Thursday, March 12, 2009

The FRASIER episode NBC didn't see until it was on the air

Hello from Spring Training in Arizona. Here is a Friday FRASIER question by anonymous. Again, please leave your name. Honestly, no one will stone you if they don’t like your question. Thanks.
In Season 2 of Frasier, you and David wrote a two-parter where Lillith and Frasier end up taking their new beaus to the same romantic hiding spot. Were those episodes designed to bring Bebe back as a special guest star or was that a moment of inspiration that just happened in the writing?

That story stemmed from a real life incident. One of the writers used to work on a different show. At the end of a long grueling season he and his girlfriend took off for Bora Bora. It required several flights, a boat, and a bus to get to this incredibly remote resort. They arrive in their room, unpack, and this writer goes out to the balcony to enjoy the view. And who is on the very next balcony? The show runner he traveled 10,000 miles to forget. We knew we were going to use Bebe again that season so this seemed like a perfect story. Frasier finally finds a woman he really likes. They go to the end of the earth and there’s Lilith.

And always looking to top ourselves we thought, wouldn’t it be funny if he goes back to Bora Bora at the end of the show and there’s Diane on the next balcony? Obviously, that would have been too coincidental so we did it as a dream. He is back in Bora Bora but this time with Niles. But that twist (that you’d never see coming) was just too delicious to resist.

Shelley Long was contacted and agreed to do it. But we all really wanted to preserve the surprise. So she was brought in during a rehearsal day and that scene was shot in secrecy. On filming night the joke was that Niles was Frasier’s companion instead of a woman.

The producers were concerned that if NBC knew about Diane’s cameo they would promo it and spoil the surprise. So they did something rather amazing.

They didn’t tell the network.

They delivered the episode without the Diane snippet. And then on the day it was scheduled to air they said, “Oh, we needed to fix something, here’s the version we want you to air instead.” No one thought anything of it and so the first time NBC learned of this was when they saw it on the air. I’m not sure a show could get away with that today but it was sure fun at the time.

Of all the FRASIER episodes we wrote that one is one of my favorites.


Anonymous said...

That was a great episode.
Reminds me of the surprise from the series finale of Newhart. too. It was nice of Suzanne and Shelley to oblige. It's the sort of iconic TV moment that is, unfortunately, so rare amid so much forgettable TV.

And wow do I miss Niles.

Anonymous said...

Adventures in Paradise is a fantastic episode. Frasier's bed scene alone is enough to make it a classic. This episode also contains one of the best of the cheesiest Frasier lines ever delivered! "Put down that mango my dear! It's time to taste the forbidden fruit!"

Great stuff in that one! And I'm quite glad the Diane bit was included as it just adds a cherry on top of a perfect sundae!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing that you were able to sneak Ms Long by The Powers That Be for this episode!
Kudos all around.
You're right about any show being able to get away with that kind of a surpirse these days ...
except, maybe, Liza Minnelli on SNL

Anonymous said...

Congratulations both on that episode and defeating the $#&*%@s at NBC.

Anonymous said... Daffy Duck might say, devilishly clever. That's a great story (and a great episode). And you're right, it probably wouldn't be able to happen today. There are too many spies, too many Internet rumors. It's kind of a shame, really. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it's made it increasingly difficult to get those kind of "surprise" TV moments, unless of course the show is done live.

Unknown said...

Its amazing you posted this the same night George Clooney appears on ER and it wasn't promoed at all. B/C of tv writers like Ausiello (sp) it got leaked but the first time he appeared for Julianne Margulies last episode the producers snuck it past the network.

Anonymous said...

Response to Mike:

Your name is really Reuben, ISN'T IT!?

It's what I heard, anyway., Naynesh

Max Clarke said...

Great story, never heard it. Given the circumstances, that was about the equivalent of preserving the "Luke, I am your father" surprise.

Bebe/Liluth emerged as one of my favorites from Cheers, but she's been left off all of the covers and other artwork for the DVD seasons. I just hope they didn't decide to treat her the way they got rid of Eddie LeBec. She was great to watch, a great sense of timing and a beautiful voice.

Michael Brownlee said...

What's funny is, I always thought that episode was inspired by the Noel Coward play "Private Lives" - where two divorced couples get remarried, go on their honeymoon and discover they've picked the same hotel.

It's fantastic that it actually happened to one of the writers.

Art imitates life that imitates art that imitates life.

Anonymous said...

Great story. The writers' strike should have held out for control over promos and coming-attraction clips. I don't know how many good jokes and surprises have been blown by over-eager and not-terribly-bright publicity people using them in ads.

Did they cut Eddie LeBec out of the Cheers DVDs? I'm waiting for the box set. Not a show-changing character, but he was involved in some great set-ups for Carla, like when Anthony knocked up his wife (they never followed through on Grandma Carla, did they?)

Nat G said...

I remember when that first aired, that final reveal hit hard... both in the moment, and then with the lingering thought that "they got this actress to come back to a part that she walked away from at the peak of success... for five seconds." The effort that went into that was regonizable.

