Entertainment mega-star Penny Marshall has passed away at the age of 75. Marshall produced, directed and starred in some of most fantastic television and movies ever made.
But it all started, really, with “Laverne & Shirley.”
The show, which premiered in January 1976, scored in the ratings immediately, and everyone began to figure out how to generate ancillary revenue. Within months of the series’ debut, Marshall and Williams were asked to record an album, “Laverne & Shirley Sing”; they sang one song from the album, a cover of the Crystals’ hit “Da Do Ron Ron,” on a float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that November.
An animated series, “Laverne & Shirley in the Army,” ran in ABC’s Saturday morning lineup in 1981, with Marshall and Williams voicing the characters; after 13 episodes, an animated Fonzie (voiced by Henry Winkler) and his dog were added, and the product was wedded to the animated version of “Mork & Mindy” to create “The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour.”
The show inspired a line of tie-in merchandise, including Laverne, Shirley, Lenny, and Squiggy dolls, a board game, puzzles, and a great deal more.
Marshall and Williams also made crossover appearances — back on “Happy Days,” where they’d started; on the 1978 pilot of “Mork & Mindy” together with Winkler’s Fonzie; and on the brief Garry Marshall-created show “Blansky’s Beauties” in 1977.