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Laverne and Shirley
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Laverne and Shirley
Laverne and Shirley
Created By: Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz, and Mark Rothman
Stars: Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Michael McKean, David Lander, Eddie Mekka, Phil Foster, and Betty Garrett
Opening Theme: "Making Our Dreams Come True" by Charles Fox and Cyndi Grecco
Number of Seasons: 8
Number of Episodes: 178
Original Channel: ABC
Original Run: January 27, 1976 to May 10, 1983
Laverne & Shirley is a popular American television situation comedy which ran on ABC from 1976 to 1983. It starred Penny Marshall as Laverne De Fazio and Cindy Williams as Shirley Feeney, roommates who, as the series began, worked in a Milwaukee brewery.
It was a spinoff of Happy Days, as the two lead characters were originally introduced on that show as acquaintances of Fonzie. Set in roughly the same time period as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley started in approximately 1959, and when the series ended, it was 1967.
Laverne & Shirley held the title as the longest running show with all-female leads until it was surpassed by Charmed in January, 2006. The rights to both shows are owned by CBS Paramount Television.
In the beginning, Laverne and Shirley are seen skipping down the street, arm in arm, reciting a popular Yiddish-American hopscotch chant: "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!" The theme song is entitled "Making Our Dreams Come True" and is performed by Cyndi Grecco.
The hopscotch phrase in the opening sequence is simply amusing nonsense, apparently invented by Penny Marshall during long walks as a child, and added to the show for its novelty.
The opening sequence is very popular and has been parodied in many pop culture outlets, including the movie Wayne's World, where Garth and Wayne perform the theme song while visiting Milwaukee. 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
In addition to the title characters, Michael McKean and David Lander portrayed Laverne and Shirley's obnoxious yet lovable greaser neighbors, Leonard "Lenny" Kosnowski and Andrew "Squiggy" Squigman. Betty Garrett played Edna Babish, the girls' landlady. She eventually fell in love with Laverne's father, Frank De Fazio (played by Phil Foster), and married him. Edna later left Frank after she met a Texan named "Big Ed". In many episodes, Shirley's singing and dancing boyfriend, Carmine "The Big Ragu" Ragusa (played by Eddie Mekka) provided a little romance and a strong right arm for the gang. The Big Ragu was also the former Golden Gloves boxing champion of Milwaukee.
Full Character List
Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) Known for being a tough-talking tomboy, Laverne grew up in Brooklyn, with her Italian immigrant parents and grandmother; Laverne and her father later moved to Milwaukee, after her mother's death, but Laverne's mother is buried in Milwaukee. Laverne works alongside best friend and roommate Shirley and is known for being the cynic of the pair. She would consider herself a realist, and she sees her life as what it is. "This is it, this is our life." is Laverne's motto. Laverne enjoys 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, like The Bride of Bwana Devil. Milk and Pepsi was Laverne's infamous favorite drink (Penny Marshall drank Pepsi in real life and added it to her character). Along with her poodle skirts, a well-known trait of Laverne's style was the letter "L" monogrammed on her shirts and sweaters (another idea introduced by Marshall).
Shirley's Boo Boo Kitty
Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) Shirley Wilhelmina Feeney is the perky, positive one. With apple cheeks to match her personality, Shirley never "lets her balloon land". She also tends to be a meek little "girly-girl", while Laverne is more outspoken and athletic. 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. Shirley 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 episode 32 "Buddy Can You Spare a Father?" (which aired 2/15/1977), Shirley's father Jack Feeney is played by Scott Brady, a noted actor who was originally offered the part of Archie Bunker in 1971 for All in the Family. Shirley dotes on her never-seen nieces, nephews and cousins and adores her "Feeney Family Photo Album". Shirley is also well-known as a prude: "I don't vodeo-doe-doe" was an early catchphrase. In the series' earliest episodes, Cindy Williams used a coarser accent for her character, but it was soon softened considerably. (This speech pattern had been previously used by Williams in a commercial for Foster Grant sunglasses.) Lenny Kosnowski (Michael McKean) A lovable goof who pesters Laverne and Shirley along with his best friend and roommate Squiggy. Lenny works as a truck driver at the Shotz brewery. Raised by his father, after his mother abandoned them, Lenny is 89th in line to the Polish Throne. When Lenny attempted to have the words "Lone Wolf" embroidered on the back of his red jacket, a mistake left him with "One Wolf" instead; Laverne was kind enough to sew on one of her own fancy-script "L's" to complete the phrase. Lenny says that, while he's not completely sure, he thinks his name Kosnowski is Polish for "Help, there's a hog in my kitchen!"
Andrew "Squiggy" Squigman (David Lander) The most obnoxious of the bunch, and the greasiest. Squiggy works and lives with childhood friend Lenny. Squiggy grew up with neglectful parents, and is often scheming to get rich or succeed by somewhat devious means. For some reason, he collects moths, and prizes a stuffed Iguana named Jeffrey.
Squiggy, like Lenny, loves the chocolate-flavored drink Bosco Chocolate Syrup, and makes nearly every entrance with his trademark "HELLO!".
Frank De Fazio
Frank De Fazio (Phil Foster) Laverne's Italian-born father who runs the Pizza Bowl, a local hang out featuring pizza, beer, and, of course, bowling and then later Cowboy Bills in Burbank, California. A running joke involves his incomprehensibly thick Italian accent, which sounds more like mumbling than speech. Although he could be harsh and lose his temper, he truly 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".
