Laverne & Shirley (1976–1983)
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Penny was definitely already "Laverne" but "Shirley" while nice was sort of like Laverene too,thankfully she became the sweet,boo-boo kitty hugging Shirley we know & love. The show debuted in January of 1976 and just took of straight from there. With "Happy days" as it's lead in of course.
The theme,"Making Our Dreams Come True" by Cyndi Grecco was a top 20 hit (although the music a bit faster than that from the TV version.) After watching the Cunninghams,Fonzie & Ralph & Potsie,I sat tight for even bigger,bawdier & sillier slapstick laughs from these two wonderful females.
Those that know this show like the back of their hand could most likely name of all the best sight gags and stunts. I loved the one with the seemingly alive "Murphy Bed". This was a bed that you could lift up and put away into the wall behind two doors.
The girls open these doors in someone's apartment and the bed hits the floor. They try to put it back but it seems this bed has a mind of it's own! They walk near it and it lifts itself off the ground. They step back...it goes back. Finally they tackle the bed like football players and it sends them both up into the wall space and up & down until they come flipping out of there,land on their feet and slam it back shut!
Laverne: "That thing tried ta eat me"!! LOL! If Lucille Ball was tuning in that night,I'm sure she laughed herself sore.
Just as important as the physical humor were the touching stories about the importance friendship and standing by someone through "whatever". They even stand by the lecherous Lenny & Squiggy ("Hello!"),who are always busting into their apartment and sometimes making inappropriate advances on them. Yet,somehow over the course of the show they become friends.
My favorite episode,before the ill-fated idea of moving to California,was the 2 parter,"The Moosejaw Express". Laverne & Shirley board this train of the same name and end up in the middle of espionage & murder. It's not so much that this episode is "funny" but it shows what had to be the strongest test of their friendship.
The spy/killer on board is trying to sell microfilm to the Russians,somehow it has ended up in the girls possession. In the climax of part 2,Shirley is seemingly thrown out the door of the luggage car by the villain and Laverne is beyond anger. "You killed her. You killed Shirley!! You killed my best friend!!"
She decks him on the jaw,struggles with him and she's almost thrown off herself but suddenly a hand from outside the car grabs him and he flies out the door. It's Shirley! Who has somehow grabbed onto something outside earlier. She grabs Laverne's hand and they're safe inside again. One of the best shows from between 1976-1980.
Then comes the '80-'81 season. Talk about an overhaul! What in the world possessed producers or whoever to move the girls to Hollywood,California we'll never know. Unless it was ratings. Can anyone out there name more than five of these '80-'83 shows? Unless I read IMDb's episode list,I'd be hard pressed too.
The most telling thing that should have said "end it" was the episode where Shirley has moved out and gone to live with her new husband Walter Meeny (whom she married in the season before,he was in a body cast.) "Shirley Feeny Meeny" leaves Laverne a note letting her know where she's gone so suddenly and why.
So,in the final season we end up with "The Laverne Show" (I called it) with almost forgettable episodes. The worst? There's a ghost in the apartment that is the spirit of an Olympic athlete who cannot ascend until he wins a race that he lost decades ago. He inhabits Laverne for this race and (this is really stupid)when the race starts we go to slow motion and hear the theme from..."Chariots Of Fire"???!
I will say,a few shows stand out in this era. Shirley dating a man whose only separated from his wife,Squigy's reunited with his con artist father & others. (Watch them on DVD,the good ones do stand out.)
Anyhow,the show by this time,unlike "Happy Days",is set in the year 1967,(Happy Days was still somewhere in 1963 or 1964),Betty Garrett has departed,Lenny & Squiggy's act has worn thin and Carmine has gotten nowhere in Hollywood.
For those that don't know,the show had no "good-bye" episode and no return visits from Shirley. The last show in May of '83 was about Carmine leaving California.
He heads to New York to try and make it there. I've only read about this episode,I've never seen it because,like most,I lost track of the show because it had become almost an "unfunny" series. (Edit 02/03/2016 : Finally saw ALL of the shows on DVD.)
7 out of 10 for mainly,1976 to spring 1980. If I had to rate the series solely on '80 to '83? Two stars at best,making those years "Schlemiel/Schlomozzel". (END)