Thursday, May 01, 2014

May Day (Malone)


With this being May Day, I thought I’d focus today’s post on Sam “Mayday” Malone (not that I haven’t mentioned him 46 times already this year).

First off, as I’m sure you know, I greatly admire Ted Danson, both as a person and an actor. So I’ll skip the two paragraphs of fawning that would otherwise go with this profile.

Some things you may know; some you may not.

As originally conceived by the Charles Brothers, Sam Malone was a former football player for the Patriots. Fred Dryer was more who they had in mind. And he was a finalist for the role (along with William Devane).

Ted however, was so charming and there was such chemistry with Shelley Long that they decided to cast him instead. But Ted as a football bruiser is only slightly more believable than me as an NFL lineman so they made Sam a baseball player instead.

The supposed photo of Sam in uniform at the bar was really Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg.

To prepare for the role Ted went to bartending school.

Over the course of eleven years he must’ve cut up 18,000,000 lemons. Actors always like to have some “business;” something to do. The obvious thing for him would be to make drinks all the time, but then the waitresses would have to get them, deliver them to tables, etc. Cutting lemons was an activity that required no further logistics. (I jokingly used to say that Sam should sell the bar and become a sushi chef.)

Ted really struggled finding the character in the first season because in real life he’s so unlike Sam Malone. He’s not a womanizer, not a jock, not vain, and not a recovering alcoholic. The fact that he appears so convincing and so effortless is a real testament to just how excellent an actor he is. (Again, jokingly, I used say it was okay if he wanted to model the character after me.) 

Over the course of the series Sam became dumber, a decision that offered more room for comedy, but I never liked it. Most characters grow and evolve over time. Personally, my favorite version of Sam Malone was the one in the pilot.

Ted never threw his weight around as the star. One day the Charles Brothers, Jimmy Burrows, David and I, our line producer and editor were in Les’ office going over a roughcut. Ted wandered in and sat down. Glen hit pause, Les politely told Ted that actors were not allowed to sit in on editing, and Ted apologized and ducked out. I can think of ten other stars who would have reacted quite differently.

Ted was always protective of the other cast members, guest cast, and extras. Oh wait. I said I wouldn’t fawn.

Ted never watched the show when it was on the air. He felt he would be too self-critical and would tinker with his performance – possibly ruining it.  Years after CHEERS ended Ted finally began watching, and guess what? He really liked it.

How accurate is testing? In one of the later seasons Sam’s arc was that he was trying to get Rebecca into bed. We had him do some of the most horrible deceitful things. Audience testing came back and Ted ranked the highest. He was most likeable – seen as a father figure to everyone at the bar. What show were they watching? (Meanwhile, Frasier tested the worst.)

Ted rarely complained about the material. And when he did, he was always respectful. And most always right.

CHEERS ended after eleven seasons because Ted decided he no longer wanted to do the show. Many blame Whoopi Goldberg (his girlfriend at the time). They felt she swayed his decision. I think he left for another reason. I’ve never discussed this with him, but my feeling is he knew that at a certain age the character would border on sad. The slick player might seem very charming in his 30’s but a little pathetic in his 40’s. I think he left because he was protecting Sam Malone.

A few years later, he reprised the character on FRASIER – an episode my partner David Isaacs and I wrote – and we tried to address that by getting him engaged. Ultimately, the wedding was called off, but we wanted to convey that Sam was aware of his situation and was actively trying to move on. Even with that, I still got the sense Ted was somewhat uncomfortable playing Sam Malone again.

BECKER was a spec script written by Dave Hackel. The main reasons why Ted responded to it was (a) it was very well written, and (b) the character was so unlike Sam. Ted wanted to distance himself from Sam and play something very different and age-appropriate. For that I give him so much credit. How many sitcom stars have you seen who continue to play essentially the same character in series after series, even after they’ve long since outgrown that character? (Who remembers LIFE WITH LUCY?)

And finally, Ted truly found his soulmate in Mary Steenburgen. If ever there was a perfect match it’s those two. Sam & Diane could only dream of such a marriage.

Happy May Day. 

61 comments:

Stoney said...

The only time I thought the Sam character ever strayed from his true nature was the episode in which the bar caught fire due to Rebecca Howe's discarded cigarette. Sam's reaction was so un-Sam! It just didn't work for me. Otherwise it was a character for the ages.

