Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CHEERS amnesia

In the spring of 1982 I got a call from James Burrows. He and the Charles Brothers were going to do a show for NBC that fall called CHEERS and wondered if we wanted to produce it. At first I thought, “A show about cheerleaders? YEAH!” then was told it was about a bar in Boston. Oh.

Still. We had never met the Charles Brothers but were huge admirers from their days at MTM and on TAXI. And Jimmy was (and is) television’s best comedy director. Plus, at the time we were in the middle of a development deal with Lorimar, a company known from producing DALLAS and no comedies (a fact we should have realized before taking the deal) and we used to joke that our current careers would make a perfect upcoming episode of IN SEARCH OF… starring Leonard Nimoy.

A meeting was set between us and Glen & Les Charles. That was at 11. At 2 my wife and I had an appointment for her to take a sonogram. She was pregnant and we had just learned there was a good chance it was twins. The sonogram would tell us for sure.

So we meet Glen & Les. They tell us about the show. At the time no one had been cast. There was just a first draft. Sam was still a former football player. They discussed their vision, how they like to work, how we would fit in, etc. We asked questions, they provided answers. The meeting lasted about an hour.

I went to the hospital. The sonogram was performed and we learned there were no twins. Just one boy (Matt, now blogmaster of DIRTYWATAH.COM and great kid). I was relieved. David then called with the good news that the Charles Brothers wanted us to come aboard. I said great and then something occurred to me. I said, “David, what happened in the meeting?” All through our time with the Charles Brothers all I could think of was how am I going to manage two babies, two car seats, two strollers? I literally have no recollection at all of what was discussed that day with Glen & Les. Fortunately I must’ve nodded at all the right times and never interrupted either of them by blurting out, “Shit!! When am I gonna sleep with two infants?”

But I was thrilled that we got the job. And then went home to read the script to see what I had agreed to. Boy, am I glad it was good.

By the way, the final season of CHEERS is out on DVD. It contains one of my favorite Levine & Isaacs' episodes, "Loathe and Marriage" and one of my favorite lines. Nick Tortelli: "Women! Ain't it enough we sleep with 'em?"


Anonymous said...

Loath and Marriage is one of my favorite episodes of the the whole series. Carla's speech to Serafina, the wedding dress, the steak knives, and the long-awaited and glorious return of Nick Tortelli. "HUGO! MY BELOVED!!"

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Opportunity who?

"I didn't ask!"

Yes, I am a Cheers geek fanboy. And proud of it.

Anonymous said...

Is the savings bonds PSA episode ever gonna be released on DVD or see the light of day?

Anonymous said...

and just to satisfy my curiosity and confirm my geekitude, am I right that one of Carla's kids, the fifth kid with Nick that she tried to pass off as Marshall's, had no name? Anthony, Serfina, Gino, Anne Marie, Noname, Ludlow, and the Lebec twins Jesse and Elvis.

Anybody know Noname's name?

Anonymous said...

If you ever need a Cheers dialog fix, try this:


Anonymous said...

The final season of Cheers contains 2 of my favorite episodes. Alas, neither one of them was written by Ken! (The Girl in the Plastic Bubble and Is There a Doctor in the Howe)

I do like Loathe and Marriage though. The steak knives crack me up.

And I'm racking my brain trying to recall if Carla ever mentioned that other kid's name. I sure don't remember it. Lud and Gino were always my favorite of Carla's kids.

MrCarlson said...

From the last season I liked "The little match girl", which is the one where Rebecca sets the bar on fire, though, I must say, I expected the "new and improved" bar to have a set renovation after that fire, but, the next week all seemed well in tv land. It's just that, if you're gonna burn it down, you should take the oportunity to renew its look. Another good one is "Woody gets an election", because it guest stars Peri Gilpin just before she joined Frasier, and it is one of the few last year's episode to be Woody centric. It's amazing that, at 11 years the show seemed to still have life in it for at least a couple more seasons. Is it too selfish of me to want it to continue, even after almost 300 shows? it sure is a testement to the work those guys did. Plus, there's no other place where you can have Al Rosen scream Sinatra, and nobody even cares, it's just business as usual. He's also probably the only guy that can mime an old man holding a drink, without the glass even being there. As for Levine-Isaacs episodes I always loved the bar wars ones, but the jeoperdy episode is also very funny, and "I on sports" would be worth it, even if it was just Sam doing the Groin Injury rap. That IS comedy gold.

Anonymous said...

Ken... I am aware the Charles Brothers, financially, no longer need to work -- but do you know WHY they choose to no longer work? They're so talented, it's really quite a shame.

Anonymous said...

Plus, there's no other place where you can have Al Rosen scream Sinatra, and nobody even cares,

Fantastic moment. John Mahoney is another great Frasier preview in the last season.

"How 'bout you be Sy Lembeck and I'll be the annoying broad."

MrCarlson said...

