Tuesday, October 02, 2012

My thoughts on the GQ CHEERS article

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of CHEERS, GQ magazine did a lovely piece on the show. It appears in the print edition, but a longer more comprehensive version has been posted online. You can find it here. Written by Brian Rafferty, it’s an oral history of the eleven-year run of the series that my new best friend in the world, Amy Poehler says is “The Best TV Show That’s Ever Been.” I think forty people were interviewed including all of the major principles and me.

Since the article came out late last week I’ve been barraged with requests to comment on it. So if you don't mind yet another CHEERS entry, here are my thoughts:

Brian did the impossible of distilling probably eighty hours of material into one cohesive article. I appreciate how candid some of the participants were. I myself, tried to be as candid and truthful as I could.

There was really very little controversy on CHEERS. So when minor flare-ups occurred they got increased attention. Case in point is Shelley Long. Yes, she could consume a lot of rehearsal time, but that was just her process. And it was because she cared so deeply about getting it right. She’s a very good-hearted person. Trust me, I’ve worked with monsters. I’ve worked with actors who were mean-spirited, unhappy, and took a perverse delight in making everyone else around them unhappy too. That was not Shelley. She asked a lot of questions? And at times it was annoying. But so what? Look at the results. On the screen she was just luminous. She managed to take a character who easily could have come off strident, condescending, and insufferable and made her real, loveable, vulnerable, and funny. With all due respect to the gifted ladies who have won Emmys for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy over the last thirty years, I don’t think any can compare to Shelley Long. This may result in fifty angry comments but I stand by it.

Oh, and Shelley never ever asked that jokes for Kelsey be taken away. First off, that’s not who she is. And secondly, I can’t imagine that being tolerated by Charles/Burrows/Charles. So take it from me -- that never happened.

I thought the article did a stand-up job of describing Kelsey’s problems. He wasn’t Charlie Sheen, he wasn’t Lindsay Lohan.  He took responsibility for his actions and sought to correct them. Brian’s piece kept that in perspective.

I knew of the Kurt Vonnegut quote: “I'd rather have written 'Cheers' than anything I've written” and I’m still floored by it. The man was one of my literary idols. He wrote SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. I wrote JUMPING JERKS. His quote is the greatest compliment I may ever receive.

The part about Nick was very touching. It’s shocking to see the difference in his appearance from the pilot to just three years later. As wonderful as Woody was (and it was a blast writing that character), I still feel the show lost a certain humanity and warmth when Nick died that it never recovered.  Just my opinion.

Damn! I wasn’t on the set the day Prince hung out. Or Moon Unit Zappa.

Here’s what I felt was left out… fully understanding that Brian couldn’t get everything in, and the article (at least the online version) is way longer than most pieces.

On lots of shows, guest stars are treated like non-people. The regular cast won’t even talk to them. Not only did the CHEERS cast make guest actors feel welcome, they got them all gifts at the end of their weeks.  That's how giving and unselfish they were. 

The last five years seemed somewhat truncated in the piece. Don’t forget CHEERS won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series late in its run too. So it’s not just the first few seasons and Sam & Diane.

I wish the article had mentioned initial casting director, the late Steve Kolzak. He did the original casting and I think we can all agree he did a pretty swell job.  Also, we had two remarkable punch-up writers -- Jerry Belson and Bob Ellison.   Many of the best jokes in CHEERS were theirs.

For my money, the best comedy writing team in the history of television is Glen & Les Charles. 

And finally, a lot is made about how sloppy the cast was the last few years (which was true), but I wish someone had mentioned that when they filmed that famous last scene of everyone sitting around the bar late at night – it’s a lengthy piece – everyone knew their lines perfectly. The whole scene was filmed in one take. When they wanted to, when it really mattered, no one performed better or was more profession than the cast of CHEERS.

So all in all, it was a terrific article. And considering the way I dress, it’s hard to believe GQ Magazine would interview me about anything.

Note:  Only 2 more spots remain open for THE SITCOM ROOM.  Here's where you go for details


That Neil Guy said...

I really enjoyed the piece and kept waiting for you to show up in it. When you did, it was oddly like coming across an old friend. Reading this blog the past couple of years, I've become invested in your past triumphs. Strange. So, um, thanks for being a good internet friend who doesn't even know I exist. I wouldn't want it any other way. Can't wait to read more about your past triumphs. And, well, failures. The failures make for some really good stories...

An (is my actual name) said...

Thank you, Ken. As a longtime admirer of Shelley Long, it is wonderful to get further confirmation of what a brilliant actress and good human being she is. Thanks for debunking the nonsense that seems to proliferate around her. One can't help but wonder why after all this time, some feel it's okay to dump on her the way they do. I hate the thought that her strong work ethic and thorough process might have somehow negatively colored her legacy, because she really is a genius and deserves so much better.

I agree that GQ did a great job in compiling and distilling all that info. It was a huge undertaking, resulting in a good long read, and I have no doubt there is still much to be told. I'd love to read what was left out. Seems to me that we need an authoritative unabridged Cheersography...

John said...

