November 12, 2022


(ABC, October 10, 1981-November 13, 1982)
Hanna-Barbera Productions, Paramount Network Television


Penny Marshall – Laverne DeFazio
Cindy Williams (season 1) & Lynne Marie Stewart (season 2) – Shirley Feeney
Ron Palillo – Sgt. Squeally
Kenneth Mars – Sgt. Turnbuckle
Henry Winkler – Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (season 2)
Frank Welker – Mr. Cool (season 2), various



            Created by Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz and Mark Rothman, Laverne & Shirley was the first spin-off of his popular sitcom Happy Days. The series centered on the titular characters, Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams), roommates who lived in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisconsin and worked together as bottle-cappers at the fictional Shotz Brewery; trying to scrape by in life and love. Laverne was a tough-talking, sarcastic tomboy from Brooklyn who always wore the letter “L” on her clothing (an idea from Marshall to help remind audiences which character she was), while Shirley was perky, positive, a bit meek and overly sensitive, leading her to overact frequently. Garry had stated in interviews that the series was essentially an extension of the dynamic between Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ethel (Vivian Vance) from I Love Lucy.

Screenshot of Laverne & Shirley with Fonzie and Richie on Happy Days.
The Fonz and Richie meeting Laverne & Shirley on Happy Days.

            The characters made their debut in the Happy Days season three episode “A Date with Fonzie”, where resident cool cat Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) attempted to help his friend, Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), get over being dumped by his long-time girlfriend by setting up a date with a couple of girls from his little black book. Their appearance made an impression and ABC approached them about starring in their own series. Marshall was receptive, but Williams was more interested in focusing on her budding movie career. Then-ABC casting executive Michael Eisner recast Shirley with Liberty Williams (no relation) and a few scenes were shot to present to the network. However, Liberty just didn’t have the same chemistry as Cindy, and the Marshall siblings managed to convince Cindy to do the series. The scenes were reshot with Cindy, Eisner “lost” the original film and presented the reshoots to the network, and the series was greenlit.

Laverne & Shirley full cast photo.
From top: Lenny, Squiggy, Carmine, Edna and Frank make up Laverne & Shirley's group.

            Joining the girls was Laverne’s Italian immigrant father, Fabrizio “Frank” DeFazio (Phil Foster), who ran a combination bowling alley/pizza parlor where the girls frequently hung out; Carmine Ragusa (Eddie Mekka), Laverne’s high-school sweetheart and on-again, off-again love interest who was a former boxer-turned-dance instructor; and their goofball greaser neighbors Leonard “Lenny” Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew “Squiggy” Squiggman (David Lander), which were created by the actors in college and were written into the show by them when they were hired as writers and consultants. Joining in the second season was five-time-divorced landlady Edna Babish (Betty Garrett), who would end up marrying Frank. For a time, some of the Happy Days characters would cross over into the series and vice versa.

            Laverne & Shirley debuted on ABC on January 27, 1976, running for 8 seasons. By its third, it had become the most-watched program according to Nielsen ratings. The show’s theme, “Making Our Dreams Come True” written by Charles Fox and performed by Cyndi Grecco, became a top 20 hit. Despite all that success, and the fact that the two women claimed to be close friends, the set was a constant battleground between them over things like who got more and better lines. For the sixth season, it was decided to move the setting to Burbank, California in order to allow for greater guest-star potential and to open up potential storylines of Laverne and Shirley looking to get into showbusiness (the stars were against this, feeling that the show would lose its gritty urban feel). Laverne and Shirley became gift wrappers at a department store, Frank and Edna managed a Texas barbecue restaurant, Carmine delivered singing telegrams while looking for acting work, and Lenny and Squiggy started a talent agency. Two new characters were added: Rhonda Lee (Leslie Easterbrook), a stereotypical dumb, voluptuous blonde who was trying to make it big in Hollywood, and Sonny St. Jacques (Ed Marinaro), a stuntman who was also the girls’ landlord (he was quickly written out, however). The series also experienced a time jump of two years, planting them in 1965 at the start of the Burbank episodes.

            A major shake-up occurred for the series’ final season when Williams had gotten married and became pregnant. An issue arose with her contract when the studio wanted her to work on her due date, which she refused. Unable to come to an agreement, Shirley was only seen for two episodes before being written out as having gone to live with her new husband on his Naval base. Williams ended up filing a lawsuit against Paramount for attempting to force her out of the show after previously agreeing to work her pregnancy into it. It was settled out of court. In the meantime, Marshall was left to headline the series alone, with her character now working for an aerospace company. Ratings fell, but the series still did respectably well enough to warrant another season. However, Marshall hadn’t even wanted to do the eighth and insisted she’d only do another if she got a significant raise and production was moved to New York. An expensive proposition, ABC passed and let the series end. 

Laverne & Shirley's animated counterparts.
Laverne & Shirley in their army fatigues.

