Sunday, July 18, 2010

The story behind the CHEERS Bar War episodes

I get a lot of questions about the “Bar Wars” episodes of CHEERS that my partner and I wrote. So here are the FAQ’s.

Did we purposely plan for the Cheers gang to lose every time?

Yes. Except for the last one. Frustration is much funnier than victory. The trick however, was to find different ways for them to lose – or screw themselves. Guess I grew up watching too many Road Runner cartoons.

What about the last Bar Wars in the final season?

Ultimately, we decided to not only let Cheers win but to demolish Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern once and for all. We’re nothing if not vengeful. Trivia note: That is the only episode of CHEERS that I appear in. I’m sitting at the bar in an early scene.

Who played Gary?

The answer is: which time? We had two actors who played Gary, in no particular order. The first time the character appeared, Joe Polis played him in a 1985 episode called “From Beer to Eternity”. When we wrote the first Bar Wars episode Joe wasn’t available. It was the very end of the season. We had no other scripts so we just had to recast. Robert Desiderio became Gary. For Bar Wars II we went back to Joe Polis and used him one other time. Otherwise, it was Robert Desiderio. Confusing? I don’t understand why we did it either. Hopefully this mystery will be tackled in INCEPTION.

What is your favorite Bar Wars episode?

Bar Wars V. My partner came up with this idea. Sam’s prank kills Gary. Or at least that’s what Sam thinks. If you can’t get laughs with a man digging up a grave you’re not a comedy writer.

What is your least favorite Bar Wars episode?

Bar Wars VI. The gang thinks a wise guy buys Gary’s bar so a prank unleashes the Mafia after them. We were reaching. And sometimes too clever for our own good. In Bar Wars II, there’s a Bloody Mary contest. We had a number of twists and turns, and after turning in the script, the staff added a few more. By the end I think there were maybe six too many. It was the BIG SLEEP of Bar Wars episodes – no one alive can tell you exactly what happened.

Was it hard to plot these episodes?


Yes. Very. These episodes were a bitch to conceive and then hard to write because there was always so much story. By nature, exposition and set ups are not inherently funny and entertaining. We had to pull a lot of jokes out of nowhere.

What was your favorite gag?

Filling Rebecca’s office with sheep. That’s the power of being a writer. You come up with a goofy idea. And voila, there are fifty sheep being herded onto the set. I’m sure the guy who came up with snakes on the plane had the same heady feeling.There are some Bar Wars type episodes not called Bar Wars. How come?

Those were episodes not originally designed to be bar wars but evolved into them. Or they were competitions not practical joke wars, per se. In other words, I dunno. I’m still trying to figure out BAR WARS II.

And finally, are you that diabolical?


Let’s just say I hope you’re not allergic to sheep.

10 comments:

Heidi Germanaus said...

I absolutely loved what I think was the last Bar Wars where Sam tried to enlist Harry "The Hat" to take Gary down once and for all. I mostly remembered but still had to look one of his quotes from that episode up....

"Face it, you're a bunch of losers. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's your nature, you know. It's the way God made you. You're part of his master plan. If it weren't for you guys, how would we know who the winners were?"

Gold Ken, just gold.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

How did you guys decide on top billing? Straws? Grenades?

Anonymous said...

Haven't you posted this before?

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Ken,

Why do I watch Deadliest Catch?

D. McEwan said...

Dame Edna did a TV show called DAME EDNA'S NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH about 18 years ago. In it, she would surprise women in her studio audience by showing she had a live camera crew in their homes (the husbands were the accomplices) and the women would sit and watch as Edna, via remote crew, pawed through their most-embarrassing personal stuff, and set up gags like showing Madge in bed with a victim's father. (Madge always answered the door, usually wearing some of the victim's clothes, and once, brushing her teeth with the victim's toothbrush.)

In one episode, sure enough, Edna filled one woman's den with sheep, absolutely wall-to-wall live, pissing, sheep. Edna called it the deepest-pile shag rug ever.

Jaquandor said...

My favorite was the one that had the awful Northern Irish band at Cheers -- "Limey scum! Limey scum!" (That was a Bar Wars episode, right?)

cezille said...

@Anonymous

I think he's not.

Cameron Yarde said...

I loved the Bar Wars episodes of Cheers but I'm shocked that you thought the Mafia one was weak. I loved that Sam got his own back on his friends for siding with Gary in the episode where Sam thought he killed him.

Glenn said...

Have to agree with Cameron, the end bit where Sam talks about going in debt to pull it off just kills me...

Anonymous said...

Ditto for me...love the mafia episode. The others go off to the "witness protection program" in the middle of nowhere. Ha!