Saturday, September 30, 2006
The CHEERS set
My favorite reader comment so far:
I've gotten familiar with Becker through the syndication. Not familiar with "Cheers".
Well, among those who are familiar with CHEERS I received a request to talk about the set.
We filmed CHEERS on Stage 25 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood (but the seedier section of Hollywood).
The set was designed by Richard Sylbert, an Academy Award winner whose credits include CHINATOWN, REDS, WHOSE AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE GRADUATE, and (ironically) LILITH.
It was patterned after the Bull & Finch bar in Boston. But the B&F is much smaller, and the bar itself is up against the back wall. The décor, Tiffany lamps, and stained glass is true to the B&F.
Director James Burrows had a lot of input into the design which is why it was so easy to shoot in it. You could bring cameras way up into the set, get many different and interesting angles, and even get shots all the way down the hall.
If you look closely you’ll notice a line that runs down the center of the bar. It’s on a hinge and actually the right half can swing around, allowing room for the right wall to swing back revealing Sam’s office.
There are lights underneath the bar pointing up. It was hard in the first few episodes to see Ted Danson’s eyes.
Nick Colasanto always had a tough time memorizing the script. There were dozens of his lines hidden underneath the bar.
The bar was functional. The CHEERS set was the best ever for show parties.
Whenever an outside set is needed the pool room set is struck.
There is a fourth wall section that was used a couple of times in the first season.
The audience bleachers sat 200. They were raised so even the front row could see over the cameras. To one side was a platform where a small band would play between scenes.
The beer served on tap was warm 3.2 beer. Do not envy George Wendt having to drink that swill every week.
The set was huge. If we wanted to pack the bar we needed 500 people. For our routine customers we used 30-40 extras. Anything else and the bar looked empty.
The guy who had the hardest job on the series was the prop master. Imagine keeping track of all the glasses, drinks, bowls, trays, pretzels, 5.457.432 lemons that Ted cut up every episode, etc.
The phone on the bar would move from end to end depending upon where we needed it.
The Wurlitzer jukebox was not functional. The piano was.
The set was lit differently after the first couple of episodes. Brighter, more inviting. If you have the DVD of the first season, notice the difference between the pilot and episodes later in the year.
In an effort to save money during our first season (when we were getting killed in the ratings not only by SIMON & SIMON but by TUCKER’S WITCH for Godsakes) the studio requested we start shooting the show on tape. A test scene was taped and the set looked ghastly. So much for that brilliant experiment.
The photo over the bar that is supposed to be Sam is really Boston Cy Young winning pitcher Jim Lonborg.
The wooden Indian at the front door was named Techumsa.
When the series finally wrapped I walked over to the stage to watch them strike the set. It was so upsetting I left after maybe two minutes. Of all the shows I worked on, CHEERS was my favorite. And no, I didn’t steal anything from the set. And yes, I’m an idiot. I should have. At least Techumsa.