            As the series was going on, Paramount Network Television was making moves to further cash in on the success of the Happy Days series of programs by expanding to a younger audience on Saturday morning. In 1980, the studio partnered with Hanna-Barbera Productions to produce The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, which saw Fonzie, his new anthropomorphic dog Mr. Cool (Frank Welker), and two of his friends being whisked away across time in a malfunctioning time machine. Paramount expanded that arrangement to include an animated spin-off of Laverne & Shirley.

Laverne & Shirley with Sgt. Squeally.
Sgt. Squeally in charge.

            Laverne & Shirley in the Army (only titled Laverne & Shirley on screen) debuted on ABC on October 10, 1981, with Marshall and Williams reprising their roles. The premise of the series was based on the fifth season episode “We’re in the Army, Now”, where Laverne and Shirley had enlisted in the Army and determined that military service wasn’t for them. Keeping on with that mindset, the animated Laverne and Shirley did what they could to try and get out of difficult assignments or be furloughed in exotic locations. Unfortunately, their direct supervisor, an anthropomorphic pig named Sgt. Squeally (Ron Palillo), was always breathing down their necks; ready to report the slightest infraction to his superior, Sgt. Turnbuckle (Kenneth Mars). Meanwhile, Laverne and Shirley just bumble their way through espionage, mad scientist schemes and top-secret government secrets. The girls were stationed at Camp Fillmore, which happened to share the name of the high school where the sitcom’s main cast went. None of the sitcom’s other characters appeared in the cartoon.

Laverne, Shirley and Sgt. Squeally posing as mermaids to get out of trouble.
A fishy situation.

            For the 8-episode second season, the show was renamed Laverne & Shirley with The Fonz as Fonzie and Mr. Cool were integrated into the cast following the conclusion of their own cartoon. The two of them served as mechanics in the base motorpool. As production on the season coincided with Williams’ departure, she was replaced in the cartoon by Lynne Marie Stewart. The season and reruns of the first were aired alongside the third Happy Days animated spin-off, Mork & Mindy, in a block called the Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour. The series was written by Duane Poole and Tom Swale, who also served as story editors. Characters were designed by Ruben Aquino, Curtis Cim, Debbie Hayes, Don Morgan and Lew Ott. Hoyt Curtin and Paul DeKorte handled he music.

Animated Fonzie holding animated Laverne.
The Fonz bringing some cool to the Army.

            Unlike with The Fonz and the sitcom, not much merchandise was released for In the Army. A pencil-by-numbers set containing 6 pictures and 6 color pencils was made, and in 2019 CBS Home Entertainment released the complete first season as a manufacture-on-demand DVD.



Season 1:
“Invasion of the Booby Hatchers” (10/10/81) – After accidentally hijacking a secret army rocket, the girls end up captured by invading aliens.
“Jungle Jumpers” (10/17/81) – A parachute jump lands the girls on a jungle island caught between a local tribe and a giant ape.
“Naval Fluff” (10/24/81) – The girls are assigned to the Navy as enemy spies plan to attack their ship.
“April Fools in Paris” (10/31/81) – A furlough in Paris is anything but relaxing as the girls end up with the wrong suitcase containing plans for missiles.
“I Only Have Ice for You” (11/7/81) – The girls attempt to transfer to the entertainment unit only to have Squealy send them off to Antarctica where they find the Army occupied by a mad scientist.
“When the Moon Comes Over the Werewolf” (11/14/81) – The girls and Squealy end up on an island where they discover a mad scientist’s plot to turn everyone into werewolves via a spray.
“Bigfoot” (11/21/81) – The girls can’t convince Turnbuckle that they’ve seen Bigfoot.
“Two Mini Cooks” (11/28/81) – Another foul-up lands the girls on kitchen duty.
“Super Wacs” (12/5/81) – The girls sign up as players in the Army vs. Navy basketball game to get out of their duties only to discover practice is much harder.
“Meanie Genie” (12/12/81) – The girls end up fining the bottle of a grumpy genie.
“Tokyo-Ho, Ho” (12/19/81) – A mad scientist plots to steal an earthquake machine using an android duplicate of a General.
“The Dark Knight” (12/26/81) – Shirley hits her head and awakens with Laverne in the Middle Ages where they must battle an evil knight.
“Super Duper Trooper” (1/2/82) – An evil mastermind kidnaps the Army’s football teams in order to use their strength to power his robot.
Season 2:
“The Speed Demon Get-Away Caper” (9/25/82) – The girls and Squealy set out to clear Fonz’s name for car theft.
“Swamp Monsters Speak with Forked Face” (10/2/82) – The girls and company head out to obtain photographic proof of a swamp monster’s existence.
“Movie Madness” (10/9/82) – The girls impersonate stuntmen in order to meet the star of the film being shot at the base.
“One Million Laughs B.C.” (10/16/82) – The girls end up accidentally traveling back to prehistoric times.
“The Robot Recruit” (10/23/82) – A robot is sent to the base to sabotage the military games and the girls get the blame.
“All the President’s Girls” (10/30/82) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Laverne and Shirley and the Beanstalk” (11/6/82) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
“Raiders of the Lost Pork” (11/13/82) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

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