Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Inside story on the CHEERS "Jeopardy" episode

Sometimes a Friday question requires its own post. And someone other than me answering it. Dan O'Shannon and his partner Tom Anderson wrote the Jeopardy episode of CHEERS. When a blog reader asked about it I sought out Dan for the answer.

Dan O'Shannon became a show runner on CHEERS, FRASIER, and currently is executive producing MODERN FAMILY. Many thanks to Dan for writing back and writing the episode in the first place. If he ever writes a blog and someone asks a question about MANNEQUIN 2 I'm happy to return the favor.

From Ed:

I loved the Cliff blows the Jeopardy show ep. I'm curious as to how much back and forth there may have been amongst all y'all in deciding categories and what questions would be asked - and most especially, the Final Jeopardy question. Any anecdotes would be much appreciated.

The idea of Cliff trying out for Jeopardy started with Tom Anderson. It was the B story in our spec script, which eventually got us on the show. (Cheers, not Jeopardy). Once it was decided to use the story in an episode, we needed to expand what we had.

As we pitched on it in the room, I came up with the notion to fill the board with Cliff's dream categories. I'd scribbled down four or five possible examples, like "bar trivia" and ending with "celibacy." Once the idea was pitched, we batted categories around the room, which was great fun. I remember us all shouting out ideas and laughing like crazy.

The final Jeopardy question came from something I'd observed back when I was doing stand-up. Anyone could win all the money on Jeopardy every night if they wanted, because for each answer given on the show, there are an infinite number of technically correct questions. The final exchange (the names of the three celebrities, and "who are three people who have never been in my kitchen") came directly from that.

PS -- I like to think that a young Ken Jennings caught my act in Warren, Ohio in 1983 and now owes me -- at the very least -- a big thank you.



Paul said...

Here's the clip:


David said...

Ken, don't be so hard on yourself. I like Mannequin 2 (Electric Boogaloo.) At least the mannequin in this one actually looked like the actress. Plus, it had William Ragsdale. How can you not like William Ragsdale? He was Herman's Head!

D. McEwan said...

None of those people have ever been in my home either. I should get a lovely parting gift at the very least.

Unknown said...

Wow it seems like yesterday we did that show!!!! It was a great one!


Roger Owen Green said...

I was on JEOPARDY! once and I was so nervous, I never got a chance to use that Clavin line! Nuts!

Rockgolf said...

Dan is of course exaggerating for comic effect, because he's completely wrong about there being an infinite number of technically correct questions for every answer in Jeopardy!

The one thing that hit a false note on the Cheers/Jeopardy episode was the simply awful wording of the Final Jeopardy answer. There's just no way any FJ would be worded so obliquely.

Most Jeopardy clues are stated so that a specific piece of information is required, usually identified by the keyword "this" which Alex usually stresses when reading the question.

I know this sounds picky, and I truly enjoyed this episode, but that bad clue took me out of suspended disbelief as much as a sports fan would complain if Sam Malone talked about the time he scored touchdowns in both halves of a double-header.

Dan, if you're reading this, I have two consolations. 1) The "Racial Sensitivities" ep of Better Off Ted you exec produced was the funniest thing I've seen on TV, well, probably ever. 2) I've written to Ken Jennings and have asked him to let you know.

Tee Baxter said...

"Racial Sensitivity" might be the funniest single episode of a sitcom I've ever seen.

I showed it to my girlfriend, and she saw Dan's name on the credits and remarked that she wasn't surprised it was so good. She's long been a Dan O'Shannon fan and even interviewed him for the magazine she works for. She adores him.

Rock Golf said...

Here's what Ken Jennings had to say on your article:

"Ha! I guess I'm not sure I understand the final joke. Is he suggesting that watching Cheers as a kid made me try out for Jeopardy? Because, uh, watching Jeopardy as a kid made me try out for Jeopardy.

But I also remembering seeing that Cheers when it first aired, so he's half right."


Max Clarke said...

That was a good episode, I usually have doubts when one tv show participates in another, but it worked quite well.

The movie Groundhog Day also featured Jeopardy, when Bill Murray gets all the answers to the questions about rivers and lakes, sometimes before they're asked.

Another Cheers episode similar to Jeopardy was "Here's Cliffie!" and its appearance by Johnny Carson.

Anonymous said...

I remember shooting that episode & what fun it was to go to the Jeopardy set . Andy Ackerman directed and gave me some good shots.

Anonymous said...

I was actually on Jeopardy a bit after the Cheers episode. People backstage were still talking about it.

Rock Golf said...

Yeah, Ricky123, that doesn't sound anything like a phishing site.

A propos WV: bilose, as Bye! You lose!

Anonymous said...


How about the Hall of Fame vote?

Will The Hawk go in as a Cub or an Expo? If he goes as an Expo, will be whine about it as much as the Kid did?

Any why the hate among voters for the second best leadoff man of all time? Do baseball journalists all have Montreal?

Tod Hunter said...

I was working on "Jeopardy!" at the time and I still wonder why the sequences on the "Jeopardy!" set were shot on film. We were set up for tape. The category cards would have been more visible.

We never saw it till air, they cleared the stage. Funny payoff, though.


Download Jeopardy said...

Jeopardy is one of my favorite show.The host of this show is impressive.The whole plot of this show is fantastic.

cblakelym said...

Does anyone know which Cheers episode at the beginning has a member of the Boston Symphony come in to get a beer while he's counting rests and either Norm or Cliff gets him befuddled to the point he runs out of the bar and back to Symphony Hall before he has to come back in?


Molester hater said...

It's a first season episode and Diane confuses him by counting back his change. Might be the Diane/Carla 'open grave' ep.