Laverne & Shirley was yet another spin-off of the hugely successful Happy Days. Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) were first introduced on an episode of Happy Days during the show's third season in 1975. Laverne & Shirley premiered as a mid-season replacement on January 27, 1976 and finished the season at number 3 in the Neilsen ratings. By the end of the third season, Laverne & Shirley was the number one show on American television.
Created by Gary Marshall (brother of series star Penny Marshall) with Lowell Ganz and Mark Rothman, Laverne & Shirley was a show about two single women, working and living in the 1950s, trying to find their way in the world. Thoroughly blue collar, the girls worked at the Shotz brewery in Milwaukee as bottle cappers. These two best friends were definitely an odd couple; Shirley was wide-eyed and hopelessly naïve, while Laverne was tough around the edges and just a wee bit cynical. Despite their personality differences, Laverne and Shirley loved each other and stuck together through it all.
The strength of Laverne & Shirley lies in Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams' talents as physical comediennes. While I wouldn’t say that either of them quite ranks up there with Lucille Ball, Laverne & Shirley: The Third Season does showcase what an important role physical comedy played in the success of the show. In the season’s first episode, “Airport 59,” the girls are forced to land a plane themselves after accidentally knocking the pilot out. In “The Robot Lawsuit,” Laverne is attacked by a giant robot while shopping at a toy store and decides to sue. The robot episode is pure slapstick. Lucille Ball might have laughed if she saw it. In “Tag Team Wrestling,” Laverne learns that a fellow driver she insulted is the same woman she and her partner have to wrestle that night for charity. Most episodes of Laverne & Shirley feature the girls in some ridiculous situation of their own making, ripe with comedic overtones. The formula worked to perfection and made Laverne & Shirley a consistently funny show throughout the third season.