Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Laverne and Shirley--Two Working Class Lucys

 LAVERNE & SHIRLEY was a spinoff of ABC's hit HAPPY DAYS in the seventies but whereas the latter was set in the fifties, the humor of L&S was actually a throwback to the fifties. Despite the  occasional nod to a blue line, this was essentially I LOVE LUCY revisited...with two working class Lucys.

Played by Penny Marshall (the Producer's sister) and Cindy Williams (who had been in Coppola's THE CONVERSATION), the girls were given much more characterization here than in their brief appearances on their parent show.

Their theme was a hit single but the ladies themselves even put out an LP.

Veteran comic Phil Foster gave a nice grumpy turn as Laverne's father until he got caught up in a behind-the-scenes scandal. Eddie Mekka was the ambitious, good-hearted best friend of the pair, particularly Shirley. Lenny and Squiggy gave whole new meaning to the term "wacky neighbors." Michael McKean (later of SNL and Spinal Tap) and David L Lander played those roles.

At its peak, L&S even had a Saturday morning animated version that featured the girls in the US Army!

Betty Garrett, an MGM star in the forties and later a regular on ARCHIE BUNKER'S PLACE, was memorable as the girls' landlady, referee and sometime partner in crime. In recent years, I've been Facebook friends with her son, Andrew.

Penny Marshall, typecast previously as unattractive secretaries (THE ODD COUPLE) and such, proved quite good at farce and Cindy Williams matched her at the silly situations they were provided with by the writers. Being shot live on stage, LAVERNE & SHIRLEY had that loud, distracting, stagy feeling to it but at its best it was traditional slapstick humor played by experts.

 There were long rumors of feuding and personal problems behind the scenes on the show. In the final episodes, Cindy Williams refused to appear and Shirley was played in several episodes by another actress bandaged from head to toe, the character supposedly having been injured.

Although most likely not close friends, Penny and Cindy have reunited over the years for various purposes including a TV Land Award ceremony seen here.

No comments:

Post a Comment