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.
Al Molinaro, who appeared on two highly popular 1970’s sitcoms in remembered roles, The Odd Couple and Happy Days, died Friday from complications of a gall stone in Glendale, CA, according to CNN. He was of 96.
Molinaro appeared on The Odd Couple as Murray the Cop, who was super nice, friendly, and with a kind of puppy dog style ignorance that the character wore around his neck in the nicest possible way. He was mainly there as a comic foil and fellow poker player to the show’s duo of stars, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall. Although the show’s producer Garry Marshall (who was a friend of Molinaro) allowed the Murray character to stretch out in an episode or two during the five-year run on ABC (1970-1975). With Molinaro’s portly build, large W.C. Fields-like proboscis, and running water charm, he created one of the more memorable character on the program, and is an instantly recognizable one when the series found mega success in syndication.
Jack Klugman, the irrepressible character actor best remembered as the craggy, charismatically unkempt, skirt-chasing and reckless sportswriter Oscar Madison in the television adaptation of the Broadway play and theatrical film The Odd Couple, has died at the age of 90, reports the Associated Press. The cause of death is yet to be determined, but his son Adam said he had died suddenly.
Klugman’s portrayal of Oscar Madison in the The Odd Couple from 1970 to 1975 on ABC television (winning two Emmy awards) in which he pretty much morphed himself into the character with such aplomb that everything he did after it and his public persona became more associated with the character of Oscar than Jack the man. Klugman has many traits ala Oscar, he loved to gamble, he was also a gregarious low rent playboy in the coolest sense of the word. It was the likeable, everyman man-about-town style he parlayed into the role that made it so memorable. Playing against the late Tony Randall’s neat freak and neurotic Felix Unger, the two men created a television program that while may not have been a success in its original run, soon found its voice and influence in the syndicated reruns market and became one of the most loved television sitcoms of all time, especially in big city markets, where sometimes the program was rerun three times a day. The two men also created a classic comedy team, ala Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on their television appearances on The Colgate Comedy Hour in the 1950s.