On This Day: ‘Laverne & Shirley’ Airs Final Episode in 1983

by Suzanne Halliburton

Laverne & Shirley put a pretty bow on their final episode 38 years ago today. The series over eight seasons morphed from Milwaukee to LA then to New York, but at its essence always was about best friends.

You remember Laverne & Shirley. The two women first started as characters on Happy Days in 1975. They were Fonzie’s friends. Seriously, what girl in Milwaukee wasn’t a friend of Fonzie’s?

As the series started, Laverne (Penny Marshall) and Shirley (Cindy Williams) were besties and roommates living and working in Milwaukee. They tackled their jobs at Shotz’s Brewery by day.

Laverne was the Brooklyn transplant. She wore a script L on all her sweaters and her drink of preference was milk and Pepsi. Marshall was the only actor to appear in all of the series 178 episodes.

Shirley was portrayed by Cindy Williams. She loved a stuffed animal named Boo Boo Kitty and bit her knuckles to keep from laughing. Happy Days told the stories of teenagers in the city. Laverne & Shirley was more about young adults just starting out. They still had parents in the picture, but they nagged them more about adult kind of issues.

Aired: 1976-1983.

Laverne & Shirley Switched From Milwaukee to Burbank Six Seasons Into Series

Six seasons into the series, the show skipped from the Midwest to the West Coast. Laverne & Shirley gave up the brewery life to work at a department store wrapping presents. Lenny and Squiggy started a talent agency. Carmine aka “the Big Ragoo,” wanted to be an actor. He was Shirley’s boyfriend in high school, and in LA, he delivered singing telegrams. Laverne’s dad, Frank, and his wife managed a Texas-themed restaurant. By this time, the series entered the 1960s. Laverne & Shirley also love the Beatles.

In the final season, the series lost Shirley. In real life, Cindy Williams was pregnant as shooting started. She was written out of the show after two episodes. Shirley met the man of her dreams, an Army medic, and they both left for his foreign assignment. Here’s a bit of trivia, Shirley’s married name was Shirley Feeney Meany.

Cindy Williams explained that producers wanted her to work on her due date. She declined and was terminated. She settled out of court with the studio.

“I thought I was going to come back and they’d hide [my baby bump] behind benches, couches, pillows, and that wasn’t it,” Williams told the TODAY show.

“When it came time for me to sign my contract for that season, they had me working on my due date to have my baby,” she said. “And I said, ‘You know, I can’t sign this.’ And it went back and forth and back and forth and it just never got worked out.”

Series Finale Focused on Carmine

So by the final episode, there weren’t a ton of original characters left. In fact, even Laverne was barely there.

Here’s what happened. Laverne & Shirley shifted to New York. Carmine wanted to try out his talents on Broadway. Laverne gave him $1,000 of her savings — she was going to buy a new bed — to help him with the move.

The finale — Here Today, Hair Tomorrow — centers on Carmine auditioning for the musical Hair. He meets new actors and actresses in the final show. It all seemed like a setup for another series evolving around Eddie Mekka’s Carmine. That never happened.

But we feel like everyone made their dreams come true.