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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Laverne & Shirley is a classic slapstick sitcom is about two young women living and working on their own in Milwaukee in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their desire to live independently is often challenged by the traditional gender roles of the time. The series stresses the importance of friendship, loyalty, and family. Alcohol (mostly beer) is visible -- the girls work in a brewery, after all -- and characters sometimes get drunk. The show's mild references to sexual activity will easily go over kids' head.
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What's the story?
A spin-off of Happy Days, LAVERNE & SHIRLEY is a slapstick-heavy sitcom that follows the adventures of tough-talking cynic Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) and refined, perky Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams), two twenty-something working-class women trying to make it on their own in Milwaukee, Wisc., in the late 1950s. The roommates work at a brewery and enjoy a life full of bowling, dating, and getting out of mishaps. Characters include pesky neighbors Lenny Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew "Squiggy" Squiggmann (David Lander); Laverne's over-protective father, Pizza Bowl owner Frank De Fazio (Phil Foster); landlady Edna Babish (Betty Garrett), and Shirley's on-again/off-again boyfriend, Carmine Ragusa (Eddie Mekka). Many plotlines revolve around bad dates and the search for the ideal man, and the duo's frequent attempts to help family and friends always lead to hilarious situations.
Is it any good?
While the show is guilty of some stereotyping, the main characters' overall choices usually defy conventional gender roles, making them two of television's first liberated women. The series demonstrates the tensions that exist between Laverne and Shirley's desire to be true to themselves and the traditional expectations placed on them as women in the late '50s and early '60s. While both women look at men as potential marriage material, they're not willing to stay with someone just for the sake of getting married.
It's worth noting that the show suffered considerably after the characters left Milwaukee for L.A. in the sixth season; several regular cast members eventually left, and things just weren't the same. The first five seasons are definitely the ones to watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it's like to move out of your parents' home and live independently and how that is shown on Laverne & Shirley. What are some of the major responsibilities of people living on their own? At what age is it OK for kids to leave the "nest"? Was it the same for young people in the '50s and '60s?
Families can discuss the traditional gender roles of the '50s and '60s. How does the show address those issues? Does it reinforce them or try to change them? How does the fact that the show was filmed in the '70s and '80s affect its messages about independence and gender roles two decades earlier?
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