Sitcom: The Adventures of Garry Marshall

A day-in-the-life documentary with Garry Marshall. Marshall was an executive producer for ABC and was responsible for such hit shows as Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, and Mork and Mindy. This tape features several behind the scenes segments from these shows' productions. Marshall is also interviewed about the nature of television production and comedy.

0:22Copy video clip URL Open to title card: “The Adventures of Garry Marshall”

0:33Copy video clip URL Music, opening credits for “Sitcom.” Several promotional graphics for NBC, CBS, and ABC. A narrator attributes ABC’s move to the number one network to Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, and Mork and Mindy. The narrator introduces Garry Marshall, a studio executive for ABC. Cut to Marshall: “You need about 21 million people to make a hit. So, the closest we’ve figured out is you get 7 million with laughs…and then you get another 7 million with warmth and heart and nice and crying a little, and then the third 7 you get with interesting and intelligence and fascinating and things you don’t see any other place. That’s the hardest 7 million…”

1:48Copy video clip URL Cut to a boulevard in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Marshall enters the Paramount studio. He roller skates around the lot. Title: “The Adventures of Garry Marshall.” The Happy Days theme plays. Cut to various outtakes from Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, and Laverne and Shirley. Robin Williams, Penny Marshall, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Henry Winkler, Jerry Paris, and Marcy Carsey are all introduced with credit titles.

2:41Copy video clip URL Cut to Marshall playing basketball. Then cut to Marshall driving around the Paramount lot in his car. He points out the set for Happy Days. Cut to the line of people waiting to get a seat for the filming of Happy Days. The “Audience Run-Thru” segment begins. Marshall addresses the Happy Days audience. He points out Tony Thomopoulos, studio executive. Filming begins.

3:59Copy video clip URL Narrator explains that there is a lot of preparation behind the scenes before any sitcom can really begin filming: “To produce one sitcom takes twelve hours a day, five days a week, twenty-two weeks a year. Garry produces four shows all at once…” Clips of Marshall working with actors.  Narrator says that Marshall employs 400 people to get the job done, while Marshall himself says that, “it’s mostly hugging and kissing.”

4:39Copy video clip URL “Earlier that Week” segment begins at Stage 19, where Happy Days is filmed. They are producing episode 143, “Richie’s Job.” Marshall says that the business is 1/3 creativity, 1/3 time slot, and 1/3 time and history. He maintains that Happy Days could have only been successful in a post-Watergate, post-Vietnam world where everyone wanted to go back to a quieter time. Short clip of a take for the show. The producers discuss the problems with Fonzie’s entrance. The corrected entrance broadcast on television is shown.

6:26Copy video clip URL Marshall explains how Fonzie represents the people’s fantasy of a man who can handle every situation. Mork, on the other hand, cannot handle any situation effectively. Clip of Mork answering a toaster as if it were a telephone. Marshall: “We try Mork on three levels, and it seems to be working on three levels. First level is a man in a suit going ‘Nanu, Nanu…'” He says that students gravitate toward the “hip, off the wall” content and the adults gravitate toward more sentimental content. The adults say: “This is nice for my kids to watch…”

7:55Copy video clip URL Clip from the production of Mork and Mindy, episode 029, “Dr. Morkenstein.”

9:00Copy video clip URL Cut back to interview with Marshall: “When someone says it can’t be done. That’s what interests me. For years they said you can’t do satire or Saturday Night Live humor at 8 o’clock. And I said, ‘yes, you can.'” Marshall explains that the key was finding an actor (Robin Williams) who could transcend the time-slot.

9:45Copy video clip URL Cut to Penny Marshall driving a pink Cadillac. She shows the camera crew the street for Laverne and Shirley. Cut back to Marshall: “For pure funny there’s no contest. Laverne and Shirley is the funniest show on television…it goes for that big belly laugh that traditionally no one will go for.” Clip of Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams rehearsing for episode 087, “Upstairs, Downstairs.”

11:39Copy video clip URL Garry Marshall: “People sometimes don’t understand the art form of television, and I think some of television is very artful, but they don’t understand the form. It’s not watched like other things. I picture my audience not watching like this [sits back, watches attentively]…they’re watching like this [distracted, looks at curtains, with divided attention].” Cut to the opening to Mork and Mindy. Marshall: “You gotta get their attention before you can do anything with them.” He explains that, for example, they had Mork drink with his finger so that children would try to drink with their fingers, which would thereby get the attention of their parents. Marshall knows when a television has been successful if he hears from people that they’ve stayed home one night to watch a particular show: “If they’re staying home to watch the show, then you’ve got a solid base.”