I actually think that for a show that ran as long as it did, Cheers maintained its consistency as good or better than any other series, even though in recent years is seems to have become trendy to diss the Kirstie Alley seasons. There are shows I enjoy from the final season just as much or more as some episodes from the first year.

(In fact, comparing it to another show that gets a mention or two on this site -- MASH -- I'd much rather watch Seasons 9, 10 and 11 of "Cheers" than I would the other show, which to me seemed to lose it's focus in its final years about the mix between comedy and drama that made it so successful. "Cheers" never had to worry about a comedy-drama balance, but the plot turns and the new characters introduced to keep the show fresh in the final seasons don't make me reflexively hit the channel changer when they show up on my TV in reruns. In the case of some other long-runners -- like the 11-seasons of "Happy Days" -- by the time you get to Season 5, the new characters are like fingernails on the blackboard).

Birdie said...

Ken, thank you for confirming what my instincts were re Shelley Long were always, but especially after reading the article. In the biz, perfectionist is often a euphemism for bitch, but in her case I think she really was a perfectionist - probably harder on herself than anyone else. Is it weird that the article made me almost sympathize with her? If she was considered a diva because she was invested in her character and preferred to eat lunch in her dressing room, well...what can I say? She didn't throw scripts at the writers and rant and rave, as many others have done. I'm not usually this kind of projectionist, but the dynamic between Long and the rest of the cast seemed to mirror almost exactly that between Diane and the rest of the Cheers gang, especially after Nick died.

I know you are a mensch and don't want to say anything negative, but I gotta say that Rhea Perlman came off like a real bitter B--. 30 years and she still holds a grudge and it's so dramatic that she just "can't go there?" Please. Between that and outright lying over getting Jay Thomas fired over a silly joke he made on a radio show, she left a really bad impression.

SUCH a good read, though! It's so rare to read non - fluff, non- promotional interviews anymore. This was like a breath of fresh air.

JT Anthony said...

One of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog is the integrity you bring to your opinions, especially providing inside accounts of all that is Hollywood.

In this article, it's your defense of Shelley Long, and her "process." She may have been viewed negatively by some or all, but this is how she channeled her talent to give the audience a great character. She shouldn't have to apologize because it worked and was successful for a long time. While there may be other examples of her being a difficult actor--although Hollywood is a bizarre bubble--she was expertly cast and delivered every time.

Kirk said...

Jerry Belson wrote for Cheers? Is this the same Jerry Belson who wrote the movies SMILE and THE END, and who was Garry Marshall's writing partner for awhile? Wow! I don't recall you ever mentioning that before on this blog. If you did, I must have missed it.

Good to know Shelly Long is a nice person, after all. Just seeing that picture of her brought back some warm memories.

Max Clarke said...

That's a beautiful article from GQ, it kept presenting stories and insights I'd never read before.

My favorite line is by Ted Danson on not being a womanizer: If I kissed somebody, I was basically married from that point on.

John Ratzenberger made a good point, the Cheers writers were the last of a generation that admired literature. That's why their stories weren't based upon other tv shows.

Ted Danson's six-year old thought the name of Sam Malone was "Sam Alone." I had always assumed the Charles brothers had picked that name exactly for that reason. Always a stud, and always alone at the end.

Excellent article.

Franco Tamburro said...

I bought the magazine, an insightful read. Your comments here, Ken, are much appreciated.

I had a huge crush on Shelley Long, who embodied one of the most unique and complex female characters in the history of television. Years later I developed a similar crush on Julie Bowen when she starring on "Ed." To now have Shelley play Julie's mother on "Modern Family" is perfect.

To respond to part of the GQ article, I post my own personal top 10 list of favourite episodes;

One For The Road (Finale)
Give Me A Ring Sometime (Pilot)
Diane Chambers Day
It’s Lonely On The Top
The Magnificent Six
The Triangle
The Spy Who Came In For A Cold One
I Do And Adieu
Showdown (Part 2)
An Old Fashioned Wedding.

My favourite Norm joke: "What are you up to,Norm?" "My ideal weight, if I were eleven feeet tall."

Cheers! to "Cheers."

Terry said...

Ken, great article about a great series. It was good to hear your take on it.

I was just watching some of the first episodes of Cheers on Netflix last night and you know a lot of times when you go back and look at the early episodes of a show they aren't quite as good because the show hadn't hit it's stride yet. This was not the case with Cheers. Those early episodes hit the ground running (I still laughed out loud all these years later) and didn't stop for 11 seasons.

gottacook said...

What if Shelley Long's movie career had been more successful? Her leaving Cheers was construed at the time to be a betrayal of sorts - throwing over the show for a chance at a film career - and in retrospect this may still color her reputation, perhaps unfairly. Some of those movies were real stinkers, two of which I saw at the time: Hello Again and Don't Tell Her It's Me, the latter with Steve Guttenberg. She was pretty much done after the well-received Brady Bunch Movie and its sequel, which was made by other hands. (However, while she was still working on Cheers she did have a decent role in a movie I enjoyed: Irreconcilable Differences, which also had a Jerry Belson contribution, the lyrics of the ridiculous song sung by Sharon Stone during the burning of Atlanta.)

