On This Day: ‘Laverne & Shirley’ First Aired on ABC in 1976

by Clayton Edwards

Forty-five years ago today, the first episode of “Laverne & Shirley” aired on the ABC network. By its third season, the “Happy Days” spinoff would be the biggest sitcom on television. The first episode is a great example of why the show was such a hit. Over four decades later, the characters are still relatable and the jokes still land. There is something timeless about the story of two young, midwestern, working-class women trying to make their way in the world. During the first episode “The Society Party” the duo’ find themselves at a dinner party in their boss’ manor. The juxtaposition between them and the other guests makes for some solid comedy as well as commentary on the differences between the classes.

The episode opens with Laverne and Shirley taking their lunch break at The Shotz Brewery. During their break, a new employee, who is the nephew of the owner of the brewery, invites them to a high-class party at his grandmother’s mansion. He tells them that he wants them to come because his uncle doesn’t think he relates well to the workers. He adds that he wants his family to see him mingling with “the little people.”

Laverne takes offense to the invitation but Shirley is excited. She hopes to meet a nice man at the function. This helps to highlight their personalities early on. Laverne is cynical while Shirley is an optimist. Before they can attend the party, they have to find dresses. Lenny and Squiggy step up to help them find something nice to wear for the evening.

After finally getting the proper attire Laverne and Shirley show up at the party. They are completely out of their element. The duo’s differing reactions to the uptight upper-class party guests make for some solid comedy. In the end, the party is just about as big of a disaster as you would imagine.

The Fonz Saves Laverne and Shirley

In the final act of the episode, The Fonz arrives late to the party. At this point, things are going very poorly for Laverne and Shirley. Fonzy shows that his charisma is strong enough to win over even the most uptight of people.

This episode does a great job of setting the tone for the show. At the same time, it introduces the main cast and settings. Nothing about the setup feels forced and even those who were unfamiliar with “Happy Days” could enjoy the laughs and characters.

While some things in the show are closely related to the time period, it doesn’t feel dated. That may not have been a big deal for audiences at the time but forty-five years later, it helps the show remain entertaining.

You can find Laverne and Shirley on Pluto TV. Do yourself a favor and revisit this television classic.