13:31Copy video clip URL Cut to the studio audience watching the filming of Mork and Mindy. Marshall: “I want to communicate with the audience. I approach it from the audience’s point of view. We sit and feel what the audience will feel…” He says that he always sits with the audience to understand how the audience is reacting, as opposed to taking measurements to gauge audience satisfaction. Cut to the exterior of Stage 26 and then to another rehearsal for Mork and Mindy.

14:54Copy video clip URL Segment for “Mork and Mindy Writers Meeting.” Bruce Johnson, producer, on the phone with a production assistant. He asks for the censor notes. The censor has asked that Mork and Mindy refrain from using language that implicates oil companies.

16:25Copy video clip URL Tom Kersey, Vice President of Standards and Practices for ABC: “We don’t argue, quite frankly. Look, in this entertainment business people bring something to the table. They bring stories. They bring writers. They bring producers. They bring directors. We bring experience and expertise as to what the audience is out there. We sit and we discuss. Am I the final word? Yes.” Cut back to Marshall, who explains how hard it was doing realistic comedy that avoided drugs and the sexual revolution. He realized that he could make it realistic if he pushed it back in time to the 1950s.

17:33Copy video clip URL Cut to the Happy Days set. The segment “Camera Blocking” begins. Jerry Paris, director, is on set. He is instructing Henry Winkler and Ron Howard on a scene. Cut to an interview with Winkler on set. He explains how he fantasizes about “wiping the Fonz out of everyone’s imagination in the world…and then coming back and doing a feature film, an adult film, with the Fonz, because I know him so well…”

19:04Copy video clip URL Marshall: “Happy Days is still pushing the family unit in America…” Cut to archival black and white film footage of Marshall’s mother, Marjorie Marshall, holding him as an infant. Marshall recounts that his mother was a dancer and wanted all of her children to be dancers. Cut to Marshall, Penny Marshall, and Ronny Marshall sitting in front of their mother. They watch old family film on the television and Marjorie Marshall becomes excited by her children dancing.

19:51Copy video clip URL Inside Tony Marshall’s office, Garry Marshall’s father. Tony Marshall: “Flattery’s like perfume: You smell it, you don’t swallow it. And that’s our success.” Ronny Hallin, Garry Marshall’s sister, explains how having family in the company requires that everyone’s egos be held in check: “We can all work together and have fun with it. That’s what’s important…” Garry Marshall, beside her: “Our philosophy has always been that life is more important than show business.” He compares television to recess and then describes how Penny was stiffed out of a one hundred dollar raise before Laverne and Shirley, but now, after the success of the show, she got that one hundred dollar raise and then some.

21:35Copy video clip URL Cut to Penny Marshall driving her Cadillac around the set. She chats with network executive Tony Thomopoulos.

22:25Copy video clip URL Cut to Marcy Carsey, senior vice president of ABC. She’s being interviewed about her relationship to Garry Marshall: “He’s one of the best comedy suppliers in the business and we need him.” Cut to Marshall: “They ask me what’s new. Nothing. It’s the hardest thing in this business for anyone to say, because it has a sense of failure to it…I’ve learned to say ‘nothing.'” Cut back to Carsey. She says that she has to call Marshall that night and ask him what he’d do next year if they [ABC] would let him “and then we’ll let him.” Cut back to Marshall. He is not forthcoming about his new ideas. Cut back to Carsey. She explains how it’s important for good television to give talent full creative control when it comes to their ideas.

23:45Copy video clip URL Cut to a picture of Aaron Spelling. Narrator: “Five men are responsible for twenty four weekly programs. More than a quarter of all network prime time product.” Pictures of Lee Rich, Grant Tinker, Norman Lear, and Garry Marshall follow. Marshall: “Why are there five men? I’ll tell you why…because a lot of time at the networks they’re protecting their jobs, so it works very simply that a child could understand it. If they buy a pilot or make a pilot that is made by Joe Smith…and it’s terrible, then this man who picked that pilot could lose his job…On the other hand, if he says, ‘Garry, you can do this pilot…’ and it goes to New York and it stinks, he has the cop-out…if he picks anyone other than those five men he’s taking a shot.”

24:56Copy video clip URL Segment “The Shoot” begins. Production crew throw candy at the audience. Marshall talks about giving milk to the audience, too, a tradition started by Fellini. Cut to broadcast footage of Happy Days and then footage of the audience cheering at the end of the show. Cut to Marshall. He reflects on how strange his work is.

27:18Copy video clip URL Credits roll over the cast and crew of Happy Days taking a bow after filming.

28:42Copy video clip URL Funding credits.

29:04Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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