Why Garry Marshall’s Legacy Matters…

Garry Marshall was a bad ass.

Simple heading to remember such a legendary director. When he passed away, many people from Henry Winkler to Ron Howard to John Stamos came out to remember him. Cast members from the new Odd Couple series wrote twitter and Instagram messages about how much he will be missed. The stories had a similar tone, he was simply the greatest.

He was also a bad ass.

When you saw a Garry Marshall movie, you would always get a happy ending.

When you watched a Garry Marshall television show, you got sugar-coated sweetness.

You got sometimes unrealistic situations like the Fonz in a leather jacket jumping over sharks which led to the phrase “jumping the shark” to a world where problems were wrapped up in a nice little package. You got Mork and Mindy, Oscar and Felix, Laverne and Shirley, Joanie and Chachi and of course the Fonz.

Everything was sweet but just like the greatest desserts usually tend to be, they’re unforgettable and that was the way he wanted it and for that, Garry Marshall was a bad ass.

He stuck to what he wanted. I’m sure there was pressure as there always is when money is involved. I’m sure there were times where he was pressured to change  the projects he was creating to fit more mainstream audiences but he never did. You will never see anything gratuitous in a Garry Marshall project. No nudity. No graphic violence. He didn’t subscribe to that and the result was that we got characters that will remain some forever part of popular culture. Cussing, violence, and nudity weren’t part of the Garry Marshall universe. Every day was a happy day. Every day was just perfect.  Nanu, nanu.

We live in a world that is terrifying. Trump has a shot at the White House which makes everything even more terrifying. There is hatred, bigotry, senseless death. This summer we witnessed videos of African Americans dying at the hands of police, a young twenty-two-year-old singer being shot to death by a crazed person, I will not call him a fan, forty-nine  people slaughtered inside an Orlando nightclub simply for being gay. The world is spinning as we all stand by and watch helplessly and engage in pointless internet arguments about what should have been done. Gun control. BLM. Are we better than we were or are we getting worse? Facebook feeds are taken over by people talking about sending thoughts and prayers, it’s getting more and more out of control as the places to feel safe are quickly diminishing in numbers.

That’s why Garry Marshall was a bad ass, a brilliant bad ass. He wasn’t ignoring the seriousness of the world, he was telling us to take a break. Thirty minutes in front of your television or computer, two hours in a darkened movie theater….just take a break. Yes, there are tears, there are horrible things but let one of his television shows be the light in a world of darkness.

His projects reminded me of cheat days but without the calories. Were there missteps? Of course. Not every dessert is perfect. I consider The Other Sister to be one of those non-perfect desserts. As a person who works with kids who have special needs, that movie did not do these kids justice but there is no director who has a perfect record. Not every baker is successful in their sugary creations but the ones that are successful, well they quickly become legendary. Decades after we were introduced to the Fonz, we still associate Henry Winkler with that character. Oscar and Felix are back on television, this time being played by Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon both of whom have done a fantastic job tackling these two iconic characters.

We as an audience needed Garry Marshall in our lives just as badly as the thousands and thousands of people he worked with in his career that spanned about fifty-six years. We needed those moments where we could escape. He was the king of escapism television. Just as we don’t need to be reminded how many calories are in that slice of chocolate cake as we’re eating it….we didn’t need to be reminded that Garry Marshall’s shows and movies weren’t realistic and that life is far more complicated. Escapism television is essential to our sanity and Garry Marshall knew that and excelled in that. He knew exactly what we wanted, something just to make us feel good and with his passing, I wonder what will happen next. He was truly irreplaceable.

The Odd Couple will be returning in October and I wonder how they will touch on his death or if they even will but if they do. I’m sure it will be the perfect tribute to him. It will most likely sum his work up perfectly: sweet, perfect and always giving us a happy ending.

Thank you, Garry Marshall for the countless happy endings and sweetness that your shows provided. It provided the perfect escape…..always.
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