Sunday, April 28, 2013

CHEERS -- the Russian Poetry Corner

Here’s a scene of ours from a first season episode of CHEERS called "Any Friend of Diane's".  I posted this a few years ago and still get requests for it.  Diane’s college chum Rebecca (played by Diane runner-up Julia Duffy) comes to visit the bar. Imagine a sitcom today being allowed to do this run.


INT. BAR – DAY

Diane and Rebecca are chattering away in French. They laugh together. Rebecca’s laugh turns into a sob, and she buries her face in her hands.

DIANE
Rebecca, something’s wrong.

REBECCA
You always saw through my fa├žade of gaiety… Elliot and I have parted.

DIANE
No. You and Elliot? Rebecca, you two were together forever.

REBECCA
I know. I know. It all started when Elliot got his doctorate in ichthyology. His eye began to wander, and the next thing I knew he had taken up with a young student he met on a squid expedition.

DIANE
A doctorate changes a man. Rebecca, there’ll be others. In the meantime you have your work.

REBECCA
You’d think so. I used to find enormous comfort translating Russian poetry. But no more. Even when I went back over my favorite, Karashnikov’s “Another Christmas of Agony”, it failed to soothe me. (RECITING) “Mischa the dog lies dead in the bog. The children cry over the carcass. The mist chokes my heart, covers the mourners. At least this year we eat.”

DIANE
Well...If that didn’t pick you up, I’m at a virtual loss.

26 comments:

Mac said...

Ha ha! that's brilliant. I can hear Shelley Long nailing that last line in her own perfect way.

"Imagine a sitcom today being allowed to do this run."

Hmm... I don't think I can. Not a prime-time one anyway. Which is a depressing thought.

Mister Charlie said...

I do remember that exchange. Hilarious. Writing one can be proud of, and it is funny to boot.

Jake Mabe said...

I regularly call "Cheers" the last great American sitcom.

This is yet another example why...

Max Clarke said...

One of my favorite moments from Cheers, I know the poem by heart. A couple of years ago in Berkeley, I met a restaurant employee named Mischa. I taught him that poem.

One reason for the brilliance of Cheers, the writers didn't think their audience was dumb. They often made references to literature or philosophy. For example, the episode when Sumner returned, and Sam read War And Peace to appear smart at a dinner with Diane and Sumner. Even if the audience or viewers at home didn't know the references, they appreciated the context and delivery, and being included.

Dan Karenina said...

Julia - hmmm? Would have been interesting to see her as Diane. Did the powers think of her when it came time to replace Diane, or did she bear too much of a physical resemblance to D?

That WAR & PEACE episode was so cool, I still recall Sam yelling, "There's a MOVIE??????"

Harold X said...

Just got a note from CBS: Would be funnier with the word 'vagina' in there somewhere

Tom Quigley said...
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Tom Quigley said...

One of the moments in the early days of CHEERS that kept me coming back and watching.

Ken, a related question: Since Julia Duffy was considered at one point to play the role of Diane in the series, was this episode and/or part written for her in recognition of her talent and a sort of compensation for her not getting the part?

Anonymous said...

It would be on HBO. Network tv? Not a chance.

Pam aka sisterzip7

Jim said...

Was that in any way inspired by Lubitsch's opening to Design For Living where Gary Cooper, Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins start speaking to each other in French? And French that is pretty well comprehensible to the monoglot.

Brendan D. said...

In a similar vein, there's a Cheers' episode where Sam wants to show Diane that he's capable of reading serious fiction... and borrows a first edition copy of "The Sun Also Rises" by Hemingway from Diane. The next day, he brings in the book --- which is swollen and destroyed. Sam explains he had been reading it in the bathtub when he realized what was wrong with Jake Barnes, the main character: he was impotent due to a war wound. And Sam was so stunned he dropped the book in the tub!

Katherine @ Grass Stains said...

To this day, I think Diane Chambers was one of the most well-written characters on television. She would have been so easy to hate in so many ways, but she was written in such a way that it was easy to find yourself loving her in spite of yourself. Which I guess is precisely what happened to Sam, too. "Cheers" will forever be a favorite!

Dbenson said...

"At least this year we eat."

That specific line was a moment when I wondered why the studio audience wasn't laughing as loud as I was.

An (is my actual name) said...

You've got to start taking stock of your life when you out-nerd Diane. This is one of those scenes that will forever set Cheers apart from the rest of the pack. On another note, Julia Duffy's great, but the episode makes abundantly clear why Shelley Long was the only choice for Diane.

Barry Traylor said...

Lovely scene! Wonderful piece of writing and it makes want to seek that episode out again.

Uncle Bobbo said...

Just starting laughing out loud- "at least this year we eat"!

Keith said...
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Keith said...

Hilarious. Seems like you just finished watching "Love and Death" before writing this.

Charles said...

I still recite that poem as a prime example of Russian literature.

RockGolf said...

Sounds like Russian poetry and Irish folksongs have a lot in common.

Charles H. Bryan said...

I never really thought about the scene indicator "INT. BAR – DAY". At my favorite bars, you really couldn't tell "INT. BAR – DAY" from "INT. BAR – NIGHT". The worst part was staggering out into "EXT. SIDEWALK - BLINDINGLY BRIGHT DAY".

Mike said...

Mischa the dog, lies dead in the bog,
The village used all of his carcass,
To the butcher the meat, to the tailor the hide,
Musicians took his balls for maracas.

chalmers said...

Sam runner-up Fred Dryer also got a few consolation guest spots and was hilarious.

Casting Duffy would have also forced some adjustments or led to unintentional physical humor as Ted Danson towered over her.

In the end, both actresses were funny for several years in roles that were suited for them. And Peter Scolari was a much better physical match with Duffy.

Matt Tauber said...

And this got laughs? Where's the vagina joke?

Joel said...

Julia - hmmm? Would have been interesting to see her as Diane. Did the powers think of her when it came time to replace Diane, or did she bear too much of a physical resemblance to D?

By the time Shelley Long left Cheers, Julia Duffy was co-starring on Newhart as heiress turned chambermaid Stephanie.

chuckcd said...

Yes, the dumbing down of America would not allow this.

Intelligent shows or dialogue are only for blogs apparently.