Friday, July 30, 2010

Some things you wanted to know about CHEERS

A theme for today’s Friday questions: CHEERS.

Steve asks a multi-parter:

Many, many shows struggle with the issue of how to keep sexual tension between the leads without alienating fans annoyed with the "when will they do it?"question, or what to do once they finally do it.

All these years later, what's your take on how Cheers handled the Sam & Diane relationship? What do you think would or should have happened if Shelley Long stayed on the show? And what did you think of the Sam and Rebecca relationship? Finally, any general thoughts about how to handle this difficult but common issue?

I think it’s much harder to sustain sexual chemistry now because couples in real life hook up much sooner. It just isn’t real for a TV couple to be playing cat and mouse with each other for two full seasons, or even one. They start to act like grown ups still in Junior High.

I don’t know how the Sam & Diane relationship would have evolved had Shelley remained on the show. I sort of felt we were treading water her last two seasons.

Sam and Rebecca were never meant to have sexual chemistry. But the actual relationship between them kept changing as Rebecca’s character kept changing. At first she was a real martinet. But that didn’t work. Once she became an emotional disaster area then she was comic gold.

One season our arc was that Sam was going to try to get into her pants. For the entire year he resorted to one unconscionable ploy after another.

NBC tested the show that season and Sam tested the highest. Why? Because the audience found him sympathetic, with high morals, and very protective of everyone at the bar. Huh??? What fucking show were THEY watching? Sam did everything but slip her a roofie.

In Splat’s own words:

I have some rather anal questions about the "Cheers is filmed before a live studio audience" announcement.

a) What prompted it?
b) Was there some rule about which actor would introduce each episode?

We were getting complaints from viewers who thought we were leaning on the laugh track too hard. They didn’t believe that the laughs were real (which they were). So the decision was made to tell the viewers that the show was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Of course the complaints continued. People still didn’t believe that the laughs were genuine (which they were).

There was no rule as to which actor voiced it from week to week. They all recorded the disclaimer and the post production guys just rotated them I guess.

Anonymous (please leave a name) wonders…

… if any of the other Cheers writers have blogs/websites or plan on getting them in the future.

Earl Pomerantz has a fabulous blog. Tom Leopold has a website. Rob Long does a weekly commentary on KCRW that is a must. Sam Simon is on Twitter. @simonsam. You might want to follow him. A number of CHEERS scribes have Facebook pages but they’d have to confirm you as a friend. And I’m trying to get my partner to start his own religious cult.

Been falling a little behind on the questions. Will try to sprinkle in a few more question days throughout the next few weeks. So keep ‘em coming. As always, THANKS!

Now tomorrow I'm experimenting. Join me for my blog telethon. It's for a GREAT cause and I've lined up some unbelievable talent. That's tomorrow. Many posts. All day. I better get some sleep now.


samuel.x.killer said...

the two shows this past year with a season long will-they-or-won't-they romance - COMMUNITY and COUGAR TOWN - both had the leads together physically in the last few episodes of the first season though their emotional relationship is still largely undefined. while people may get together sooner, i think it's interesting that now there are so many gray areas in relationships

Annette said...

Ha that's too funny to hear about Sam because I always just feel like Sam is going WAY too far. But because it's Sammy, and television, I just let it slide.

Randy said...

Your screen time on the MASH 30th Anniversary Reunion was an eyeblink. Surely the group of writers shown had more to say than was shown. What did we miss that hit the cutting room floor?

Tom Quigley said...

Whenever I watched CHEERS at home and heard the laughter rolling through the studio and reverberating, I thought that they must have been filming on the largest soundstage in Hollywood... Well, I never did make it to a CHEERS filming but when I finally did get the chance to visit the studio, I couldn't believe how small it was -- maybe the second smallest soundstage I had ever been on! The reverb must have been due to a great extent to the mic placement over the audience and the post production mixing. So while I could tell it was obviously a live audience I was hearing, I always beleved it was much larger than they actually could accomodate. Maybe just another one of the Charles Brothers' attention to detail in keeping the show's level of excellence well above that of other sitcoms?

