slapstick 1950’s-era comedy was about two spunky girls from lower-class
backgrounds, without much education, with no money, but with the determination
to get ahead. They worked on an assembly line in the bottle-cap division of the
Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee. Laverne was the quick-tempered, defensive one,
always afraid of getting hurt (which she usually did) – a glib realist. Shirley
was naive and trusting, a sucker for a sad story.
Others in the
cast included Lenny and Squiggy, the girls' screwball neighbors and truck
drivers at the plant; amorous Carmine “The Big Ragu”; Laverne's father, Frank,
owner of the Pizza Bowl, a local hangout; Mrs. Babish, the sardonic landlady who
was first seen in the fall of 1976 (replacing the original landlady, Mrs.
Havenwurst, played by Helen Page Camp, seen in only a couple of episodes); and
Rosie, an uppity friend.
was a spin-off of sorts from Happy Days, in which the girls appeared only
briefly. It was set in the same city and period, and the girls' friend Fonzie
sometimes stopped by to say hello. With friends like that, Laverne & Shirley
shot to the top of the ratings. Critics called it TV junk food: ABC program
chief Fred Silverman responded by comparing it to the classic satire of the 17th-Century
French playwright Molière. No matter what anyone said, the public loved it.
During the 1977-1978 season it was the number-one program on television.
1978-1979 season, the program moved into the 1960's. Frank DeFazio and Mrs.
Babish, both single, began dating, and in the fall of 1979 they were married.
Then, in the fall of 1980, the whole crew picked up and moved to Burbank,
California, all seeking to better their lot in a new environment. The girls
began trying to get into the movies. Frank and Edna opened a restaurant, Cowboy
Bill's. Carmine just wanted to be near his best girl, Shirley. New neighbors
included Rhonda, a caustic dancer and model, and Sonny, a stuntman, and their
apartment building manager.
the scenes of Laverne & Shirley had always been tumultuous, due to an
intense rivalry between its two stars. Demands were made, writers fired, feuds
erupted. Finally in 1982 Cindy Williams, who was pregnant, left the series. Her
character, Shirley, married an army medic named Walter Meany who was assigned
overseas. Laverne tried to go it alone, but, faced with withering competition
from The A-Team on NBC, Laverne & Shirley quietly expired the
song from this series was on the hit parade in 1976 in a recording by Cyndi
Grecco, who was also heard on the show. Reruns of Laverne & Shirley were
on ABC's daytime lineup from April 1979 to June 1980, and a Saturday morning
cartoon version was seen from October 1981 to September 1983.