Saturday, September 12, 2020

Weekend Post

One of the biggest laughs we ever got on CHEERS was taken out when the show aired. Not that big laughs are so easy to get that it’s no big whoop to just toss one, but in this case we felt it ruined the show. Here’s the backstory.

First season. The episode was called “The Coach’s Daughter” (written by Ken Estin and directed by James Burrows). From the title you can probably get the gist of what the show was about. The Coach’s somewhat plain daughter introduces her fiancĂ© to her dad and the gang at Cheers and he’s a real boorish lout. (He sold flame retarded reversible suits and yet he wasn’t reputable.)

Sidenote: The actor who played him was Phillip Charles MacKenzie. For the first two days we had someone else and he just didn’t work out. The trouble was finding someone really funny but still likeable enough that you didn’t storm the stage. Funny/obnoxious is not easy to pull off. And it had to be someone who could step in and be up to speed almost immediately. My partner and I had used Phillip in a pilot we created. He was great. I felt worse for him than us that NBC passed on it for PINK LADY AND JEFF. So he was our suggestion and he made us look good. In later years Phillip became a director and we used him often on ALMOST PERFECT. End of sidenote, and no I’m not going to say who the actor was that got fired.

Late in the episode there’s a lovely scene where the Coach has a heart-to-heart with his daughter, Lisa in Sam’s office. It’s clear to everyone (but the Coach of course) that she’s marrying this clown, Roy out of insecurity not love. Lisa tells her dad that Roy thinks she’s beautiful. The Coach says, “You are beautiful. You look just like your mother.” It was meant to touch Lisa’s heart.

We were holding our breaths hoping it didn’t get a big gooey “Awwwwwwww!” Instead it got this thunderous laugh. Applause even. Everyone on the stage was stunned. We shot the scene again, thinking this time they’ll see it differently. Nope. Huge laugh the SECOND time.

Still, when we assembled the show we all felt it hurt the scene and ultimately the story. Kudos to the Charles Brothers for being willing to lift the episode’s biggest laugh to preserve the emotional core of the show.

Sometimes jokes can also sacrifice the integrity of your characters -- make them too stupid, too insensitive, etc. When that even becomes a borderline call my vote is to dump the joke. Same with jokes of questionable taste. Take the high road.

As hard as it is to write big jokes, it's always much harder to discard them. But the rewards are greater and you'll like yourself in the morning.

25 comments :

1955david said...

I just finished listening to cheers podcast. It was wonderful and over to soon. Thank you

tavm said...

A few more things worth noting: That daughter was played Allyce Beasley who shot that ep while "Taxi" was filming it's final season at another Paramount stage. At that same time, "Taxi" had Vincent Schavelli (I know I'm probably spelling that last name wrong) as a guest star playing a translater to the marriage counselor for Latka and Simka. It seemed he and Allyce met that day and eventually got married. (That marriage didn't last long, unfortunately.) Anyway, a few years after that "Cheers" appearance, Allyce was cast as Ms. Dipesto-the rhyming receptionist on "Moonlighting". Also, this ep eventually was repeated in 1985 days after Nicholas Colosanto's passing and it began with Ted Danson's voiceover over Colosanto's picture saying "This episode of "Cheers" is lovingly dedicated in memory of Nick Colosanto..."

tavm said...

Correction: Vincent actually played the marriage counselor.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think that line got such a huge laugh? Is it just that it's something dads always say?

Mike said...

I think the audience was just conditioned to laugh and they were laughing at the thought of the unattractive mother.

Good call on removing the laugh. This is such a great episode. I do remember the dedication to Nick Colasanto that night after he passed away, and it was memorable because NBC showed his picture at the top of the show, with a moment of silence before Ted Danson’s voiceover. Classy.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

It's clear why 'Coach's Daughter" was chosen to memorialize Nicholas Colasanto--that scene was his finest moment on "Cheers."

The Charles Brothers, of course, were right to remove the laugh.

DJ said...

You did the right thing. I remember that scene and it made me cry. Coach could only see beauty and that was that. It really tore at my heart strings.

Anonymous said...

Just watched the "Swan Song" episode of Columbo with Johnny Cash - one of the best. The Man in Black was a great villain, Ida Lupino was tremendous, so was John Dehner, and it had one of the best endings.
Johnny is a country/religious singer and his engineer is an unseen man named Nick Solacanto.
The episode was directed by Nick Colasanto.

tavm said...

One more correction: Ms. Beasley was also in that "Taxi" ep, as the women stuck in the cab in the blizzard who Latka makes love to to help keep warm.

Canadian Dude said...

One of the most moving, beautiful scenes in any sitcom or drama, for that matter, that I have ever seen. Lisa's realization of just how much Coach loved his late wife and that she deserves to find a man like her father always makes me tear up.