MrEd said...

"Moonlighting". That show fell apart after they sealed the deal.

Anonymous said...

500: One player hits and the others spread out into a field. Catching a fly ball is worth 100 points, catching it on one hop is worth 50 and catching a grounder scores 25 points. First one to 500 wins and is next to hit. If you go over 500, you start over at zero.

Justim H in MN said...

There was quite a bit of talk about if shows die when a will-they-won't-they couple comes together last year when Pam and Jim got married on the office. It seems like most people think the answer is no. In particular look at these:

What is really important is that the Moonlighting example is false because the show was already dead when they got together. More importantly to the question Ken was asked (and relates to Samuel.x.killer's point)- Sam and Diane first got together at the end of the first season- and the real issue is the longer term emotional arcs.

And I think this is what makes COMMUNITY the interesting case going into season 2 (if you haven't seen Community stop here), as Jeff and Britta did hook up, but in the finale ended with Jeff kissing Annie (which plays into Joel McHale having better chemistry with Alison Brie than Gillian Jacobs). I can only hope that Dan Harmon, who seems to have a grasp of media tropes, uses this set up well.

Annette H said...

Justim H in MN
Yeah, sort of reminds me of Frasier. People think after Niles and Daphne came together it took away from the show, but by that point they also needed to get together.

I wonder how The Office can go on with out Michael Scott?

Anonymous said...

A Friday question for you:

Why don't more TV writers write comic novels? The only one that pops into my head is SHEILA LEVINE IS DEAD AND LIVING IN NEW YORK by Gail Parent, many years ago. I'm sure there are others but why so rare? Doesn't the quick pace of TV dialogue not transfer to the printed page? Is the challenge of the longer form not worth the trouble? Is there too much typing involved?

Max Clarke said...

Ken, what was the first time you got paid for writing something?

Lou H. said...

I imagine you pretty well hash through all the story's bits during the table reads - Cheers, especially, seemed very well polished - but did you ever make any last-minute changes to the script based on the audience reaction at the rehearsal or taping because something you thought would work didn't?

amyp3 said...

I think the pregnancy (and Maddie abruptly marrying a guy she met on the train and the "musical-comedy miscarriage)are what ruined Moonlighting.

Oh, I could go on and on re: the Sam/Diane, Maddie/David, Maggie/Fleischman-type storylines.

I've got a couple of scripts where there are other specific obstacles from the beginning, like Married to Other People (and would be really guilty about adultery). Or she's time Traveling back to college and the college boys are so ... young.

(Those are from two different scripts. Altho' time-traveling adulterers cheating with college kids would work too.)

Unknown said...

Would love to know if any other actors read for the major roles - it's always fun to imagine how they would have created the character (Al Pacino as Han Solo anyone?).

Was Ted Danson considered after his guest role as the hairdresser in Taxi?

How did the outing of Sam's secret wig story come about.... was it met by resistance from Ted Danson?

sophomorecritic said...

I find the relationship between Martin and his two kids on Frasier can be really touching even though they're so different and they often don't get along. In a couple episodes, I've been so moved that I got teary-eyed. So much of the emotional stuff in sitcoms is about the relationships between kids and their parents or kids and other kids.
What made you decide to mine the emotional territory between two adults and their adult dad and did you even have a roadmap (I can't even think of another sitcom that did that)?

Also, part of the fun is that Frasier and Niles are so much different then their dad and they have to find ways to connect to each other in spite of that. In real life, how is the dynamic between the actors, different than the dynamic between the characters. They just might be really good actors but my theory is that John Mahoney is a regular blue collar guy in real life, and David Hyde Pierce and Kelsey Grammar are both a little more refined in their tastes and maybe it's a little bit of their real life personas carrying over to the screen?