The Bronx-born television and movie titan Garry Marshall passed away last night at the age of 81. The beloved, affable writer/director/actor/producer had a hand in shepherding one of the greatest decades of television viewers would ever see.
In the era of three networks and only a couple of UHF channels, “Happy Days”, “Mork and Mindy”, and “Laverne and Shirley” were kings. The Fonz was a legit phenomenon that had kids telling each other to unironically “Sit on it”. “Mork” introduced us to one of the most brilliant comedic actors in the last 40 years in Robin Williams. “Laverne and Shirley”, starting his sister Penny, featured two ballsy single women striking out on their own in the ’70s and not being treated with kid gloves; it was a feminist comedy by its mere existence at a time when secretaries were still getting the Roger Ailes treatment 5-10 times a day. And they were all Marshall’s creations.
His shows were an escapist yin to the socially-conscious yang of Norman Lear’s creations even though they often tread in the same areas. While Lear was (hopefully) educating us, Marshall was giving us baggage-free stuff to laugh at. Because it can’t be all heavy all the time. Especially during the shitshow that was the 1970s.
His successful run on the small screen ran into the early ’80s and gave him the juice he needed to aim for the bigger one. 1984’s “The Flamingo Kid” was a fun Matt Dillon vehicle that still holds up pretty damn well today. Other hits like “Overboard” and “Beaches” followed but it was a young Julia Roberts that helped deliver his biggest hit, “Pretty Woman”. “Runaway Bride” and “The Princess Diaries” movies carried his legacy into the new century. Oh, and he could act, absolutely nailing any scene he needed to and also recently voiced a role on “BoJack Horseman”.
But what was striking online as news of his death spread was how everybody shared the same sentiment: he was just such a great guy. Which is a better legacy than great TV. Farewell.
GARRY MARSHALL Rest In Peace .. Thank you for my professional life. Thank you for your loyalty , friendship and generosity .
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) July 20, 2016
R.I.P. Garry Marshall. A great, great guy and the best casino boss in the history of film. #lostinamerica
— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) July 20, 2016
The last time I saw Garry I thanked him for my life. I did not exaggerate. RIP, boss.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) July 20, 2016