Mark Rothman was a writer on many successful shows in the ’70s who, with his then writing partner Lowell Ganz and executive producer Garry K. Marshall, created Laverne and Shirley. In a recent post at his blog, he talks about the origin of that hit show, point by point. It turns out the whole thing started with an unproduced scene in a script they wrote for a flop MTM show called Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers (why it wasn’t just called “Friends and Lovers,” I still don’t know; it was a pretty good show, though), which had Sand’s character going to a supermarket to hit on women. When the script wasn’t used, Garry Marshall told them to re-use that scene on Happy Days, and then write in parts in the second half of the episode for Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams. Rothman explains how he and Ganz and Marshall eventually developed this into a successful spinoff.
Along the way he talks about other things like The Odd Couple, where he and Ganz got their start; the difference between hard jokes and character jokes (he and Ganz were a great team because Ganz was a great one-line joke writer and Rothman did “internal” comedy) and the security of being able to sense — usually — whether a joke will work in front of a live audience. But in comments, he explodes the cherished, oft-repeated myth that the Laverne and Shirley set was really just the Odd Couple scene redecorated. So I can’t help but feel a little disillusioned.
Here’s a clip from the episode he’s referring to; the supermarket scene, originally intended for Friends and Lovers, occurs at about the 3:45 point.