‘Laverne & Shirley’ Premiered on This Day in 1976: Remembering the Show’s Major Moments

by Joe Rutland

Back in 1976, Happy Days was a rage on TV and its spin-off Laverne & Shirley got a sweet start on ABC. It premiered on this day that year.

Laverne DeFazio, played by Penny Marchall, and Shirley Feeney, played by Cindy Williams, stood on that Milwaukee beer assembly line for a few seasons. Still, what were some of the show’s major moments? We’ll look at them along with some other items with help from Looper.

They made their first appearance as those characters on Happy Days in the episode A Date with Fonzie back in 1975. Richie, played by Ron Howard, cannot land a date so Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler, sets up a double date. Laverne and Shirley were not high school girls, that’s for sure.

Penny Marshall tells the Television Academy Foundation that Happy Days producer Garry Marshall, who was her brother, calls the two “fast girls, girls who ‘put out.'” Marshall and Williams really just signed on for that one show and they were writing partners.

‘Laverne & Shirley’ Would Finish Its First TV Season at No. 2 In Nielsens

Laverne & Shirley in the 1975-76 season finished ranked No. 2 in the Nielsens and even out-paced Happy Days. Garry Marshall had a hand in a lot of top 1970s sitcoms. His first one was a TV adaptation of the Neil Simon play The Odd Couple that originally starred Walter Matthau and Art Carney on Broadway. Obviously, the TV series had Jack Klugman and Tony Randall in the Oscar-Felix tandem.

When it left ABC in 1975, ABC needed a midseason replacement in early 1976. Marshall simply used a revamped apartment set from The Odd Couple for Laverne & Shirley‘s main apartment set.

The sitcom even used former scripts for its show. Hey, Landlord lasted two short seasons in 1966 and 1967. The show happened to be about a dude who moves to New York, inherits an apartment, and shares it with a comedian. Marshall reused elements for Laverne & Shirley.

Michael McKean, David Lander Used Previous Characters To Form Lenny, Squiggy

Besides Marshall and Williams, Michael McKean and David L. Lander got their laughs, too, as Lenny and Squiggy. While dressing like some 1950s greasers, Lenny and Squiggy were truck drivers who worked at Shotz Brewery.

The characters do pre-date Laverne & Shirley. Delaware Liberal cited that McKean and Lander met as drama students at Carnegie Mellon University in the mid-1960s and developed the characters — originally named Lenny and Ant’ny — while members of the comedy group, the Credibility Gap.

Actor-director Rob Reiner was a big fan of the characters. They performed at a party where Penny Marshall was there just before Laverne & Shirley entered production. Their characters’ names were tweaked, though, and Lander became Squiggy.