Monday, April 28, 2008

Not Good, But Pleasantly Weird

I think that when a long-running show gets really bad -- not just mediocre, but really, really bad -- it sometimes becomes more interesting to watch than when it was just mediocre. That's because a show that has totally lost it and has no chance of being renewed for another season will sometimes do the most bizarre things, knowing that nobody's watching and nobody cares anyway.

That's what I was thinking when I saw an episode from the awesomely bad final season of Laverne and Shirley without Shirley (and for the most part without Lenny). Apart from being unbelievably depressing, since you're watching a show that literally has no reason to exist now that even its title is a lie, the writing and acting were about as bad as they could be. (Carmine: "I don't think you know the difference between right and wrong." Squiggy: "Sure we do. It's left and wrong that get me confused.")

But the good side of that is this: only a show that was completely destroyed, ravaged and wrecked would have thought to do this scene: Laverne has been mistaken for a murderer and sentenced to Death Row, a priest comes to guide her on that last mile, and he starts singing. And then the prison doors fly open and a gospel singing group comes out and leads everybody in a song and dance number. And Anne Ramsey is in the scene, as is Laraine Newman in a blonde wig. (The producers tried to compensate for Shirley's absence by having a different "funny lady" as a guest star every week.) The only thing that's missing is that the Ernie Banks who plays the priest is not the Hall of Fame shortstop.

Mind you, I don't think this scene is good. It's just nuts. There's no setup for it; this isn't a "musical episode." It's like they had nothing to do for three minutes so they decided to see if there were some singers available. And they sure didn't spend much time on the choreography. (At one point you can even hear Laverne's voice singing on the playback when Laverne's mouth isn't moving.) But it's endearingly crazy. Most shows today would be off the air before they got this ridiculous. That's only partly a good thing.


Larry Levine said...

Don't forget Betty Garrett also jumped ship.

I liked the post-Shirley episode with Carrie Fisher in the Playboy bunny outfit (it didn't top her Return of the Jedi harem outfit but she still looked darn

Baskingshark said...

Reminiscent of the episode of Charlie's Angels where Kelly (for some reason) is in the chorus of a new musical. The episode ends with a big dance number being performed for prospective backers. And when they finish the number, there's still running time left for the ep, so the backers' assistant calls out "They'd like to see it again, can you run though it a second time, please?" or something similar - and so they go through the whole number again FOR NO REASON. I think that was also the only episode David Doyle directed...

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite "who gives a damn, nobody's watching anyway" moments from the last season of Laverne and Shirley is a techinical one, from an episode in which Laverne puts on an anti-gravity suit, then can't get it off. Aside from the fact that the wires attached to the suit for the flying scenes, and the points at which they are attached to it, are out there in plain sight -- in so obvious a way that even the producers of The Flying Nun would have objected -- Laverne, at one point, "flies" high, and the camera dutifully follows her -- showing us the top of the set wall and the banks of lights up above it!