Being in recovery myself I always thought it was a big stretch that Sam could maintain sobriety in the environment he was in. (The first split with Diane being the exception.) But "Cheers" was never a show that would delve into heavy issues like that. (It wasn't M*A*S*H for darn sure.) Sam did not seem to be a "friend of Bill W." He had his own program. Just lucky he didn't crack up like Jack Torrance in "The Shining".

You write about Mr. D. being protective of guests in the cast. I remember hearing Tom Skerritt on The Larry King Show years ago saying he would never have done the Evan Drake role for anyone else because Ted was such a good friend.

Scooter Schechtman said...

There's an AA proverb about going to bars that says "if you hang out in a barbershop, sooner or later you're going to get a haircut."
But Sam's hair was always perfect.

ed.j. said...

I remember stumbling across the first episode of Bored To Death and being delighted that T.D. would be cool enough to take on a role like the George Christopher character.
Watching him and Zak Galifinakis (if that is his real name) sit in a car and get stoned before trying to rescue the Jason Schwartzman character still has me rolling on the floor.I kept watching just to see how ridiculous T.D.'s character could get. How cool for an actor with such a rep to deal with such broad comedy. Just visually him and Zack side by side was enough to get me snorting.

Jeff said...

I had the pleasure of riding on a flight from LAX to Memphis with Ted, Mary and their daughter. Ted rode with the daughter and Mary ended up sitting next to me. It was a wonderful flight full of lots of interesting conversation (that she started) about all kinds of topics, including their acting/celebrity. By happenstance, I ended up on the same plane back to LAX with them and sat next to Mary again. Easily my favorite celebrity meet-up.

SkippyMom said...

Becker is probably one of my favorite sitcoms, ever. I could, at least, rank it in my top 3.

I didn't watch it because of who was cast, but came to love the character of Dr. Becker the most. Well written and just a joy to watch.

We met Mr. Danson and his wife at the White House for Hillary Clinton's private birthday party. They were sitting below the stage, where we were, and were keeping company with Chelsea. It was nice to see that they were an extension of the Clinton family and were there not for "star power", but were invited simply as very close friends.

Since the party was private, and everyone knew of the relationship with the first family, there wasn't any fawning or autograph seeking - just a nice relaxing time. They couldn't have been more gracious and kind when they came up to us. We didn't approach them...just for a short chat.

They are very very nice folk, as my Grandma used to say. Thanks for confirming, again, what I was fortunate enough to see first hand.

Stoney said...

Off-topic for a Friday Question (speaking of comedy shows and heavy issues.)

Would you ever dare to attempt a sitcom about the bad behaving Mayor of a major Canadian city or the bad behaving owner of a pro sports team?

kenju said...

He has always been one of my favorites and I am glad to know that he was nothing like Sam in real life.

HikenFan said...

Friday Question:

I've been reading a lot of multicamera scripts, and often see the transition "RESET TO" at the end of a scene.

I understand CUT TO and DISSOLVE TO, but what is actually being "reset" when this transition is used?

Tim W. said...

It's really hard to blame someone for wanting to leave a show after 11 years. That's a LONG time. My feeling is that it's acceptable for a star to leave after five years, and understandable after seven. I figure anything less than five years is being inconsiderate to the people who make the show, the crew and the fans. Not sure why I can up with that theory, but there you have it.

So Ted more than did his part on Cheers.

George said...

Ted not a jock? In his teens he was once basketball season started. In fact basketball overshadowed everything during the season. Not a womanizer? At 18? I couldn't possibly comment on that.

Phillip B said...

First became aware of Ted Danson when he had a supporting role in "Body Heat" and basically jumped off the screen. Seemed natural that he'd wind up as a lead in a series....

Canda said...

Interesting what you said about Sam getting dumber during the series..by choice of the Producers.

Generally, when the original creators leave a show, the main character often gets dumber, but the Charles Brothers remained with the show throughout, didn't they?

I guess because you always had a "dumb" co-bartender, Sam didn't seem as dumb.

Frankly, Diane leaving, and bringing in
Kirstie Alley, helped the show run 11 seasons. I don't think you could have done that with Sam/Diane only.

Cat said...

Happy May Day!

