Thursday, August 31, 2006

The CHEERS Bar Wars

I get a lot of questions about the “Bar Wars” episodes of CHEERS that my partner, David Isaacs and I wrote. So here are the FAQ’s.


Did we purposely plan for the Cheers gang to lose every time?

Yes. Except for the last one. Frustration is much funnier than victory. The trick however, was to find different ways for them to lose – or screw themselves. Guess I grew up watching too many Road Runner cartoons.

What about the last Bar Wars in the final season?

Ultimately, we decided to not only let Cheers win but to demolish Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern once and for all. We’re nothing if not vengeful. Trivia note: That is the only episode of CHEERS that I appear in. I’m sitting at the bar in an early scene.

Who played Gary?

The answer is: which time? We had two actors who played Gary, in no particular order. The first time the character appeared, Joe Polis played him in a 1985 episode called “From Beer to Eternity”. When we wrote the first Bar Wars episode Joe wasn’t available. It was the very end of the season. We had no other scripts so we just had to recast. Robert Desiderio became Gary. For Bar Wars II we went back to Joe Polis and used him one other time. Otherwise, it was Robert Desiderio. Confusing? I don’t understand why we did it either. Hopefully this mystery will be tackled in the sequel to the DA VINCI CODE.

What is your favorite Bar Wars episode?

Bar Wars V. My partner came up with this idea. Sam’s prank kills Gary. Or at least that’s what Sam thinks. If you can’t get laughs with a man digging up a grave you’re not a comedy writer.

What is your least favorite Bar Wars episode?

Bar Wars VI. The gang thinks a wise guy buys Gary’s bar so a prank unleashes the Mafia after them. We were reaching. And sometimes too clever for our own good. In Bar Wars II, there’s a Bloody Mary contest. We had a number of twists and turns, and after turning in the script, the staff added a few more. By the end I think there were maybe six too many. It was the BIG SLEEP of Bar Wars episodes – no one alive can tell you exactly what happened.

Was it hard to plot these episodes?

Yes. Very. These episodes were a bitch to conceive and then hard to write because there was always so much story. By nature, exposition and set ups are not inherently funny and entertaining. We had to pull a lot of jokes out of nowhere.

What was your favorite gag?

Filling Rebecca’s office with sheep. That’s the power of being a writer. You come up with a goofy idea. And voila, there are fifty sheep being herded onto the set. I’m sure the guy who came up with snakes on the plane had the same heady feeling.

There are some Bar Wars type episodes not called Bar Wars. How come?

Those were episodes not originally designed to be bar wars but evolved into them. Or they were competitions not practical joke wars, per se. In other words, I dunno. I’m still trying to figure out BAR WARS II.

And finally, are you that diabolical?

Let’s just say I hope you’re not allergic to sheep.


Anonymous said...

Writing scripts that are basically variations on a theme, like the Bar Wars shows, can be either heaven or hell. Hell if you're good and if you're ambitious enough to want to create something fresh and different while still being faithful to your core premise. Heaven if you're lazy and content with rubber stamp comedy

Turnerov said...

I have to say, I absolutely love Bar Wars VI. When Sam calls the rest of the gang on the payphone and says, "Gotcha," I lost it. Sam laughing fit to kill as he tells the story to Frasier, and commenting that he had to take out a loan to pay for the whole thing is one of those priceless TV moments I'll never forget.

By Ken Levine said...

The toughest part of writing these scripts was trying to come up with completely different stories each time. One thing I can say with pride, no two Bar Wars episodes are the same, or even similar. I wish a couple of them were better but that's different.

Anonymous said...

Well, moi gotta/gets a huge kick outta everyone sayin'

The "Gary" tïngy got a lill'
spÒÓky, methinks, after a bit.
That wasn't some kind of a
Venus Butterfly fury thing, was it?

Stay on Groovin' Safari,"


HEY! That "Anonymous" 'tis by moi.

Stay on Groovin' (WTF) Safari,
TOR Hershman


+ G

Anonymous said...

Loved the one bit in the episode where Sam thinks his prank has killed Gary, when, at Cheers after the funeral service, Sam, who is finally convinced Gary is really dead, offers a toast to him, calling him a "good friend and a worthy rival," then muses "Wish I'd said that at the funeral," to which Frasier remarks "It certainly would have been more appropriate than 'You can come out of there now, Gary.'"...

Still laughing!

Anonymous said...

The funniest one is the very first one, where Cheers bowls against Gary's and Diane saves the day.

Carla: "Bowlers don't sweat, Diane."

Diane: "They do if they're wearing tweed!"

I also like the first one with Rebecca (the sheep) as well as the bloody Mary one.

Anonymous said...

I look through the episode guides on the various websites, TVGuide, MSN, etc... and there is a Bar Wars III and V, but no Bar Wars IV. Was there one?

Big Jim said...

I notice there is no answer for why none of the episodes ended up with the missing title of Bar Wars IV. I kept thinking my complete box set was incomplete through the missing title. Thank you for the Rebecca years Mr Levine. Great sitcom material. I was so glad when that rash of a character Diane left the show.

Anonymous said...

I have all the bar wars saved on my dvr.the bar wars are my favorite cheers shows. I wish they used harry the hat more.he was great in all of them.from season one on down to the last season 11. He really made the show special! Gary was good as well. Loved the one where they played basketball and the last one was great as well. I watch cheers every day. Its my favorite show

Vidor said...

Who played Tawny in "From Beer to Eternity?"