For the 1970s, two funny single girls, just trying to make a living, were one of the popular sitcoms of the decade – Laverne & Shirley.
Created by Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz and Mark Rothman, Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off from the successful series Happy Days, starring Penny Marshall as Laverne and Cindy Williams as Shirley.
Set in the early 1960s, the show debuted in 1976 on ABC and featured characters from Happy Days as guest stars.
Set in Milwaukee, Laverne de Fazio lives with her best friend Shirley Feeney, working as bottlecappers at the local Shotz Brewery. The two girls deal with their work life, as well as their odd fellow employees and neighbours, Lenny Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew “Squiggy” Squigman (David Lander) who they communicate with through the building’s old dumbwaiter.
The girls deal with single girl issues – living together, dating, and trying to survive on their meagre salaries. Shirley has an on again off again boyfriend Carmine, known as The Big Ragu (played by Eddie Mekka), a former boxer now dance instructor hoping for his big break one day on Broadway. Laverne’s father Frank (played by Phil Foster), is a single Dad who runs the Pizza Bowl, one of their local hangouts.
Laverne is more fearless and aggressive, sporting a bold L on all her clothing and fond of Pepsi and milk when she needs some fortification, while Shirley is more conservative and demure, keeping her Boo Boo Kitty close by when needed. The two were a popular duo – gaining top ratings, even beating out Happy Days for viewers.
With the early success, the two stars recorded an album called Laverne & Shirley Sing, including a few original songs and several 1950s and 1960s standards. The theme song of the series, Making our dreams come true, sung by Cyndi Grecco, became a top 30 hit on the Billboard charts.
I watched this show for its slapstick humour and silliness, not always getting the more serious themes that were incorporated into the half hour. I liked how each character had its odd quirks, which although seem wierd, its more like real life.
The girls eventually would be in the Army (with Vicki Lawrence playing their sergeant) and move to Los Angeles after losing their jobs in Milwaukee due to automation. But for the 1970s, the halcyon days of the late 1950s and early 1960s were happily showcased in Laverne & Shirley as the idyllic time in American history.