Someone (perhaps it was you, Ken!) said Ted was a character actor stuck in a leading man's body. I've been a fan of Cheers since I was 12, and frankly, partly because of Ted. He's great, especially in season one. He makes Sam a real person and not just dumb ex-jock. Still disappointed he didn't win an Emmy for season one. He deserved it.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Stoney: I agree that Sam's reaction was somewhat out of character, but I do think that a trauma of that magnitude might well push someone WAY out of character. He rebounded pretty quickly -- I always loved the ending, when Rebecca calls him on his meanness, and he knows enough to simply say, "Want your job back?"

On Danson in general: anybody ever see him in the 1989 comedy movie Cousins? He was really good in that. It's one of my favorite movies from that time period, actually.

benson said...

I'm very sorry. I know this is very anal but it's Jim Lonborg.

Aaron Sheckley said...

I concur with you, Ken; I never liked the conscious decision that Sam be made dumber as the series progressed (in much the same way I disliked it when Rebecca went from a Type A businesswoman to a scatterbrained idiot) Characters should change and grow based on the experiences that happen to them on the show, but I can't think of too many life experiences that make you more stupid. Dumbing down a character that didn't start out that way always strikes me as a writer's cheat, in the same vein as adding a baby when the writers run out of ideas.

Victor Velasco said...

Pre "Cheers", Ted had a great role as the truly awful hairdresser on "Taxi" who ruined Elaine Nardo's hair' jeez, the hate he generated; great actor

Lauren said...

Kelly, I love Cousins too!! Great movie with Ted and Isabella Rosselini. I worked on Becker as a guest actor and I was absolutely floored by how kind and generous Ted is. It was one of my favorite jobs. Everyone was wonderful and kind, but Ted really went out of his way and I will never forget it.

Tom said...

in the same vein as adding a baby when the writers run out of ideas

Yes, and a season later the "baby" is six-years-old and spewing wiser-than-his-years zingers and one-liners like he was raised in the Catskills.

Richard Arnott said...

So proud of my love for Cheers and it's cast/crew and everyone involved in it. Played such an important part of my life.

Named my son Sam in honor of Ted Danson's portrayal of my favorite character of all time.

He's just turned 14 months old and dances to the theme tune whenever he hears it ;)

Mike in Seattle said...

I second the recommendation for BORED TO DEATH. Ted is brilliant as the stoner man who loved women publisher and mentor to Jason Schwartzman's Jonathan Ames character. He had so many great scenes with Jason, Mary, Zack, Patton Oswalt, et al. What fun that character must have been.

Here is a NY Times article about the character.

Cap'n Bob said...

Thanks a heap, SlippyMom. All these years I've admired Ted Danson and now you reveal he's friends with the Clintons. I hope I can get the taste of that out of my throat.

Cap'n Bob said...

Correction, SkippyMom.

chalmers said...


I still use one of his Taxi lines when he mocked Elaine for being angry at the disastrous hairdo he concocted for her, "Joan of Arc did less whining at the stake."

Your eloquent words on how Ted Danson has aged so gracefully reminds me that a fictional sitcom star who hasn't aged gracefully is reportedly coming back---Valerie Cherish!

Ken, if you watched, what were your impressions of "The Comeback?"



Cat said...

I agree with the Bored to Death recommendations, it is a well-made, funny, sweet show. The chemistry with the three main actors is amazing. I hope the movie script is almost done.

Chris said...

Friday question: in a bar/restaurant scene, who choreographs the extras, especially if you have 40 of them? Do they just move freely or does someone tell them what to do? Sometimes in bar scenes, some of them take their jackets and exit, who decides that?

Johnny Walker said...

Perfectly timed post for me. I'm currently re-watching CHEERS and am loving it. I'm actually finding it better the second time around. Season one really is just amazing -- the Sam/Diane relationship was perfect.

I've been keenly watching Sam's IQ, given the frequent complaints about his dumbing down, and Sam was always the butt of jokes about his smarts. In the second season Diane challenges Sam to name a single piece of art. Cliffy and Norm wager wether he can do it or not. Sam's answer is: "Michaelangleo's two guys touching".

Maybe those moments were just highlighting his complete lack of education, though, rather than actually being dumb. I guess I'll find out for myself when I get to the later seasons.

Anyways, what a wonderful show. It must be gratifying for everyone who worked on CHEERS to know you helped bring so much joy into people's lives.

Johnny Walker said...