And speaking of last season episodes, there's also the one where we find out that Sam wears a toupé. While I love Ted Danson for allowing the writers to do a show where he finally admitted to it, after years of speculation in the press regarding when he actually started to wear one, the comedy premise of it felt a bit weak. Perhaps it was because it centered more around Paul than any other show. There's also a very good one called Sunday Dinner, where Frasier dates his assistant. The funniest thing about that episode though, is Norm and Cliff's storyline. They have to videotape a birthday celebration with an empty camera. So the family arrives, and people who haven't seen each other in years start kissing and tearing up, and making promises of eternal love, and you just see them backing away from the bar like "we're going to jail Norm, open the door", and they run.

Anonymous said...

The best part about the episode where Sam reveals his "hair replacement system" (It's Lonely On the Top) is actually the aftermath of Carla's drink concoction! (I Know My Redeemer Liveth). Woody's hangover cure just cracks me up. Put on your p.j.s, take two aspirin with a cold glass of water then vomit 'til your nose bleeds and heave until you see the angels!

Tim W. said...

“Shit!! When am I gonna sleep with two infants?”

Careful, Ken, you're likely to get an x-rating again with comments like that.

And I'm assuming if it was twins, this post would be about how blessed you were to become the father of twins.

Tom Quigley said...

I think sitcom fans the world over will be forever indebted to the producers, writing staff and cast of CHEERS for bringing us one of the great and enduring shows of all time.

As another "How he got started" anecdote: John Ratzenberger's wife told me the story (while she was buying an area rug from me at the May Company in North Hollywood, where I worked when I first got to L.A. -- seems I met quite a few celebs there -- and sold a few rugs to them), of how David Angell ended up getting a job on the show after he and his wife had nearly made the decision to leave Hollywood and go back east to Rhode Island because he didn't feel he was making progress, and money was getting tight. The chance to house-sit a place in Westwood for the summer kept them there just long enough for David to end up being hired as a writer, and the rest, as they say, is sitcom history....

For me, the one chance I had to visit and actually stand on the CHEERS set will rank up there for experiences with climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, standing in the Roman Coloseum, and camping in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.

Anonymous said...

This was nice.

But you made a ton o' dough for the Bull & Finch, has your son ever wandered down to 84 Beacon and received so much as a complimentary burger?

Anonymous said...

I'm working my way through the season 11 DVD set at the moment. Great episodes -- I'd forgotten how good. Haven't gotten to Loath and Marriage yet, but am looking forward to it.

One of the things (one of the MANY things) I've enjoyed about viewing the DVDs is getting to know the incidental characters like Al, Paul, Phil (is he Rhea's dad?), Steve, Pete, Alan, etc. I never realized how consistently they were in the episodes the first time I watched them when they aired. That "Sinatra" line by Al always cracks me up... It seemed to have the cast almost in stitches too... was that ad libbed or something?

Kirk said...

There was a ST ELSEWHERE episode (which took place in Boston) where three of that shows doctors go to the CHEERS bar and meet Carla, Norm and Cliff. While that episode was credited to some ELSEWHERE writers, was that particular scene written, uncredited, by you and David? Whoever wrote it seemed to really know the characters.

Anonymous said...

Hm, this entry prompts me to ask an early Friday question: As a then father-to-be, did you ever mention out loud the ultrasound you would be attending a couple hours later that you were freaking out about to distraction during the meeting? I ask because, well, if you had been a female writer who wasn't just attending your spouse's ultrasound that day but having it yourself, would you have had to mention it to your prospective employers? (Risking dampening their interest in hiring you.) You've obviously worked with many high-profile, successful female writers in your career, presumably some of which have managed to procreate in their downtime. Any insight of theirs you can share on how they would have--or actually have--handled a similar writing/producing job interview situation?

Karen from Mentor said...

Hey Ken,
I got to watch you in action in an archived "Dodger talk" video today.
I'll catch the recap of today's game in a bit with you on TODAY'S Dodger talk.
Must be nice to get to meet your boyhood heros. (or your Dad's boyhood heros...since you were 39 again this year)
You look great and like you couldn't be happier walking down memory lane with these guys.


I hope the Dodgers have a great season so you'll have fun livin the dream. (and in case you have money riding on them.)
Karen :0)

Anonymous said...

Men! Ain't it enough that women do everything for men short of making them truly happy? Someone should have told that hairy ape Nick that marriage is for people who are tired of having sex with each other. *snort* ;-)


PS: I know it's not from the last season, but since it's in my head right now, I want to share:

"Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly/
Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly/ ...
Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly"


DW said...

So why was Sam changed from a football player to a baseball player?

Verification word: Indas. Which, as it happens, is a real data-management company in Canada that my company happens to use.

Anonymous said...

Anybody know Noname's name?

I'm almost sure it was Lucinda or Lucia for short.

Anonymous said...

Kirk Jusko, Ken already told the story about the Cheers/Saint Elsewhere crossover. Here is a link to it.

Kirk said...

Dana, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for providing that link, Dana. Awesome.