Friday, August 17, 2012

Laverne & Shirley Christmas (1976)

Sing along: "We're gonna do it our way, yes, our way.  Makin' our dreams come true---for me and you."

I recently reviewed writer/producer/director Garry Marshall's new book My Happy Days in HollywoodClick HERE to see that review again.  His reminiscences on his work in television sent me to seek out Christmas episodes from some of his past series.  Many of these Christmas episodes are some of my personal favorites--episodes I love to watch over and over again.  Though I've seen this first Laverne & Shirley Christmas episode referred to by the title "Christmas at the Booby Hatch," it is officially titled "Oh Hear the Angels' Voices" on the second season DVD setHow long has it been since you've seen this one?

Carmine asks his friends at the Pizza Bowl to join him in entertaining at a hospital at Christmas time.

Here, the Big Ragoo asks his friends to perform at a Christmas show he’s organizing at a hospital.  Not until they arrive do the Pizza Bowl Players realize they are performing at a psychiatric hospital!  Though Laverne, Shirley, Lenny, Squiggy, Carmine, Mrs. Babish and Frank DeFazio feel awkward and even a little afraid, they realize these patients need cheering up at the holiday too and they decide to stay. 

In this variety show-within-a-show, Frank serves as emcee.

This Christmas episode is another one of those show-within-a-show storylines.  I don't know about you, but I LOVE THESE Christmas episodes.  It's a chance for some very talented cast members on sitcoms to showcase their singing and dancing skills they may not get to show off during a typical scripted comedy series episode.  These holiday variety shows often play up a kind of Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland-spirited "Let's put on a show in the barn!" kind of excitement that I just love!  And, there are a bunch of them including 1961's Car 54, Where Are You? Christmas episode, 1963's Dick Van Dyke Show holiday episode, 1978's Good Times Christmas episode, and 1984's Facts of Life Christmas episode just to name a few.  Are you familiar with these?

Lenny and the Squigtones perform an original Christmas song.

At the hospital, the friends from the Pizza Bowl perform song and dance numbers including Lenny and the Squigtones playing an unforgettable original song “The Jolliest Fat Man.”  This song's music and lyrics are credited to Michael McKean and David L. Lander, the actors/musicians behind the characters of Lenny and Squiggy, respectively.  

Recognize that drummer playing in the band as Carmine dances?  It's none other than the show's creator/executive producer Garry Marshall himself!

Carmine sings and tap dances to “Jingle Bell Rock."  Next up: Laverne and Shirley, dressed as elves, singing, dancing, and twirling batons to the Christmas classic “Winter Wonderland.” 

Laverne and Shirley's baton twirling big finish--and there's Penny Marshall's big brother Garry again seated at the drum kit.
The performers all come back on stage for the big finalé.


Singing 'Silent Night' together, the friends from the Pizza Bowl know that they have done a good thing performing for an appreciative audience.

At the the end of the episode, the entertainers and the patients at the hospital come together to sing “Silent Night.”

Shirley is terrified of the patient that stares at her while Laverne is shamelessly flirting with another patient!

Some of the best comedy in this episode is in the small details.  Remember how terrified Shirley was to be in a psychiatric hospital?  She explains that as a child, her parents used to frighten her into behaving by threatening to send her to a mental institution. (What horrible parents!?)  Making matters worse, there's a female patient that keeps staring at Shirley.  The same patient creepily turns away each time Shirley returns her gaze.  It's funny because no one else sees what Shirley sees--and Laverne is preoccupied with her own new friend.

Laverne and her new friend singing 'Silent Night.'

Remember Laverne shamelessly flirting with one of the psychiatric patients?  The character is introduced as Mr. Van Horn in the story but in the closing credits, his name reads Vincent Van Eagle.  No matter.  Laverne's friend is actually David Duclon, the writer of this hilarious Christmas episode. 

On the left: Roger Garrett as Mr. Pulper impersonating a doctor.  On the right: Howard Hesseman as an actual member of staff at the hospital, Dr. Grayson

TV veteran and funnyman Howard Hesseman plays Dr. Grayson the psychiatric doctor in charge at the hospital.   And, one of the more memorable characters is Mr. Pulper, a psychiatric patient who first introduces himself to the Pizza Bowl Players as one of the members of staff.  Did you know that Roger Garrett who plays Mr. Pulper was also a member of the writing staff on Laverne & Shirley?

The doctor is taking notes!

Another small detail: whenever Lenny and Squiggy seem to be around, Dr. Grayson is seen nearby taking notes on their awkward and strange behavior.  It's as if he's documenting the abnormal twosome or perhaps preparing a file for their inevitable commitment.  Too funny!

Edna Babish (on the right) is clearly in costume for her own variety show performance--what was it?

My only question: what kind of act was landlord Mrs. Babish dressed up for?  In costume, she joins the others on stage at the end of the show but we never see her performance!  She kind of looks like a ventriloquist's dummy--maybe Edgar Bergen's Mortimer Snerd?  I don't know if Mrs. Babish's act was ever filmed for the original 1976 broadcast or if it was cut out later, never making it to the DVD release.  Anyone remember seeing her performance?

Anyone else see a resemblance?

3 comments:

  1. A great episode of the show! Love the fun-wackadoodle patients and how they aren't scary, but rather just want to have some fun, too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mrs Babbish sings a fast paced little song and plays a ukalele. Nick at Nite broadcast it and it is included on a youtube vid titled "Laverne and Shirley Christmas x 2" which contains this episode as well as the 1978 Christmas episode.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mrs.Babish sang "Goofus". Yes...they cut it!

    ReplyDelete