Cheers Friday questions:

- I noticed that Coach's last appearance on the show was during a teaser. I know sometimes teasers were moved around, and I was wondering who wrote that one. (Assuming it came from an earlier episode.) It gave me goosebumps when it faded to silence instead of laughter. It felt very fitting and sad. I'm guessing that after Nicholas Colasanto's passing the (rejected?) opening suddenly felt very apt.

- There's a couple of times when the actor's mouth doesn't match their lines. (I think Season two's finale had one such occurrence with Coach. A season four episode seemed to change Norm's euphemism for breasts.) Why did lines sometimes get changed after filming? Was it the need for a new joke, or did S&P sometimes get cold feet?

- Is it true that the yellow Geronimo poster, seen most prominently when Sam and Carla discuss Coach in a rare scene set at the back of Cheers, was taken from Nicholas Colasanto's dressing room? It's always nice seeing it in the background -- at least assuming the story is true.

- In the fantastic season 5 opener, where Diane ends up in the harbour after declining Sam's proposal, I've always wondered: Where was that shot? It looks like it was shot on location, but the perfect sound and lighting, as well as the multi camera setup, make it look like a set... but it looks far too good to be a set!

Thanks, Ken.

D. McEwan said...

I certainly remember Life With Lucy. When it was casting, I asked my agent to put me up for "The Gale Gordon-type character," as I was sure there'd be one, I did those sorts of roles well, and I was in my late 30s, so a good age for it. Imagine my shock when they said the "Gale Gordon-type role" was going to be played by Gale Gordon. I'd thought he was dead. He was what? 200 by then?

It was stupifying to watch these ancient mummies doing what was funny back when they weren't being performed by survivors of Ancient Mesopotamia. The only thing I can compare it to was when I saw The Three Stooges perform live back in 1961. They worked without sound effects. Without sound effects, they were just three very old men hitting each other.

We generally referred to the short-lived disaster as Afterlife With Lucy.

"Cap'n Bob said...
Thanks a heap, S[k]ippyMom. All these years I've admired Ted Danson and now you reveal he's friends with the Clintons. I hope I can get the taste of that out of my throat."


Life must be difficult for you, Cap'n, if everytime a good person turns out to be a Liberal plunges you into a depression, not to mention every time someone Satanically evil turns out to be an arch-conservative. You must be miserable 100% of the time.

Maybe if you left the Empire of Evil and came into the light with the enlightened progressives, you'd stop being deeply disappointed every single day.

Stephen Robinson said...

It was a surprise to learn that Sam was not a Red Sox player from the start. Boston, the Sox, the relationship with New York and the Yankees, it defines Cheers.

I also wonder if there's something to the theory that an awful human being but a great actor can convincingly play a saint (some might put Cliff Huxtable in this group) but only a great person with great talent can play a seriously flawed character and have us love him or at least continue to tune in. Sam Malone, Alex P. Keaton, Barney Stintson, Dr. House...

Tallulah Morehead said...

I adored Cheers! Bartenders do God's Work.

All TV shows should be set in bars. Where the hell do you think I watch them?

Tom Simmons said...

Fantastic story Ken. Loved Cheers. It's timeless.

Lee said...

D. McEwan -- I was young when Life with Lucy had its mercifully short run, and as a child whose favorite TV show, old or new, was I Love Lucy I remember being appalled and depressed by it, and that I stopped watching after the first couple of shows aired. I'd have rather watched Here's Lucy, and that's saying something.

Many of Ball's more avid fans have been upset that Life with Lucy hasn't appeared on DVD. Why in the world they would want to see it again, I cannot imagine. Ball's children, bless their protective hearts, have so far refused to agree to a home video release of the series, apparently believing no good could come of having the handful of shows that were completed out there again.

In brighter Lucy news, CBS is releasing I Love Lucy, Season 1, on Blu-Ray next week, along with the "Classic 39" Honeymooners and season one of The Andy Griffith Show. Maybe they'll get around to Cheers in that format.

DBenson said...

Seeing some similarities to "The Office" (American version). Early on it was all about the manager from hell and a love story. A mob of undefined characters filled the room.

In time the manager was softened; the romance was gently faded into background; and the secondary characters were fleshed out and moved front like Cheers's barflies.

And while Michael Scott didn't lose any IQ points (is that possible?) the accountant Kevin descended into Baby Huey territory as the writers began exploiting the actor's character voice.

