Thursday, December 17, 2015
We had a tough time the first year of CHEERS. Looking back, I believe season one was our best year, but at the time you’d never know it. Audiences were hot and cold. And of course, any running gag was completely lost on them. I remember once George Wendt doing a Norm entrance that died. He questioned whether that "entrance" routine was even worth doing. I reminded him that this audience didn’t know it was a running bit, but once the show’s on the air they’ll get it.
By season eleven they applauded the minute he entered and said, “Afternoon, everybody.” Which brings up the flip side of this issue. As hard as it was early on to evoke laughter, that’s how easy it was during the latter years. Once CHEERS became a giant hit then demand for tickets was huge.
And now audiences came primed to love it. They were just thrilled to see their favorite CHEERS characters live and in person. As a result, they laughed at everything. We’d watch the rough cut a week later and say, “What are they laughing at?” Not that there weren’t some great jokes those last few seasons, but they certainly weren’t earned.
And the Norm entrances went through the roof. I always wanted to try an experiment. The idea was vetoed, but this is what I proposed: For one take during the last year when audiences were howling at everything, I wanted to do the following Norm entrance:
NORM: Afternoon, everybody.
WOODY: What would you like, Mr. Peterson?
NORM: A beer.
I seriously believe that in Year Eleven “A beer” would have gotten a monster laugh. That’s what I mean by not earning it.
Like I said, it would have been an experiment and we wouldn’t have used it, but I do wonder how many lines made it through those last few seasons that could have been better? Oh well – I’m sure I paid for it on other shows.