shirley
04:40
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the similarities between "Laverne DeFazio" and "Shirley Feeney" and themselves and the male guest stars of Laverne & Shirley
03:31
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on working with Michael McKean and David L. Lander as "Lenny" and "Squiggy" on Laverne & Shirley
02:34
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Eddie Mekka as "Carmine 'The Big Ragu' Ragusa" on Laverne & Shirley 
00:39
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Phil Foster as "Frank DeFazio" on Laverne & Shirley
00:43
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the atmosphere on the set of Laverne & Shirley 
04:30
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on working with Garry Marshall on Laverne & Shirley
01:49
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the theme song and opening credits to Laverne & Shirley
02:04
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Laverne & Shirley changing its setting to Hollywood
02:10
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the merchandising of Laverne & Shirley
01:14
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the Laverne & Shirley animated series
01:02
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on doing promotion for Laverne & Shirley
03:15
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on doing Laverne & Shirley reunion shows
01:48
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on their favorite episodes of Laverne & Shirley
02:18
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the legacy of Laverne & Shirley 
00:56
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on reuniting on the series Sam & Cat
02:29
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on their friendship over the years
08:04

Garry Marshall

View Interview
Garry Marshall on creating and producing Laverne & Shirley
06:58
Garry Marshall on the physical comedy of Laverne & Shirley beginning with the episode "Angels of Mercy" (airdate: October 5, 1976) 
02:26
Garry Marshall on Cindy Williams departure from Laverne & Shirley
02:27

Howard Morris

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Howard Morris on directing Laverne & Shirley
00:38

Laraine Newman

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Laraine Newman on guest-starring on Laverne & Shirley
01:28

Mark Rothman

View Interview
Mark Rothman on Pat Morita as "Arnold" on Happy Days and the inception of Laverne and Shirley
06:57
Mark Rothman on the inception of Laverne and Shirley
03:26
Mark Rothman on developing the characters of Laverne and Shirley
02:46
Mark Rothman on coming up with the names of Laverne and Shirley
00:54
Mark Rothman on the characters of Laverne and Shirley
01:16
Mark Rothman on the physical comedy of Laverne and Shirley and difficulties on the set
05:04
Mark Rothman on the writing team of Laverne and Shirley
01:15
Mark Rothman on Michael McKean and David L. Lander as as "Lenny" and "Squiggy" on Laverne and Shirley
02:28
Mark Rothman on Eddie Mekka as "Carmine Ragusa" on Laverne and Shiley
01:06
Mark Rothman on Phil Foster as "Frank DeFazio" on Laverne and Shirley
03:02
Mark Rothman on Betty Garrett as "Edna Babish" on Laverne and Shirley
01:01
Mark Rothman on tensions between him and Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams on Laverne and Shirley
03:12
Mark Rothman on his favorite episode of Laverne and Shirley
01:18
Mark Rothman on his favorite memories of Laverne and Shirley
01:14
Mark Rothman on Garry Marshall's involvement in Laverne and Shirley 
08:38
Mark Rothman on his contribution to the legacy of Laverne and Shirley 
00:58

Fred Silverman

View Interview
Fred Silverman on guest appearances by Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Happy Days leading to the development of the series Laverne & Shirley
00:56

Howard Storm

View Interview
Howard Storm on the detail of a production workweek on Laverne & Shirley; on Garry Marshall
Howard Storm on the cast of Laverne & Shirley being close; on his favorite episodes

W.G. Snuffy Walden

View Interview
W.G. Snuffy Walden on appearing on Laverne & Shirley in 1979
02:18

Cindy Williams

View Interview
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on working on the set of Laverne & Shirley and how "milk and pepsi" came about
01:42
Cindy Williams on her Laverne & Shirley  character "Shirley Feeney"
10:03
Cindy Williams on "Shirley Feeney"'s character and love life on Laverne & Shirley
03:56
Cindy Williams on her input on "Shirley Feeney" on Laverne & Shirley  and how "Boo Boo Kitty" came about
02:04
Cindy Williams on whether there were rules for her character "Shirley Feeney" on Laverne and Shirley
01:04
Cindy Williams on "Shirley Feeney's" wardrobe on Laverne & Shirley
02:08
Cindy Williams on "Laverne DeFazio" and "Shirley Feeney's" favorite song "High Hopes" on Laverne & Shirley
00:45
Cindy Williams on the humor of Laverne & Shirley
01:10
Cindy Williams on how Laverne & Shirley represented '50's women
00:56
Cindy Williams on working with Penny Marshall on the physical comedy of Laverne & Shirley
04:37
Cindy Williams on working with Penny Marshall as "Laverne DeFazio" on Laverne & Shirley
05:20
Cindy Williams on fan reaction to Laverne & Shirley and the fame that resulted from being on the show
08:02
Cindy Williams on her schedule during the run of Laverne & Shirley
00:47
Cindy Williams on her favorite Laverne & Shirley episodes
03:19
Cindy Williams on directing an episode of Laverne & Shirley
01:55
Cindy Williams on "Laverne DeFazio" and "Shirley Feeney" moving to Hollywood in season six of Laverne & Shirley
00:45
Cindy Williams on leaving Laverne & Shirley
01:16
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on how Laverne & Shirley came about
04:19
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Cindy Williams' initial hesitancy to appear on Laverne & Shirley
02:09
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the first episode of Laverne & Shirley and early reaction to the show
01:39
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Cindy Williams' New York accent on the early episodes of Laverne & Shirley
01:11
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on how the characters of "Laverne DeFazio" and "Shirley Feeney" changed in the transition from Happy Days to Laverne & Shirley and the wardrobe and set design of the show
02:58
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on what they brought to Laverne & Shirley from their own lives and the dancing on the show
01:34
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the physical comedy of Laverne & Shirley 
03:23
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the writing of Laverne & Shirley and their favorite physical bits from the show
07:21
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on rehearsing the physical bits for Laverne & Shirley
02:52
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on their chemistry on Laverne & Shirley
04:40
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the similarities between "Laverne DeFazio" and "Shirley Feeney" and themselves and the male guest stars of Laverne & Shirley
03:31
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on working with Michael McKean and David L. Lander as "Lenny" and "Squiggy" on Laverne & Shirley
02:34
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Eddie Mekka as "Carmine 'The Big Ragu' Ragusa" on Laverne & Shirley 
00:39
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Phil Foster as "Frank DeFazio" on Laverne & Shirley
00:43
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the atmosphere on the set of Laverne & Shirley 
04:30
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on working with Garry Marshall on Laverne & Shirley
01:49
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the theme song and opening credits to Laverne & Shirley
02:04
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on Laverne & Shirley changing its setting to Hollywood
02:10
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the merchandising of Laverne & Shirley
01:14
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the Laverne & Shirley animated series
01:02
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on doing promotion for Laverne & Shirley
03:15
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on doing Laverne & Shirley reunion shows
01:48
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on their favorite episodes of Laverne & Shirley
02:18
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on the legacy of Laverne & Shirley 
00:56
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on reuniting on the series Sam & Cat
02:29
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall on their friendship over the years
08:04

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