Mike Barer said...

Jim Lonborg, i believe he was the first Cy Young award winner when Major League baseball began award one in each league, rather than one over all. I remember him from the first World Series that I watched on TV, Boston vs St Louis in 1867, so it strikes a note with me.

Cap'n Bob said...

You presume too much, Doug. I'm not depressed because people are liberals. I just can't abide the Clintons and it's sad to think Danson is intimate with them. Interpret that any way you choose. And for your information, I'm not a rabid conservative. Nyahhh!

Hoverbored said...

Dear Ken, here's a Friday Question for you.

Garry Marshall mentioned that the "Happy Days" writing staff ranged in age from their 20's to their 70's, and that he consciously paired up young and old writers because the difference in viewpoints enhanced the quality of the writing. Putting aside that most working writers these days are not that old, do you feel that having writers with clashing viewpoints improves the quality of scripts? Thank you, Joseph M.

P.S.: I'm attempting to write a spec script and decided to start over from the outline. I hit a wall after completing more or less the first act. I think I know what went wrong. The outline I wrote was more like an outline to a prose essay, which is succinct and very bare-bones. I had planned out the basic plot points, but not much in terms of dialogue or specific actions.

What are called outlines to scripts are more like tentative first drafts. Pre-writing at that level of detail is no doubt intended to benefit the final product. Another important aspect of outlines I didn't pick up on is that it's intended to map out the script for third parties (networks, collaborators, etc.).

As most of my experience is in writing prose essays, the hardest part of scriptwriting thus far has been struggling with the nuts and bolts of the format. To be honest, I was wondering if I was even cut out for scriptwriting. An insecure writer? Heaven forbid!

What is the point of this, you might be wondering? Writing one's struggles is a key method of coping with them. The real question is, how do you apply this to screenwriting?

Kosmo13 said...

The subjects brought up in this thread make me wonder if the "Ink" series is available for viewing.

Francis Dollarhyde said...

Johnny Walker: "I've been keenly watching Sam's IQ, given the frequent complaints about his dumbing down, and Sam was always the butt of jokes about his smarts."

I don't think Sam was all that dumb in the earlier seasons. Sure, he was no academic, but he was running a bar, so he had to have some street smarts - plus, he obviously had a sharp wit. I think Diane berated Sam for his supposed stupidity mainly because she needed to convince herself that he was no good for her, and Sam often played up his "idiocy" to needle her. But in the post-Diane seasons, it seems like Sam became less nuanced and more legitimately dumb.

Ken, your point about Ted feeling that Sam was becoming less funny and more sad with age reminds me of why, in my opinion, the last episode of "Cheers" made a huge mistake by not letting Sam and Diane end up together. It seemed to me that, as the show hit its home stretch, you guys were taking Sam down a peg, making it clear to viewers that his lothario lifestyle was more piteous than hilarious (exemplified by Sam's realization that he was a sex addict and his seeking therapy for it).

But after Diane returns and Sam tells the others that he's going to LA with her, everyone turns on him, and Carla calls him "a traitor." Everyone gets on Sam's case for effectively putting his own happiness over theirs. But...they all have someone to go to when the bar is closed. Carla has her kids. Woody has Kelly. Norm has Vera. Cliff has his mother. Frasier has Lilith and Frederick. Sam has no one. When he snaps and tells the others that he's not their mother, he's RIGHT. Watching the show now, it's staggering how selfish everyone is to Sam. When Sam and Diane subsequently break up (again), and Sam returns to the bar, it's supposed to be an uplifting epiphany when Sam realizes the bar is his one true love. Which is a poetic ending, but also desperately sad, and a real about-face from where Sam's character had been heading, as if the producers had changed their mind. (And sure, Sam and Diane HAD driven each other crazy the previous times they were an item - but the passage of years, and their aimless lives in the interim, meant that they wouldn't necessarily have been a bad fit had they gotten together later. And Sam's engagement in the "Frasier" episode he guested in meant he obviously DID need more than just the bar.)

ScottyB said...

Maybe it's just me, but as the seasons went on and Sam Malone got "dumber", I always thought Ted Danson started playing Sam smarter -- like there was a huge life joke that only Sam "got", and coming off as a doofus was a great cover. But underneath it, he was pretty fuckin' smart and understood -- and related to -- those around him, and played that up, given the material from the writers. And for me, that was a major testament to Ted Danson's talent as an actor.

