Garry Marshall, who brought some of the most remembered and successful sitcoms of the 1970s to American television and directed some notable films such as Pretty Woman, died on Tuesday in Burbank, CA, of complications from pneumonia following a stroke, according to Variety. He was 81.
Marshall’s programs, which pretty much dominated ABC-TV for the entire decade of the 1970s, consisted of The Odd Couple and Happy Days and its spinoffs, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. With each of them came a kind of innocuous hilarity that had healthy doses of mild slapstick, easily resolved narratives, and always an emphasis on a slight surreal aspect of fun. Unlike say the socially conscious programs of the time that were being churned out by the stable of TV pioneer Norman Lear (like All in the Family and Maude), Marshall’s sitcoms, although they were rather perfunctory and innocuous by way of social redemption or awareness, held almost equal footing in terms of ratings success. And indeed, like many of the characters on Lear’s programs (Archie Bunker, Maude, Fred Sanford), Garry Marshall also helped create and was instrumental in bringing characters that were and have remained almost as iconic, such as The Fonz, Mork from Ork, Laverne, and Shirley.