I like you,” Jack Paar once told TV writer-producer Garry Marshall, “because you think like a 4-year-old.” Paar, Garry’s first boss, meant it as a high compliment, for television is a youth-fixated business, and the child can be father of the man (and, yea, even of the Silverman). Indeed, 18 years later, at 44, Marshall created both the No. 1 and No. 2 shows of the ’77-’78 season—Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days—as well as the most delightful new series so far of ’78-’79, Mork and Mindy.
The worst thing that anyone has ever said about Marshall is that he practices nepotism. His father (originally Tony Marscharelli back in the Bronx, where the family grew up) used to turn out industrial films and radio shows and now produces for Garry. Sister Penny acted in Garry’s first major property, The Odd Couple, and now, of course, is a superstar as Laverne. Then, Garry’s sister Ronny is a casting director for the Marshall operation and occasionally happens to find bit parts for their mother and Marshall’s own three kids, 10 to 15. Still, it’s hard to knock Garry’s 10-year-old daughter Scotti: It was she who begged Daddy to work a visiting “alien” into a Happy Days script. That brain wave, needless to say, spun off into Mork and Mindy.
For all his accomplishment—and residuals—Marshall is still a hopelessly anxious chomper of fingernails, Hershey bars and cigarette butts (anti-smoker Tony Randall refused to get closer than 20 paces the five years he co-starred in The Odd Couple). Of course, like anyone in the business, Garry has had his flops, including one killed in the latest NBC purge, Who’s Watching the Kids? Maybe parents objected to the question in that show’s title, but they have no choice but to live with the answer to whom U.S. kids are watching. It’s Garry Marshall.