Marshall was the executive producer of a string of sitcoms that
helped ABC win the ratings race for the first time in the network's
history in the late 1970s. While Norman Lear's Tandem Productions
and Grant Tinker's MTM Enterprises had put CBS on top in the early
part of the decade, by the end of the 1978-79 season, four of the
five highest-rated shows of the year were Marshall's.
became a comedy writer during the last years of television's "golden
age." He started out as an itinerant joke writer for an assortment
of TV comics and eventually secured a staff writing position on
The Joey Bishop Show. There he met Jerry Belson, with whom
he would go on to write two feature films, a Broadway play, and
episodes for a variety of TV series including The Dick Van Dyke
Show, The Lucy Show, and I Spy. The last project Marshall
and Belson did together was the most successful of their partnership.
The Odd Couple, a series they adapted from the Neil Simon
play in 1970, would run for five seasons and have a major impact
on Marshall's comic style.
than forming his own independent production company, which had become
standard procedure for producers at the time, Marshall remained
at Paramount to make a succession of hit situation comedies for
ABC. Happy Days debuted as a series in January of 1974, and
by the 1976-77 season it was the most popular show on TV. Set in
Milwaukee in the 1950s and centered around a teenager (Ron Howard),
his family, and his friends, Happy Days generated three spin-offs,
all of which Marshall supervised. Laverne and Shirley featured
two working-class women (Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams) whose
antic schemes were reminiscent of those portrayed on The Lucy
Show. Viewers were introduced to the frenetic young comic Robin
Williams in Mork and Mindy, a series about an alien (Williams)
who comes to Earth to study human behavior by moving in with an
all-American young woman (Pam Dawber). Joannie Loves Chachi followed
two of the younger characters from Happy Days, as they struggled
to make it as rock 'n' roll musicians.
While Norman Lear had used shows like All In the Family and
Maude to explore contemporary social issues like racism,
the women's movement, and the war in Vietnam, Marshall's shows were
usually more concerned with less timely personal issues like blind
dates, making out, and breaking up. Lear, Tinker, and others had
attracted young audiences with "relevant" programming earlier in
the decade; Marshall attracted even younger ones with lighter, more
escapist fare, most of it set in the supposedly simpler historic
past. In an interview reprinted in American Television Genres
(1985), Marshall recalled that, after producing the adult-oriented
Odd Couple, he had been anxious to make shows "that both
kids and their parents could watch." When he gave a speech upon
accepting the Lifetime Achievement Prize given at the American Comedy
Awards in 1990, Marshall said that "If television is the education
of the American people, then I am recess." Not surprisingly, four
of Marshall's sitcoms were adapted into Saturday morning cartoons.
continued to borrow from The Odd Couple throughout his career.
Over and over again he employed the comic device of coupling two
distinctly different characters: the hip and the square on Happy
Days, the earthling and the Orkan on Mork and Mindy,
the rich and the poor on Angie, and, later, the businessman
and the prostitute in the movie Pretty Woman. In 1982, he
brought a short-lived remake of The Odd Couple to ABC, this
time with African-Americans Ron Glass and Demond Wilson playing
the parts of Felix and Oscar.
the mid-1980s, Marshall had turned his attention to directing, producing,
and occasionally writing feature films, including Young Doctors
in Love (1982), The Flamingo Kid (1984), Nothing In
Common (1986), Overboard (1987), Beaches (1989),
Pretty Woman (1990), and Frankie and Johnny (1991). He
also began appearing on screen occasionally, most recently in a
recurring role on Murphy Brown.
television tradition was carried on by Thomas L. Miller and Robert
L. Boyett, two alumni of Marshall's production staff. Their youth-oriented
series like Perfect Strangers, Full House, and Family
Matters became staples of ABC's Friday night lineup in the later
1980s and arly 1990s.
Photo courtesy of Broadcasting and Cable
MARSHALL. Born in New York City, New York, U.S.A., 13 November
1934. Educated at Northwestern University, B.S. in journalism, 1956.
Married: Barbara: children: one son, two daughters. Served in the
U.S. Army during the Korean War, writing for Stars and Stripes
and serving as a production chief for the Armed Forces Radio Network.
Worked as a copy boy, and briefly as a reporter, for the New York
Daily News, 1956-59; wrote comedy material for Phil Foster
and Joey Bishop; drummer in his own jazz band; successful stand-up
comedian and playwright; in television from late 1950s, starting
as writer for The Jack Paar Show; prolific television writer
through 1960s, creator-executive producer for various television
series from 1974; also active creatively in films and stage.
1959-61 The Jack Paar Show (writer)
1961-65 The Joey Bishop Show (writer)
1961-64 The Danny Thomas Show (writer)
1961-66 The Dick Van Dyke Show (writer)
1962-68 The Lucy Show (writer)
1965-68 I Spy (writer)
1966-67 Hey Landlord (creator, writer, director)
1970-75 The Odd Couple (executive producer, writer, director)
1972-74 The Little People (The Brian Keith Show) (creator,
1974-84 Happy Days (creator, executive producer)
1976-83 Laverne and Shirley (creator, executive producer)
1974 Blansky's Beauties (creator,
executive producer) 1978 Who's Watching
the Kids? (creator, executive producer)
1978-82 Mork and Mindy (creator, executive producer) 1979-80
Angie (creator, executive producer)
1982-83 Joanie Loves Chachi (creator, executive producer)
1982-83 The New Odd Couple (executive producer)
1994- Murphy Brown (actor)
1972 Evil Roy Slade (creator, executive producer)
1979 Sitcom: The Adventures of Garry Marshall
FILMS (as writer-producer)
How Sweet It Is, 1968; The Grasshopper, 1970; (as director)
Young Doctors In Love (also executive producer), 1982; The
Flamingo Kid (and co-writer), 1984; Nothing In Common,
1986; Overboard, 1987; Beaches, 1988; Pretty Woman,
1990; Frankie and Johnnie, 1991; (as actor) Psych-Out,
1968; Lost In America, 1985; Jumpin' Jack Flash, 1986;
Soapdish, 1991; A League of Their Own, 1992; Hocus
Roost (writer, with Jerry Belson), 1980; Wrong Turn at Lungfish
(writer, with Lowell Ganz; also director, actor), 1992.
Stuart, with Jeffrey H. Mahan. American Television Genres. Chicago:
David, and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time, Prime Movers: From
I Love Lucy to L.A. Law--America's Greatest TV Shows and the People
Who Created Them. New York: Little, Brown, 1992.
Horace, and Robert S. Alley. The Producer's Medium. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1983.
Domestic Settings; Happy
in Television; Laverne