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For Crying Out Loud.. WHERE Are The Other Seasons??
on December 13, 2005
I have been a big fan of Laverne and Shirley since it first aired in 1975. Now, here we are 30 years later, and it still remains one of my all-time favorite sitcoms. I knew this set had been kicking around for awhile now, but I finally got around to picking it up just last week. I've now had a chance to watch all three discs and was quite pleased with the quality of the transfers and the sound. There are no extras included here, no outtakes or deleted scenes, no commentaries or other goodies, but I'm not complaining. It was, after all, a SITCOM, and that's how they keep the prices on these box-sets low.
The series is set in 1950's Milwaukee, and follows the trials and tribulations of two working class girls from the suburbs, their eccentric but loveable neighbors, "Lenny & Squiggy"(Micheal McKean and David Lander), and the girls' misfortunes at dating, finding romance, and generally just trying to make their way in the world. The supporting cast included singer Eddie Mekka(Carmine Ragusa) who played Shirley's occasional boyfriend, Phil Foster(Frank DeFazio), Laverne's loud-mouthed, hard-working Italian father who owns the "Pizza-Bowl", and several other guest stars like Henry Winkler and Ron Howard. Season one DOES NOT include the character of Mrs. Edna Babish, which was played by the charming Betty Garrett, who became the girls' landlord, and later married Laverne's father, Frank. (Betty was still working on All in the Family at the time). It should also be said that the scripts and dialogue here were a little choppy at times, but you have to remember that this was the first season, and the show gradually improved as time went on, which brings me to my complaint...
WHERE IS THE REST OF THE SERIES? I see the shelves at Wal-Mart lined with other TV shows and sitcoms that weren't half as popular as this one was, and they're up to Season 4 and 5 already... What is Paramount's problem? Laverne and Shirley got so much better in later years. As a matter of fact, season 2 is where things really took off. Betty Garrett was added to the cast, and we were also introduced to Rosie Greenbaum, one of the girls' enemies from high school who married into money and likes to degrade them by calling them "bimbos". The scripts and the acting became more solid too. Eddie Mekka was given a number of dance/singing parts, which showcased his talent as not only an actor, but a fine musician as well. I have many favorite episodes, so many that I couldn't begin to mention them all. There were also a number of "two-parters" that aired such as "The Cruise", "You're In the Army Now", "Murder on the Moose-Jaw Express", "The Bardwell Caper", "Festival", and "Death Row". On a more somber note, the series seemed to jump the gun after season 5, when the girls packed up their belongings and headed out west to start a new life in California. Several new cast members were added, such as Leslie Easterbrook(Rhonda Lee), Ed Marinaro(Sonny), and Norman Bartold(Mr. Hildebrand). The show basically ended when Cindy Williams' character was written off after she married Walter Meeney, an army doctor who was stationed overseas. Though Penny Marshall tried to hold the show on her own, it was all downhill from there. The last episode of the series featured Eddie Mekka bidding farewell to the cast as he set off to make a name for himself on Broadway.
Laverne and Shirley ran for 8 years and was one of the highest rated sitcoms of the decade. Critics hated it, but the public adored it. The main audience of the show was middle-class America, who found it easy to relate to. It also spun off a short-lived cartoon series, and a number of kids toys and collectables. I don't know when (or if) Paramount will go ahead with season 2, but I'm patiently awaiting their decision. Several years ago, Columbia House issued a collection of 10 VHS tapes featuring some of the best episodes. These are now out of print and no longer available, however copies tend to pop up on eBay from time to time. In conclusion, I would say that this is a welcome addition and a good place to start, but I would like to see the better episodes come out on DVD eventually. Maybe next year. We're waiting Paramount... Until then, enjoy these memories!