The year is 1977. Under the leadership of Fred Silverman, ABC has become the number-one network with a combination of family-friendly comedies (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley) and titillating “jiggle” shows (Charlie’s Angels, Three’s Company). What next, Silverman asks himself? Why, how about combining the two — Get Garry Marshall to create a show that combines the family comedy of Happy Days with the titillation and frequent bralessness of Charlie’s Angels? And thus was born Blansky’s Beauties, starring Nancy Walker (Rhoda’s mom, the Bounty Towels lady) as the producer of a showgirl act in Las Vegas. The show was launched with a crossover episode of Happy Days, where Nancy Blansky was introduced as Tom Bosley’s cousin. And yet it bombed, and you will see why.
Garry Marshall has been very successful and he is a very talented comedy writer (the man did The Odd Couple, after all), but his main attribute as a producer is his willingness to try anything that seemed popular at the time. So of course Blansky’s Beauties went all-out for the jiggle craze, with every female character except Walker sporting harem outfits, hot pants, bikinis, etc. But it also threw in bits of everything that had worked for him on other shows: catchphrases, broad farce, wildly cheering and whooping audiences. And like all his shows, this one was loaded down with actors he liked: Scott Baio as a horny twelve year-old, Eddie “The Big Ragu” Mekka was transferred over from Laverne and Shirley to play virtually the same character; Lynda Goodfriend had a part as one of the two most prominently-featured showgirls (the other was Caren Kaye, a busty comedienne who played a similar part on the short-lived Betty White Show), and Pat Morita repeated his Happy Days character of Arnold. (When the show was canceled, both Baio and Goodfriend were transferred to Happy Days because Marshall liked them and wanted to keep using them.) Despite some of Marshall’s top people, including director Jerry Paris and the people who wrote and sang the Laverne and Shirley theme song, the utter cynicism of the thing was so clear that even the ABC audience couldn’t stomach it; every line sounded like it had been focus-tested for maximum demographic appeal. Like much late ’70s TV, it conveys the feeling that the producers really don’t like their audience very much. And it doesn’t have any funny characters like the Fonz or Lenny and Squiggy to make up for the massive evil of Marshall’s intentions.
The one running gag that was somewhat interesting: the Mafia-connected “right-hand-man” of the unseen casino owner, Mr. Smith, who terrorized all the other characters without ever saying a word. Not really a funny running gag, more like creepy, but interesting.
Before we see this episode, guest-starring Wild Wild West‘s Ross Martin as an Arabian Sheik, a question: if this show takes place at the same time as Happy Days, then why does it appear to be set in the ’70s?
Theme Song & Act One:
(click “read more” to see part two)