Herbie J Pilato Remembers ‘Laverne & Shirley’

by Herbie J Pilato

Actress/director Penny Marshall passed away on Monday, December 17, 2018, but certainly not before making her mark in the world, particularly in the entertainment world.

Marshall was best known for her role opposite actress Cindy Williams with Laverne & Shirley, the hit ABC sitcom of the 1970s and early 1980s.  Essentially, Marshall and Williams were “Frick and Frack” without the Swiss connotation or the ice; and Lucy and Ethel for a new generation.

Set in the late 50s and early 60s, but presented with a 70s state of mind, Laverne & Shirley featured Marshall as Laverne Dafazio, and Williams as Shirley Feeney in a series spinoff of another one of ABC’s other popular period sitcoms of the day: Happy Days, which starred Ron Howard (once the lovable little tyke Opie on The Andy Griffith Show; CBS, 1961-1968) as the All-American Richie Cunningham, best friend to Henry Winkler’s Arthur Fonzarelli, AKA “The Fonz” or “Fonzie”—the hood-with-a-heart.

For an early episode of Happy Days, the show’s writer/producer Garry Marshall, older brother to Penny, was in need of two women to play “fast girls” as dates for Fonzie and Richie. Garry, who died in 2016, explained it all during an interview in 2015 with The Tolucan Times, published in Toluca Lake, California, where he owned and operated the prestigious and popular Falcon Theatre (now under management by his daughter, following his death).

As the elder Marshall explained it, “I wanted to do a show about girls from the other side of the tracks; we needed Fonzie’s friends… and Richie needed it! Penny and Cindy were a writing team. I asked them to do one episode and they were good together….”

Read it all at Geeks.Media

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books.  He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE.

Herbie J Pilato has a Few Important Words to Say About a Kid Name of ‘Rudolph’


by Herbie J Pilato

The recent attacks on the classic 1964 TV holiday special, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, are wrong on so many levels.

First of all, from a personal standpoint, I AM Rudolph.  Although I’ve never had a shiny red nose, as a kid, I was singled out by bullies because I could sing, dance, and act, at a time when those talents for a young boy (or for an adult male, for that matter), were not so widely accepted in the mainstream.

And I also happened to be a cute little kid, who all the little girls liked. So, all the little boys would beat me up.  The prejudice/bigoted message/theme of Rudolph can be life-changing.  The show certainly helped get me through many rough patches in my childhood (and still does today).

Secondly, the unsettling characteristic behavior displayed by Santa Claus and the Reindeer Coach, etc. that is the source of recent critics is reconciled by the end of the special, as they, and other characters who behaved badly or spoke out of turn ultimately realize how wrong they were.

Thirdly, with all the ignorant, violent, vulgar, and profane language and images that are displayed on a daily basis on the majority of new television programming and in new feature films, for that matter, is considered acceptable, poor little “Rudolph” and the show’s amazing message of love and forgiveness is being attacked?

That is just plain insane.  Certainly, every writer should have the freedom to write whatever they want, and I do not sit in judgment of that.  But don’t be picking on the animated Rudolph when other animated characters like those on The Simpsons and Family Guy fart, swear and frequently utilize abusive words and display offensive behavior.

Fourthly, from a completely objective and professional perspective of the creative writer’s life, all stories need villains, whether stories are told on TV, the big screen, the stage, or even in a song, whether the material in question is adult-geared or family-oriented.

What, are all creative properties now supposed to eliminate antagonists in storytelling and just have scripts filled with protagonists?

As Macaulay Culkin’s ingenious character, Kevin McCallister says at one point in the classic 1990 holiday feature film, Home Alone, “I don’t think so!”

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books.  He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE.

Sneak Preview of Herbie J Pilato’s New Book

Herbie J Pilato has been a TVWriter™ Institution since way before we were TVWriter™. Today, our pioneer Contributing Editor has a special message for us:

Hello All,

Here’s an early, mock-up of the book cover and spine for MARY, my new biography of Mary Tyler Moore, set for a December/January release.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thanks, Herbie. You have a wonderful one too.

