Judge Patrick Naugle still has a case of Shotz beer in his basement fridge.
Our reviews of Laverne And Shirley: The First Season (published September 22nd, 2004), Laverne & Shirley: The Sixth Season (published May 19th, 2013), Laverne And Shirley: The Fifth Season (published April 10th, 2012), and Laverne And Shirley: The Second Season (published April 18th, 2007) are also available.
"Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!"
Laverne & Shirley was one of the most popular sitcoms of the late 1970s/early 1980s. Created by Hollywood icon Garry Marshall (who had his hand in a dozen other popular primetime shows), the show featured two single gals (future A League of Their Own director Penny Marshall, and American Graffiti's Cindy Williams) working at a Milwaukee brewery capping bottles while struggling with being roommates, their love lives, and any other shenanigans the writers could throw their way. The show was a spin-off of Marshall's uber-successful Happy Days; Laverne and Shirley came from the same fictional background as Henry Winkler's The Fonz, and with that a television classic was born.
The seventh season of Laverne & Shirley may be seen as the season where the series finally 'jumped the shark' (a term ironically taken from a scene in Happy Days where the Fonz went waterskiing over some great white sharks); needing a fresh setting, the show uprooted the girls, as well as their friends and family, and plopped them down in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. In my humble opinion, this proved to be a creative mistake. Clearly, I wasn't a huge fan of Season Seven. Although the actors do an admirable job of tackling the roles they'd perfected over six years, the writing never feels as fluid or finely tuned as it did during the show's initial seasons. It could be that because the Milwaukee location was such an integral part of the show, taking it to California feels like the writers were fitting a square peg into a round hole. It's also asking a lot of the audience to buy so many other characters would uproot their lives to follow Laverne and Shirley to Tinsel Town.
If nothing else, this set is worth a look for the performances, which are the one thing that make it worth recommending. Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams are at their looniest playing off each other, skilled comediennes who are able to wring laughs out of just one withering look. Penny Marshall (the sister of creator Garry Marshall) has pitch perfect delivery, often getting a lot of mileage from her sad sack/hound dog expressions. Following them to California are Lenny and Squiggy, played perfectly by Best in Show's Michael McKean and Used Cars' David Lander. Both actors are a treat as two lovable, marble-mouthed grease balls always making life a bit too difficult for Laverne and Shirley.
The episodes here range from decent to middling; often it feels like the writers are stretching to make the new setting really work for the characters. Many episodes feature typical sitcom silliness—in one episode ("Ski Show") Laverne and Shirley take to the ski slopes in the hopes that they'll meet some eligible bachelors (wackiness ensues). Another episode features the girls getting into a squabble over breakfast cereal that ends with one of them getting a broken jaw ("It Only Hurts When I Breathe"). The one episode that did make me laugh more than usual featured Laverne being wooed by a suave married man who is forced to try and hide the fact that he has a wife by putting her inside of a fish tank (Laverne's reaction is priceless).
Fans of the series will be happy that Paramount has finally issued the second-to-last season on DVD. They should cherish this DVD set because it would be the last time the two ladies would be featured together for a full season. By the third episode of the eighth season, co-star Cindy Williams became pregnant and unceremoniously left the show (igniting a legal battle with the studio), leaving Penny Marshall to carry the rest of the series herself. While the ratings were stronger than expected, Laverne & Shirley ended its network run in May of 1983. Considering the quality of this seventh season, it was probably a long overdue decision by Paramount.
Laverne & Shirley: The Seventh Season is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame in standard definition. The image quality for each of these 22 episodes is good considering this season is now well over thirty years old. Colors are evenly saturated and black levels sufficiently dark. While the image quality may not be revelatory, overall the series looks better than fans may have been expecting. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 1.0 Mono in English. This is a very front heavy audio mix that doesn't feature much in the way of dynamic range or fidelity. Dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly recorded. Also included on this 3-disc set are English subtitles. There are no bonus features.
Laverne & Shirley is a heartfelt comedy with a lot of laughs. Sadly, you won't find many of them here.
For completists only.
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