LAVERNE & SHIRLEY: THE SEVENTH SEASON
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Penny Marshall as LAVERNE DE FAZIO
Cindy Williams as SHIRLEY FEENEY
Michael McKean as LENNY
David Lander as SQUIGGY
Phil Foster as FRANK DE FAZIO
Eddie Mekka as CARMINE RAGUSA
Leslie Easterbrook as RHONDA LEE
Created by: Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz & Mark Rothman
BY KEVIN CARR
Being a child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up with shows like “Laverne & Shirley,” as well as all the other “Happy Days” spin-offs (leaning more towards “Mork & Mindy” rather than “Joanie Loves Chachi”). I have very fond memories of watching the many episodes of this series, not just when they aired live, but in reruns.
I also remember in music class during elementary school, for a treat the teacher would let us sing the theme song for this and other classic shows. I still know all the words… even the nonsense ones.
So, even though “Laverne & Shirley: The Seventh Season” was on the waning edge of the show’s run, it was still a nostalgic treat to watch these episodes again with a grown-up eye.
The seventh season was the second one in which the girls had moved from Milwaukee to Burbank. As a kid, I was caught up in the wonder and excitement of a move closer to Hollywood, though I have to admit as an adult (who has first-hand seen the more depressing side of Los Angeles), I do miss the charm of the Wisconsin location.
Of course, aside from the climate and a few casting changes, the show still kept a lot of its charm. With six whole seasons before it, there were plenty of classic episodes that had aired already, but even with this perspective, I recalled certain episodes in the seventh season. In particular, I remember the episode in which a pre-“Night Court” Richard Moll played a bank robber handcuffed to Shirley. I also remember the episode in which Charles Grodin guest starred as himself trying to prove that people were basically good (which was quite a challenge when he dealt with the acerbic situation from the main cast).
I’ll be the first to admit that “Laverne & Shirley” falls into all the cliches and trappings of a sit com from the early 1980s. It doesn’t necessarily hold up well to the current younger generation, and not just because its mid-1960s setting is removed by half a century today. Situation comedies have changed over the years, and even coming in on this penultimate season of the show (and Cindy Williams’ final full season) will leave the new viewer confused.
Instead, this release is for the fans of the show – people like me, who grew up watching a 13-inch tube TV in our parents basement after school. “Laverne & Shirley: The Seventh Season” is not the strongest season of the show out there. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say it’s one of the lesser seasons. But it’s still a blast to watch for someone in my generation, and the full season on disc offers a grand opportunity to binge-watch the entertainment from our collective childhood.
Of course, this season demonstrates the show is slowing down. Particularly in the last third of the episodes (mostly on the third disc), it’s clear that the off-screen feuding between stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams was taking its toll. There were few episodes near the end featuring the girls together for the full episode – or even at all. In fact, several of the episodes featured them in brief scenes, only to have them exit to let Pops (Phil Foster), Carmine (Eddie Mekka) or Lenny & Squiggy (Michael McKean and David Lander) take over. But that’s okay… those were some of the best episodes of the season.
The three-disc DVD set comes with all 22 episodes from the seventh season. There are scant bonus features, but that’s to be expected this late in the game. All is not lost, however, as each episode includes the prime-time episode promo, and there’s a gag reel on the final disc to enjoy.