‘Laverne & Shirley’: The Show’s 2 Main Characters Were Made More Innocent When They Got Their Own Show

Rewriting characters is not a new thing in Hollywood TV shows. Sometimes writers take liberties when writing fan-favorite characters. Some characters have been killed off only to reappear later, mostly due to fan requests.

When Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney appeared in Happy Days, they were shown as experienced and “a little bit sleazy.” However, when they appeared in their own show Laverne & Shirley, they were made more innocent to fit the show’s profile and what the audience expected of the characters.

‘Laverne & Shirley’ had a ’50s setting

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Laverne & Shirley was a popular sitcom that ran in the ’70s. The plot involved two roommates living in the ’50s and ’60s as they navigated through life, friendship, dating, and finding love. During the show’s first five seasons, the spunky roommates lived and worked in Milwaukee.

They were both employed as bottle cappers for a brewery called Shotz Brewery. The job might sound monotonous to many, but the two women kept audiences laughing with their physical comedy and quotable quips. The running gags included Laverne and Shirley interacting with their building landlord, yelling at their upstairs neighbor, and going through the city’s dating scene.

The two main characters had amazing chemistry on-screen, and fans completely adored them. However, the last few seasons of the show hit some bumpy roads. For example, Cindy Williams, who played Shirley, sued her bosses when they refused to let her go to the hospital to give birth.

Williams sued the studio executives for demanding that she continue with the scheduled taping on her first child’s due date. She had also gone through a punishing filming schedule while pregnant, which involved taping for 14 hours continuously. Williams ended up suing the studio for $20 million, but the parties involved settled out of court.

The show was a spinoff that inspired another spinoff

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Laverne and Shirley appeared in an episode of another hit show Happy Days. The two characters played the double date partners for Fonzie and Richie. The show also came about as a suggestion of director Gary Marshall’s mother.

Marshall’s mother saw Happy Days’ success and was growing increasingly worried about Marshall’s sister, Penny’s unemployment status. He, therefore, decided to give his sister a part in the show Happy Days to play Laverne.

As it turns out, fans loved Laverne and Shirley so much that they were given their own spinoff so that fans could catch up with the two roommates more. While no one ever thought any other sitcom would ever outdo Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley did just that by ranking in number one by its third season.

The show was so popular that it inspired another spinoff. Towards the end of the show, the setting had moved from Milwaukee to California. In the show’s finale, the focus is placed on Carmine Ragusa. The choice to place the spotlight on Carmine was intentional.

The final episode ended with Carmine living with a group of roommates, which would have been the perfect setting for a hit sitcom if ABC would have picked the show up. Unfortunately, ABC thought against making a whole show from Carmine’s adventures, and audiences ended up saying goodbye to the character forever.

Laverne and Shirley were changed for their own series

Harvey L. Kahn, Bruce Kimmel, Cindy Williams, Penny Marshall
Harvey L. Kahn, Bruce Kimmel, Cindy Williams, Penny Marshall | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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When Laverne and Shirley appeared in Happy Days, they were portrayed as experienced women who’d had their fair share of romantic involvements with various men before their date with Richie and Fonzie. However, their characters received a major upgrade when the two got their own spinoff.

Mental Floss reports that those characters weren’t appropriate for the series, which aired during family hour. So the writers decided to “re-virginize” the women and portrayed them as unpolished and somewhat innocent. They dated numerous times but never did anything more.