Laverne & Shirley: The Complete First Season

In 1976, the creators of Happy Days decided to spin off a separate series featuring bit players Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams). The premise was simple: Laverne and Shirley work at the Sholtz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They spend their free time with a gang of odd-ball second bananas, including Leonard "Lenny" Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew "Squiggy" Squiggmann (David L. Lander). Usually the plot lines revolve around the girls getting themselves into some sort of trouble and then having to get out of it, often resulting in Lucy-esque physical comedy. The series was insanely popular (often ranking, along with its 1950s nostalgia counterpart Happy Days, in the top five) but failed to connect with critics; its lone Emmy Award nomination was for costume design. Twenty-five years later in the age of TV on DVD mania, Paramount is releasing the complete first season of Laverne & Shirley on DVD. Containing 15 episodes, the set is mildly entertaining. Marshall and Williams have great chemistry and the cause and effect humour is occasionally pulled off successfully (the episode "Once Upon a Rumor," where Lenny thinks he sees Shirley pulling up her skirt after a supposed romp in the broom closet, is a stand out). But, overall, it lacks the clever writing and innovation of such 1970s classics as All In The Family or The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And though at times the series seems to be attempting to be "edgy," it fails to tackle any of the social issues that even Happy Days occasionally did. What's worse is that the DVD contains absolutely no extras (you'd think there were at least some outtakes lying around) and while actress-turned-director Marshall might have been busy, it's hard to believe that Cindy Williams didn't have a free weekend to record some commentary. (Paramount)