Oh, and while we’re at it, Herbie has rejuvenated his website. Hie thyselves over and check it out HERE

Herbie J Pilato Reminds Us that a Writer’s Work is Never Done

by  Herbie J Pilato

Writing is your life.

You can stop writing when you’re dead.

That’s the way you have to look at it.

Pay your rent, your mortgage, and all of your bills on time, and then go out and have a good time with your family, friends, and colleagues.

Then when you return home, rest, and then the next day, start-up the writing machine once again.

For me?  I do that in the morning, from around 4:30 AM to 11:00 AM.  Those are my core hours.

Other writers are night owls.  But not me.  I’m exhausted by at least Noon.

Although I spend the rest of the day and sometimes early evening working the tasks that surround and support the actual act of writing; things like making phone calls; research; or taking lunch meetings.

But as far as actual writing, there’s only so much room in my brain every day for the creation, shaping and communicating of words, be they fictional, fantasy or based in reality.

And that’s okay.  Because we all work at our own pace…every day, without ever really feeling we have a completed manuscript, book, poem, or essay.

That’s what sequels, re-dos, revisions, and reprints are for, all of which brings us back to our central message:

A writer’s work is never done.

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books.  He has been part of TVWriter™ for almost 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE.

Ground-Breaking TV Writer Rita Lakin was “The Only Woman in the Room”

by Herbie J Pilato

With her new book, THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM: EPISODES IN MY LIFE AND CAREER AS A TELEVISION WRITER, Rita Lakin writes so well what she knows so well about.

A ground-breaking talent, Lakin was one of the first female writers who graced the behind-the-scenes of the small screen.  Her first TV script, “A Candle in the Window,” an episode of Dr. Kildare, executive produced by David Victor (Marcus Welby, M.D.), was a fine precursor of what was to come:

Featuring former film star Ruth Roman, “Candle” told of the devastating loss a nurse experiences when her husband dies after she served for years as his primary caregiver.  The episode also featured a young Ronny Howard, then also appearing as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, as Rowman’s young son, and was directed by Sydney Pollack (as his first credit as well, years before Out of Africa, Tootsie  and Bobbie Deerfield, and countless other monumental gigs for both the big-screen and small).

As Lakin explains today, “It was my first assignment on TV. I was recently widowed and that’s why David Victor wanted me to write a story on that subject. Believe me, I knew a lot on that subject.”

Other TV assignments followed and were a diverse mix including segments of some of TV’s most beloved classics like The Invaders, Family Affair, The Mod Squad and The Rookies, Dynasty, and Nightingales, which Lakin created.  The varied episodes of these series allowed for Lakin’s prolific ability and unique perspective to shine, as it did with several well-known TV-movies, which helped to define the genre, such as Hey, I’m Alive (1975), starring Sally Struthers and Ed Asner isolated in the wilderness, and A Sensitive, Passionate Man (1977), starring Angie Dickinson and David Jansen (and based on the book my Barbara Mahoney)

Lakin writes about these and so much more in THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM.

As the press release for the book relays,Rita Lakin was a pioneer, a female scriptwriter in the early 1960s when Hollywood television was exclusively male.  For years, in creative meetings, she was literally the only woman in the room.  In this breezy but heartfelt remembrance, Lakin exposes us to a long-forgotten time when women were not considered worthy or welcome at the creative table.

Widowed with three young children, she talked herself into a secretarial job at Universal Studios in 1962, despite being unable to type or take dictation.  But with guts, skill, and humor she rose from secretary to free-lancer, to staff writer, to producer, to executive producer and show-runner, meeting hundreds of famous and infamous showbiz legends along the way during her long and unexpected career.  She introduced many women into the business and was a feminist before she even knew she was a feminist.

Unknown to the general public, she reached an audience of millions, week after week, year after year.  The relevance of her personal journey, charming yet occasionally shocking, will be an eye-opener to today’s readers who take for granted the abundance of female creative talent in today’s Hollywood.

A must-read, indeed, for any aspiring, novice or veteran television writer.

Learn more about Rita and get your own copy of The Only Woman in the Room HERE 

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and the author of several classic TV companion books.  He is practically a founding father of TVWriter™ and is a Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J Pilato HERE.