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Published: 5/20/2013

Writer for TV’s ‘Happy Days,’‘Odd Couple’ to speak at library

Free program at Bedford features Farmington Hills resident

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rothman Rothman
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Mark Rothman left his native New York in his early 20s for Los Angeles and in rapid succession wrote for the Odd Couple and Happy Days television series, then co-created Laverne and Shirley, and would go on to write what he calls a “a handful of one-season wonders.” He also has done a lot of other writing, including plays, screenplays, a novel, and a blog.

On Thursday, he’s slated to be the featured speaker at the Bedford Branch Library at 7 p.m. He said he’ll talk about his experiences in Hollywood and the television industry and sign copies of his books at the free appearance.

“I put on a show at these things,” he said. “I consider myself a showman. I entertain the people. The essays I’m going to read are really funny.”

Part of that entertainment, he said, is his readings of light essays written for his blog, called Mark Rothman’s Blog at markrothmansblog.blogspot.com.

“I read a handful of essays, and I do a Q and A because people want to know what it was like working in television, and a lot of people are aspiring writers and they want to know how to break in to the business and they look for tips,” he explained. “I provide answers that I think are pretty good.”

A lot of the questions he gets concern the actors who have worked on his shows, such as Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, Penny Marshall, Jack Klugman, and Tony Randall. He’s happy to answer. “The cast of Happy Days were the nicest people in the world,” he said.

He also shares some inside information such as the fact that the ratings of Happy Days didn’t take off until the production went to three cameras with a live audience. “That’s what made the difference. It wasn’t ‘happy’ until then,” he joked.

But television writing was in many ways unfulfilling work, he said. It was done by teams of writers working on several episodes at once.

“I’m much more proud of the stuff I’ve done myself — the plays, the screenplays, the novel. The shows were writing by committee. You work on five scripts at once. With a screenplay or novel, you can take all the time you want. The clock isn’t a factor,” he said.

Mr. Rothman lives in Farmington Hills, Mich., with his wife, Camille, a Michigan native, but has a residence in Hollywood. He has appeared at the Carleton and Petersburg branches of the Monroe County Library System.

Jodi Russ, the Bedford branch’s community librarian, said Mr. Rothman will be a nice change of pace. “We have authors come pretty regularly, but he’s a little different. He’s not only going to share his great life experiences but show how to become an author,” she said.

Comedy series that rank high on Mr. Rothman’s favorites list include Seinfeld, Friends, and Fawlty Towers, but The Phil Silvers Show from the late 1950s occupies the top spot. He watches it on cable, and regards Silvers’ portrayal of Master Sgt. Ernest G. Bilko as the best of the best.

He’s looking forward to taking questions about TV shows and their history. “I have an encyclopedic memory for every movie and TV show I’ve ever seen,” he said.



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