ScottyB said...

Y'know, if you consider it long enough, if anyone was seriously "dumbed down" as the seasons progressed, it was Rebecca, not Sam. When Sam got stupider, it was because he was following his dick. Rebecca simply turned into a self-absorbed rocket sled of everyday head-mess.

ScottyB said...

Escaping everyone's notice here is that in later seasons, Woody actually started becoming "smarter", especially after Kelly became entrenched in the story arc. He still retained a bit of his Indiana-bumpkin charm if it served a punch line, but there was still a basic elevation about him. I understand that every TV sitcom character needs some sort of development, but it just seemed unbecoming of Woody to a degree that scraped off some of the original charm of the show for me.

It made me appreciate the simpler days of 'Cheers' writing when Nick Tortelli (Dan Hedaya -- yet ANOTHER awesome actor) would show up. Now *that* shit was gut-laugh funny.

Anonymous said...

He's brilliant in the first season of Damages too, and plays a character wildly different from Sam Malone.

Paul said...

Ted Danson did what very few can do with a character who is largely behaving as a jerk in jerky ways: he made you love the guy. This is one of the immediate things which turns me off a show or a character, when a line that was probably funny in abstract, is just obnoxious when put in the mouth of an actor. That line is tough to walk and Danson almost always nailed it.

Becker was a funny show with some strong performances and I loved Bored To Death but man alive the greatest comedy thing that Ted has done outside of Cheers has to be Curb Your Enthusiasm. So self-involved, so not down to earth, so pompous and the perfect thorn in Larry David's side!

Johnny Walker said...

Francis: Very interesting take on the final moments of Cheers. I know the writers were trying to say that Sam (and everyone else at Cheers) appreciated their friendships as much as the audience loved them, but it never quite worked for me, and I think you nailed why.

And they were also trying to say, "your favourite characters will live on as you remember them", rather than give an ending to Sam's story (or anyone's) that a large part of the audience doesn't like. Sitcom Finales are very tricky things.

Not sure I agree with the idea that lack of Sam's smarts was Diane's invention to make herself feel better. We're talking about the guy who drank the finger bowl, thinking it was "lemon soup". But, as you say, maybe "dumb" isn't the right word -- just someone who had zero interest in anything cerebral.

Mike said...

Mentioning how you disagreed with the dumbing-down of Sam makes me think of a Friday question. Say you write for a show in season one or season two. Then you go back several seasons later to write a script or two, only the show's handling of certain characters is different than it used to be. (Lots of sitcoms dumb down certain characters in later seasons; I agree, I think it's because they feel it's easier to mine the comedy, but it just feels like a....cheat.) Obviously, being a professional, you write the character the way he/she is now, if only for continuity's sake, but a part of you must really want to write the character the way he/she used to be, no?

Francis Dollarhyde said...

Johnny: "...maybe "dumb" isn't the right word -- just someone who had zero interest in anything cerebral."

Early Sam was lazy, in a sense. He was king of the castle, he was running a successful business, his patrons loved him, his friends worshipped him, he could pick up women effortlessly...he was complacent. Then Diane came to Cheers and shook things up, and Sam's attempts to pursue him landed him in places and situations he was ill-equipped for. And when you're out of your comfort zone, you're going to say and do things that make you look stupid. (And Sam LOVED Diane in a way he didn't feel for his previous conquests, and let's not forget, love can make you act like a doofus).

Obviously Sam could be dense about a lot of things, but he could be pretty sharp too (for example - the first episode in which Sumner came back, when it's obvious to Sam, but not Diane, that Sumner is trying to win Diane back. Even Sumner concedes that Sam is more perceptive than he gave him credit).

Also re: my take on the final episode, I believe Frasier was the only person who thought Sam and Diane getting back together would be bad for Sam and Diane. Everyone else was opposed to them being back together because they didn't want Sam to go away.

Johnny Walker said...

Francis, yep I think you summed it up perfectly. Sam was complacent and lazy, not actually "dumb". He had zero interest in Diane's world, or indeed anything outside of his own limited sphere of women and sports. Diane came along and shook that up. Yep, perfectly summed up!

Stephen Robinson said...