(And any time Bebe was on a treat was anticipated; the episodes that proved a disappointment were more than made up for by her better episodes.)

I'm still surprised NBC didn't follow up Frasier with a Roz series. I think she could've handled it.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I had a similar experience that involved the nude beach down in San Clemente. My office window was near the entrance to the building, and an unattractive but friendly guy would pass by, get my attention, and attempt to flirt.

I managed to avoid him until one day, lo-and-behold, there he was, one blanket behind me on that beach, both of us buck naked.

Anonymous said...

This is all quite lovely, but let's not lose sight of something far more important: the rather epic way in which Bebe Neuwirth fills out a black tank swimsuit.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of submitting a question about network promos spoiling surprises. Glad to know at least once someone avoided it.

Rob said...

I love this episode. Didn't realize it was yours.

Penh said...

As a fanatical hater of spoilers and the inept dolts who cut together surprise-ruining promos, I am adding you to my pantheon of Ultimate Heroes.

Anonymous said...

Friday Question: What do you think of dramatic/comedic internet series? Are there any you've watched/any you've liked? More specifically, how do you feel about the writing? Are there any you think compare to what's on TV? Any strong feelings either way about them?

Forgive me if you've written about this before!

Anonymous said...

Jim said:

Did they cut Eddie LeBec out of the Cheers DVDs? I'm waiting for the box set. Not a show-changing character, but he was involved in some great set-ups for Carla, like when Anthony knocked up his wife (they never followed through on Grandma Carla, did they?)

No, Eddie isn't cut out of the Cheers DVDs. I'm not sure what Max Clark meant when he said that he hoped they didn't get rid of Bebe/Lilith the same way they got rid of Eddie LeBec. Eddie was run over by a Zamboni. Since Lilith appears throughout the Frasier series, it's obvious she wasn't run over by a Zamboni!

Nat G said...

Well, that would explain her iciness!

(Verification word: bedis. A formal statement of lack of respect. "The king bedissed the financial "news" network for their flashy graphics and empty statements.")

Max Clarke said...


Ken Levine has written about the way the actor who played Eddie Lebec was written out of Cheers. He had appeared on a talk show and said some things about his Cheers wife, Carla/Rhea Perlman. Forget the details, but he was not complimentary about the way she kissed, something like that. Soon after the radio show, Eddie Lebec was killed off.

There's never been a photo of Liluth/Bebe on any of the DVD covers, and I don't think she appears inside either. Makes me wonder if this was a message. I thought she was great.

Anonymous said...

Huh - I have an Internet-related question too. What do you think of the effects immediate fan feedback via the Internet can have on a show's story arcs and direction? Sometimes I think shows make a mistake by not listening to the fans, and sometimes they make one by catering to them. Your thoughts?

BTW, thanks for these segments. It's great to hear about making TV from someone who's been through the trenches.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Max. I hadn't heard that story about Jay Thomas.

I'm still a little unclear though as to why you might think Bebe felt slighted or unhappy since she did appear in several episodes of Frasier including 2 in S10 and 1 in S11.

I'm pretty certain Lilith isn't on the DVD covers because she wasn't a regular on Frasier. And even though she was listed as a regular in the credits of Cheers, she really wasn't an every episode regular.

The only season of Frasier that has someone other than Frasier, Niles, Martin, Roz and Daphne on the cover is S6 and Bulldog is on the cover of that season.

Max Clarke said...


Good points, guess I'm looking too closely at the photos. Sort of the way people in the State Department looked at photos of Communist leaders during the Cold War, trying to figure out which leaders were headed up, and which ones had been demoted because they were now in the far back right.

I don't have a tv, so I've seen very few Frasier episodes, good to see Bebe made some appearances there.

The story about Jay Thomas can probably still be found on Ken's back posts.

Anonymous said...

Max, if you get the chance some of the best Frasier episodes are those that have Bebe as the guest star. The Show Where Lilith Comes Back, Adventures in Paradise and Room Service are abosolute classics. (and I'm not just saying that because they are all written by Ken and David!)

Max Clarke said...

Thanks Jayne.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to this party.

It occurs to me that the set-up for this Lilith FRASIER-2-parter, a great episode, is also very similar to act 1 of Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES, where ex-spouses Eliot and Amanda find they are honeymooning next door to each other, with an adjoining balcony.

Of course, Coward takes them on a very different journey, since Eliot and Amanda exist to get back together, though theirs is never to be a placid relationship.

It's a great classic romantic comedy set-up.

Anonymous said...

I did this one :

You can start and stop as much as you want, and it remembers where you left off, and you can retake the quizzes as much as you want until you get a high enough score to move on.

Rob said...

Guess what was on TV tonight? Part 2 of this episode. Who plays Lilith's boyfriend? 24's own Bill Buchanon.

And oh my does she look good in that swimsuit.

Forpe -- The way Jim Thorpe's unfortunate brother with the speech impediment says his last name.