If Garry Marshall had only ever done the TV rendition of “The Odd Couple,” with longtime partner Jerry Belson, he’d be worthy of the Paddy Chayefsky laurel.
But Marshall’s canon of popcorn comedy goes much deeper. His TV work stretches from writing for “Make Room for Daddy” and “Gomer Pyle: USMC,” through his “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley” and “Mork & Mindy” heyday and on up through the pilot he’s shepherding at present with son Scott for Nickelodeon.
Marshall’s shows have rarely been critical faves, but most have had undeniable cultural impact. Who among us can’t sing the “Laverne & Shirley” theme song from memory? Who doesn’t know that Richie Cunningham’s father owned a hardware store? “Mork & Mindy” may have been a high-water mark for a silly sitcom premise, but it was popular enough in its moment to make Robin Williams a megastar first in TV, then in film.
Marshall himself over the years has evolved into a character who would fit right into one of his shows — the goofy, overly excited movie director who just wants to make ’em laugh. Behind that veil is a man who genuinely loves to work. So much so that in 1997 he launched the Falcon Theater in Burbank as a kind of clubhouse for like-minded industry pals and emerging talent.
Marshall may not have a trophy case full of Emmy and Peabody awards, but no pop-culture connoisseur can deny the mark he’s left on the smallscreen.