Last time, I indicated that, as a result of my meetings with Lowell and Garry Marshall in Garry's office, where I rarely had the opportunity to open my mouth, I felt that Garry really didn't know what to make of me.
My first inkling that he at least STARTED to know what to make of me was when I occasionally offered suggestions in those office sessions designed to make the show more mature. More adult.
A show about two middle-aged men with real problems.
He knew that I didn't much care for the sillier episodes that we had to do sometimes, like when Felix and Oscar went on "Let's Make A Deal" for no particularly good reason.
At one point, he looked at me, with my enormous afro, in my moth-eaten sweatshirt, and my blue jeans with holes in the knees, and said "Most writers I've dealt with live like adults and write like sophomores. You live like a sophomore, and write like an adult."
I was 24 at the time. Perhaps that made it excusable.
But I'd say that I lived like a sophomore until I was at least 29.
The MAJOR breakthrough with Garry, the thing that I think caused him to offer me a job as the Show Runner on one of his shows without Lowell for the first time, didn't occur until the middle of our first season producing "Laverne & Shirley".
We were in rehearsal for an episode about the girls trying out for the annual Shotz Brewery Talent Show.
The premise was that the woman running the talent show couldn't stand either Laverne or Shirley. For no particular reason.
And she went out of her way to make their lives miserable.
This is the sort of character that I've often referred to as "The arbitrary villain"
I've always hated having to write arbitrary villains.
We had to write them all the time on "Happy Days".
There always had to be an arbitrary villain with no redeeming features that Fonzie could give his comeuppance to.
I would always try to lobby to give these characters three-dimensionality.
Couldn't a villain have some redeeming feature?
It's not that arbitrary villains don't exist.
But for the most part, they are not interesting.
Okay. I'll give you Hannibal Lechter.
But he is far more the exception than the rule.
Anyway, I always got outvoted, and ended up having to write a lot of arbitrary villains.
So the arbitrary villain running the talent show came up with a way to fix Laverne and Shirley's respective wagons.
She would allow them to perform a calypso number, "Jamaica Farewell" in the Talent Show.
What she neglected to tell them was that while they would be performing their number, a line of men, topless, wearing female wigs and grass hula skirts, would enter behind them, one by one, from Stage Left to Stage Right, essentially mocking the girls as they were singing.
A group of men like this were somewhat commonly known as "The Pig Sisters".
For a joke like this to work, it required that you count on performers known as "Extras"
People who were usually used as background, and usually never spoke, except occasionally in unison.
You could virtually never count on an extra to be funny.
If an extra could prove that he was funny, he'd probably become an entire actor.
But we did have an extra that we used all the time.
I never ever heard him talk, but he was a walking sight gag.
He was this huge, obese, black man, who looked particularly funny when he was topless, appearing to have almost female sized breasts, in a female wig, and a grass hula skirt.
His name was Jolly Brown.
We always knew that we could count on Jolly Brown to get his laughs.
So they do the Wednesday run through, primarily for the writers.
I think that Jerry Paris directed this episode.
As inventive as Jerry Paris was, I always found him to be somewhat lacking in visual sense.
We get to the "Pig Sisters" scene.
The girls start singing "Jamaica Farewell"
The Pig Sisters begin filing in behind them.
Jolly Brown is the fourth one out of the chute.
The scene dies like a dog.
Nobody should have laughed, because it wasn't funny.
Nobody could figure out why the scene didn't work.
I knew immediately.
And for one of the first times in my career, I spoke up, out loud, in public.
I said "This scene will work. All you have to do is move Jolly Brown to the head of the line.
That way, the audience will know when to laugh.
Without that, they won't."
They reblocked it that way, and the scene played like gangbusters.
Garry called me into his office, and said "In a hundred years, I never would have dreamed that the fix was to put Jolly Brown at the head of the line".
It was the first time he was exposed to the little man inside me.
This certainly made a difference in my relationship with Garry, but it was still a rather isolated incident.
Too much time was still spent with Lowell, where things never changed, and still became more and more damaging to me.
Until next time.
My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays", and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at email@example.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."