Monday, May 16, 2016
The day the CHEERS cast almost killed us
The Charles Brothers introduced this in the pilot – a few minutes away from the story to feature the kind of silly discussion you would normally hear in a bar. “What was the sweatiest movie?” was the topic in the pilot.
So we tried one ourselves when David Isaacs and I wrote our first CHEERS script. “What is the smartest barnyard animal?” It was only about a page but had some good jokes and got solid laughs during the audience filming.
The only problem was that the show came out long. So the first thing that was cut was the Barnyard run. It was superfluous. (In comedy writing circles we call this type of run an “up and back.” It’s funny but leads you nowhere.)
However, since the bit worked we tacked it onto another script about two weeks later. Same story. The actors learned it, rehearsed it, performed it to big laughs, and it got cut for time.
Undaunted, we inserted it into a third script a few weeks after that. By this time the cast was ready to revolt. We couldn’t use the two previous versions because the wardrobe and extras wouldn’t match. I can’t blame the actors. For them it was like GROUNDHOG DAY. But only 400 people in two filmings had seen it. The ultimate goal was to entertain 30,000,000 viewers and it was still new to them.
The actors dutifully performed this bit yet again. This time it aired. It HAD to. If we had killed it again I think there would have been a mutiny.
From time to time you would continue to see these “Bar Talk” runs but way less frequently. We started an S.O.S. file (some other show), and although occasionally we would reprise a bit that was cut for time, most of them (no matter how hilarious) went to the S.O.S. file to die. You can thank the barnyard.