Carmine "The Big Ragu" Ragusa (Eddie Mekka) Shirley's high school sweetheart and on-again, off-again current romance. Carmine's occasional lady companion was wealthy divorcee Lucille Lockwash, which made Shirley jealous. "The Big Ragu" is a part-time boxer 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 (Betty Garrett) The landlady who eventually married Laverne's father, Edna occasionally sings and dances in the local Brewery talent show. Edna has had 8 divorces, and eventually divorces Frank too, towards the end of the series. In one episode, Edna's teenage or 20-something daughter Amy is introduced. She has been away at "school" and it is implied she is handicapped or a slow learner. It appears she has led a sheltered life more due to her mother protecting her. Laverne and Shirley help her to adjust and come out of her shell.
Big Rosie Greenbaum (Carole Ita White) 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 7th-season episode Class of '56.
Rhonda Lee (Leslie Easterbrook) a 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.
Sonny St. Jacques (Ed Marinaro) A stuntman and Laverne and Shirley's building manager in Burbank.
Timeline of Show
For the first five seasons, from 1976 to 1980, the show was set in Milwaukee, running from roughly 1959 (one early episode involves the girl's 3rd year high school reunion of the Fillmore High Class of 1956) through the early 1960s. Shotz Brewery (a ficticous analogy of the Schlitz company) bottlecappers and best friends Laverne and Shirley live in a basement apartment on Knapp Street, where the feet of pedestrians are visible from the 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.
In 1980, the current cast 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, and want to start fresh. 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 Beatles poster in the new opening credits. With each season, a new year passed in the timeline of the show, starting with 1964 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 moved to California, two new members joined the cast: Ed Marinaro as Sonny St. Jacques, a stunt man, landlord of the Burbank apartment building, and love interest for Laverne, as well as Leslie Easterbrook 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). The move to Burbank is generally considered by fans to have been when the show jumped the shark (the beginning of the end). Marinaro left after one season in California, Betty Garrett left by 1981, Cindy Williams left in 1982, and Michael McKean was missing from the final episodes.
Laverne without Shirley
Near the end of the show's run, Cindy Williams was unhappy because she believed that the studio favored Marshall over her. Williams ultimately decided to leave due to pregnancy, and by that time Laverne & Shirley's ratings had already declined considerably. In the final season, Shirley fell in love with and married Army medic Walter Meany (making her Shirley Feeney-Meany), and discovered one episode later that she was pregnant (though she had been visibly pregnant for some time). This was to be Williams' last appearance. With Shirley gone (leaving Laverne a note and quickly leaving town to join her husband overseas), Laverne tried to go it alone, and a new opening was shot with Laverne watching children singing the famous "Schlemiel! Schlemazl!" lines. The show kept the title Laverne & Shirley on-screen, though Cindy Williams was neither shown nor titled in the opening credits. Laverne began working in an aerospace testing facility and did not need another roommate. Several guest stars were featured in the final season of 1982-83, including Carrie Fisher and Louise Lasser, but the series did not survive the loss of one of the title leads and was subsequently canceled. The final episode dealt with Carmine moving away to New York to star in the Broadway show Hair, and Laverne was seen simply in book-end scenes.
During the run of the main show, an animated spin-off called Laverne and 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 & Shirley in the Army (much like they had been during their 1979-1980 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. The series ran until September 3, 1983.
Though generally viewed as a slapstick comedy, the cast proved their dramatic acting ability in several episodes. In Episode #103, "Why Did The Fireman..?", Laverne mourns her boyfriend's death. The episode guest starred Ted Danson as Randy Carpenter, a Milwaukee firefighter and Laverne's steady boyfriend who is killed 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. The father-daughter scene between Penny Marshall (Laverne) and Phil Foster (Frank De Fazio) in which he consoles his daughter is an example of the dramatic acting uncharacteristic for the series. This episode was directed by Joel Zwick and was written by Roger Garrett.
In the Season 1 episode "Once Upon a Rumor", Laverne laments, "It isn't fair, a guy with a reputation is a hero. A girl with a reputation is a "bimbo".
In the Season 3 episode "The Slow Child", the girls befriend Mrs. Babish's 'slow' daughter, Amy. Mrs. Babish does not care for how they treat her daughter as one of the girls, especially when Amy and Lenny begin to date.
In the Season 4 episode "The Bully Show", a blind date traps Laverne in her apartment and attempts to rape her.
The show took on other serious subjects, such as class differences in "The Society Party", "Guilty Until Proven Not Innocent", "The Debutante Ball", and "Testing Testing". Another issue the show focused on was how women were treated in the pre-feminist world of the 1950s and early '60s. Often women were expected to be forever virgins, and were unwelcome in the work place.
In recent years, the City of Milwaukee and many of its residents have been (officially and unofficially) downplaying its connections to Laverne & Shirley. They feel that the image the show has given the city is outdated and inaccurate , even for the time-period it was supposed to represent. Amongst the more common reasons are the lack of racial diversity on the show (brewery jobs were a big reason why many minorities, especially African-American people moved to Milwaukee after World War II) as well as the accents of the characters sounding more like Brooklyn than Milwaukee.
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