There's a moment in another episode that springs to mind - Diane's telling Sam that she's heartbroken because her family cat has died and she wasn't able to be there for it. He tries to hide the fact he's brushing away a tear, and the crowd laughs. I always wondered why they kept that laugh in. To relieve the tension of the scene, perhaps?

Frank Beans said...

It seems from this and the CHEERS podcast from the other day, that there was tons of good judgment all around, from the producers, writers, actors and directors. The series could have easily gone haywire without it.

And oh man, if it had been Fred Dryer instead of Ted Danson...

Troy McClure said...

I haven't seen Allyce Beasley in something in ages. I just looked up her imdb and it's nice to see she's never stopped working. In fact, she did a few episodes of Bored to Death with Ted Danson, a show I've been meaning to get round to watching.

Colin Stratton said...

Everytime I read your post about that episode, I take notice. My interpretation is that the audience was not conditioned to take the Coach serious. He was a character in the beginning to be a buffoon. But thanks to the writers, he was able to grow. I wonder if he was laughed at in later episodes inappropriately, such as his romance with Irene, or when Sam fell of the wagon? Regardless, he was the sweetest character on the show, and perhaps the only one who waa not a loveable loser.

Lemuel said...

"You don't get Pennsylvania and you don't get me!"

Tudor Queen said...

"Coach's Daughter" is actually one of my very favorite episodes of "Cheers." The way Coach loves his daughter so openly and unconditionally is how every daughter - and son - wants to be loved. That scene in the office is perfect. Just as his daughter is about to respond that "And Mom wasn't pretty, and neither am I," she realizes not only how much she would hurt her father, but how she can't now settle for anything less than a man who loves her the way Coach loved - and still loves - her late mother. So she shifts mid-sentence to say "And Mom was never comfortable about her beauty." To which Coach says, "That only made her more beautiful."

I'm misting up just remembering it. That episode was one of Nicholas Colasanto's finest hours.

Troy McClure said...

I didn't see Almost Perfect, but looking through the cast list, I see that the heavenly Talia Balsam was in it. Ken, is she as nice as she is beautiful?

Mike said...

That beautiful scene - with Lisa not being able to say to her father that her mother wasn’t pretty - is one of the reasons I loved the early days of “Cheers”. They weren’t afraid to toss in a heartfelt scene. Think of the episode where Sam worries about getting older and tries to beat Woody in various physical contests, and it ends with him quietly looking out a window, accepting his mortality. Or “Dance, Diane, Dance”, which ends with Diane wistfully looking at a dance troupe as she leaves the stage, her dreams of dancing over. I don’t remember scenes like this during the Kirstie Alley era.

Liggie said...

On your side note. I remember Phillip Charles MacKenzie on Showtime's "Brothers", where one of the title siblings was gay (then a groundbreaking subject for TV). MacKenzie played the flamboyantly gay friend Donald, and hit the broad comic antics while also dialing it back on occasional serious moments. I also remember him guesting on "WKRP" and having regular roles in short-lived early '90s sitcoms, one with Heather Locklear and Alan Ruck, another with Alison LaPlaca.

Jay Thurber Show said...

I always thought Allyce Beasley was a cutie on "Moonlighting." I'm mystified why anyone thought that was supposed to be a laugh line.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0064015/mediaviewer/rm2271791360

Shrill1 said...

Fyi Ken, I've been checking out this morning radio show parody podcast. As a former DJ, you might enjoy it. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/97-9-the-rat-race/id1472256949

Michael said...

Not only did Phillip Charles MacKenzie star in a series with Alison LaPlaca, he ended up marrying her and they are still together after 28 years. The series they starred in, OPEN HOUSE, was a spin-off of a series called DUET. It was unusual in that Alison started out as a supporting actress on DUET and Mary Page Keller was one of the stars, but in OPEN HOUSE, their roles were reversed - Alison was the star and Mary Page was a supporting actress. I've always wondered how Mary Page felt about that.

Ericka said...

And then-little-known Ellen DeGeneres was a supporting character on Open House, too.

Mark said...

The only thing I don’t like about Allyce Beasley is that I don’t know if her name is pronounced like “Alice” or like “Elise”.

ScarletNumber said...

@tavm

> Vincent Schavelli (I know I'm probably spelling that last name wrong)

If it makes you feel better, you also misspelled Colasanto and translator.

@Troy McClure

Considering Talia was married to George Clooney AND John Slattery, you are in good company.

---

To everyone else: I think they were wrong to take out the laugh. There is a reason that line was funny, and I'm sure Allyce made peace with her appearance years ago

Eric Lyden said...

"To everyone else: I think they were wrong to take out the laugh. There is a reason that line was funny, and I'm sure Allyce made peace with her appearance years ago"

But outside of the realm of TV she's a perfectly attractive woman. Not drop dead gorgeous, but not "How could this unfortunate looking woman ever possibly find someone to love them?" either.