I don't think Sam was lazy or complacent. He enjoyed running the bar and being the former sports celebrity. And, yes, his celebrity was fading but that was a factor of age to which he was already aware.

Diane, meanwhile, lacked Sam's ability to read people and was too focused on what she should be than on who she was at the time (on TAXI, she would have fit in as the pompous Columbia post-grad).

I 'm glad CHEERS didn't end with the two of them together because for me, the show was about Sam and the bar. I don't think that's sad. Sam was the head of his own community, the "mayor" of a place where everyone knows your name. The 70 yr old Malone could be running Cheers and be happy. His growth was in moving past his Lothario-ness, which was what we saw in the final few episodes.

My theory about the change in Sam in the Diane and Rebecca eras was that Sam had lost Diane and his bar all while closing in on 40. I think that might explain his desire to embrace a cartoonish image of himself, but I thought that ended once he got the bar back.

Donnie said...

(Who remembers LIFE WITH LUCY?)

I don't. I hadn't been born yet. Can you come up with examples from this century?

D. McEwan said...

"Donnie said...
(Who remembers LIFE WITH LUCY?)

I don't. I hadn't been born yet. Can you come up with examples from this century?"


We're only 14 years into this century. Are you 14? Here's a better idea: Learn about stuff that is older than you are. Your ignorance is not an entitlement.

D. McEwan said...

"Cap'n Bob said...
You presume too much, Doug. I'm not depressed because people are liberals. I just can't abide the Clintons..."


Man, you're going to find America from 2016 to 2124 really depressing.

Donnie said...

Your ignorance is not an entitlement.

Said an old guy.

RCP said...

Hey Donnie: Believe it or not, the world was spinning before you came on board, and it's going to keep spinning after you're gone - I hope you can adjust.

Evan said...

I think I can guess why, but is there a reason why actors were not allowed to sit in on the editing process? And is this a universal rule in the business?

While Danson was graceful about it, part of me can understand why an actor might at least want input into something that can have such a huge impact on how a character comes across.

Of course, I can also see how if all the actors were allowed in the room it could turn into a food fight.

Did I just answer my own question? :)

Marco said...

Great post! And if there's one last thing to say then the fact that people (many,many!) still enjoy Cheers all these years later and still young people discovering it in re-runs and love it, too shows how great that show was.

When I look at my list of favourite sitcoms it's Cheers, Frasier, Becker and Seinfeld.

I like Big Bang Theory, Two and a half men or HIMYM ... but I never cared about characters in these shows that much - something I wondered about and guess it has to do with the writing to some degree.

Donnie said...

To RCP -- Once I'm not in it any longer, the world can implode for all I care.

chuckcd said...

But in Hollywood men in their 50's look like they are in their 30's...

Richard said...

Sam Malone is my favorite character of all time, spanning TV, movies, books and the like. Thanks for helping shape him!

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http://www.pickingupwhitegirls.blogspot.ca/

Kiri Blakeley said...

This is an old thread and it doesn't look like Ken Levine answers any questions, but I just wanted to put my two cents in about Ted Danson. I was a Cheers fan from way back (seasons 1-5) and just started rematching it on Amazon Prime. I actually can't watch anything else right now and keep playing the same episodes over and over! I think it has taken this long for me to truly appreciate Ted Danson, whose role was less showy than Shelley Long's or even Nicolas Colasanto's. One thing I'm noticing about him this time around is how physically connected he makes himself to Shelley Long's character at all times - he's either giving her some sort of mysterious look, touching her hand, touching her waist, touching her shoulder, or just leaning into her. He would do this at times when there was no real need to do it and I think this accounts for a lot of their characters' chemistry, they just seem constantly connected, whether or not they are even having a scene together.

Additionally, the way he bounces around her when he's trying to get her into bed - well, I don't think any woman could resist that amount of 'please please PLEEEEEASE' body language. He really plays horny better than anyone I can think of.

I also prefer the charming and uneducated but natively intelligent version of Sam Malone in season 1, and to some extent seasons 2 and 3. I don't know why he got to be such a goober. Diane would have never been attracted to someone who was actually unintelligent instead of someone who was essentially smart but just had more low brow tastes than she did. I mean, no one who is truly dumb could have come up with his witty comebacks.

And thank you Mr. Levine for the amazing writing!! What an amazing thing to have put something like this out in the world...