Penny Marshall didn't care about what the critics had to say

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Laverne & Shirley was a widely popular television series that aired from 1976 to 1983. The well-rated Happy Days spin-off was welcomed with open arms by most of the public — but the critics were a different story.

Many of the critics who wrote about Laverne & Shirley during its 8-season run weren't afraid to hide their true opinions about the series, but neither was Penny Marshall. During a 1978 interview with The Kansas City Times, Marshall, who played the role of Laverne, took some time to put down a few of the critics who wrote harsh reviews about her series. 

"Sure, it hurts," Marshall said. "Do you think we like it when the critics say it's a fluke, it's silly? But the public seems to like us. That means the critics are also putting down the public."

Laverne & Shirley was especially popular with the younger generation, in part because of Fonzie who could be seen on Happy Days, the series that inspired the spin-off. 

During the first few seasons, many critics compared Laverne & Shirley to the slapstick humor in I Love Lucy. Marshall added: "People see two women falling down and say 'There's Lucy and Ethel!' It's a compliment."

As much as the pesky critics tried to bring Marshall, Cindy Williams and the rest of the cast down, Marshall gave the same energy back and cut down critics whenever she had a chance.

According to a 1978 interview with The News and Advance, Marshall said the series was a great representation of America in the '50s. When the series first aired, Marshall wasn't sure how it'd be received, but she knew she had to sell her character as best as she could. 

"A strong point is that everyone would like to have a friend like Laverne or Shirley —  someone who will stick by you," Marshall said. "I never realized how important that was until it began to show up in our research —  not only among women, but among men, too."

"I think the show's opening sums it up," Marshall continued. "Here are two women in tacky clothes in a rotten neighborhood skipping down the street singing. They may be down, but not out."

Just as much as the country wanted a friend to be there for them like Laverne or Shirley, Marshall wanted that too — and she had it with her fans. The public stuck by Laverne & Shirley, even when the critics put it down. Marshall was down, but never out.