Years ago I saw on SNL a sketch in which an audience is trapped in a movie theater and subjected to an endless string of previews of movies mostly starring Shelley Long (and mostly using as a music cue James Brown's "I Feel Good"); it was pretty funny even if at her expense. I've just found a transcript (http://snltranscripts.jt.org/97/97npreviews.phtml).

Kendra said...

Thanks for these reactions. I loved Shelley as Diane. I always wanted to be as cultured as her character.

Every criticism I'd read about her made her sound like the annoying overachiever in class or a meeting when all you wanted to do was get out early. That can be very annoying but not 'evil' and with talents like Long, the work spoke for itself. It was especially heartening to read how much credit Ted gave her.

Steve Zeoli said...

Being only someone who watched from this side of the tube (or flat screen), I totally agree with your assessment of Shelley Long. I've watched Cheers over and over several times on DVD and I am constantly amazed at what a fantastic actor she is. Sometimes I watch her when she isn't the center of the scene, and she nevertheless brings something genuine to the screen, whether its showing amusement for what another actor says, sharing sympathy or whatever. Great, great actress. As much as the series lost when Coach was no longer behind the bar, I still think it lost even more when Diane was not waiting on tables.

Oh, yes, I agree with Amy Phoeler.

Mike S. said...

Great GQ article on "Cheers." I was a fan from day one (1982), in part because it came before "Hill Street Blues" on Thursday nights. But once I arrived, I stayed--faithfully--for all 11 seasons. There may be other sitcoms that are better in certain respects, but "Cheers" was full-bodied, never bitter and always good to the last drop...er, episode. A toast to one of comedy's best, and to you too, Mr. Levine!

Pedant said...

"Many of the best jokes . . . were there's"?

You mean "theirs."

Harold X said...

There's a local (mainly L.A.) restaurant chain -- like Denny's, sort of -- called Norm's. Been around for decades.

At the end of the current commercial, you can hear a bunch of people, offscreen, shouting "Norm's."

Which is somehow appropriate, in that whenever I eat there, the guy sitting next to me at the counter somewhat resembles Harry the Hat.

chuckcd said...

Hey, I'm eating at Norm's tonight!
I'll say hello to George Wendt for you...

samuel.x.killer said...

Really loved the piece and now rewatching the first season with the knowledge in mind. A couple questions, maybe for a Friday --

1) Was there any discussion about keeping the first season all located within the bar? What was the thinking there? Any big challenges?
2) A lot of stories seem to be driven by a guest actor. Was that the story engine - someone walks into the bar?
3) Sam & Diane, Cliff & Norm, Coach & Carla - was there any thinking to the pairing of the characters?

Thanks for your time and your work - I am slapping my knee at some of the jokes still!

Courtney said...

I'm sure someone has pulled your coat to the principles/principals usage in your first paragraph—SpellCheck is an unforgiving mother—but as I look now, I'm wondering whether the word even merits the adjective "major." I'm thinking that if you're a minor principal in a cast, you may not be as principal as you think you are...

Rob said...

I really enjoyed the article and your insights. Shelley Long was wonderful as Diane, though she had terrible taste in movie scripts, and I wish she would have a major career comeback beyond Hallmark Channel movies.

Rhea Perlman, however, is apparently competing with Joyce Dewitt for holding 30-year-old grudges. After seeing her remarks, I don't much care if she ever does anything again. I preferred her as Zena on "Taxi" anyway.

Favorite Norm-isms:
"I promised Vera I'd pick up some Chinese food. I spilled it on the floor this morning"

"Did Mrs. Peterson ever make a fool out of you?"
"Yeah, there was the time she pulled the old 'I do' gag"

BrettJ said...

Thank you to Ken and everyone who contributed to "Chhers". It was one of those comedies you could count on to deliver smart, intelligent comedy without ever betraying the characters. At NO time did words ever feel shoehorned into an actor's mouth or forced to fit a situation. Everyone stayed true to themselves throughout the 11 years on the air. The only time I thought it faltered was when Frasier and Lilith's marriage went through a bad patch and LO, they got an entire other sitcom out of that. I applaud Ted, Shelly and Kirstie for being the anchors of the show and Rhea, George, Kelsey, Woody, Bebe and John for being the crazy cast that entered their world.

Johnny Walker said...

Shelley Long was *incredible* as Diane. I can see why the cast may have felt somewhat betrayed by her departure, though. Of course, they needn't have worried, but I'm sure at the time it was hard for them not to feel betrayed -- even though they complained about her! They couldn't have it both ways, and Long did what was best for her.

The most obvious dissonance was regarding Jay Thomas's departure. Rhea Perlman claiming that her only beef with him was out of concern for her character rings absolutely false. (There's a great story in that, so why not use it in the show? Instead Thomas's character was cruelly killed off in the same way Charlie Sheen was... and quite uncharactistically for Cheers.)

Of course, Perlman got what she wanted, and everyone knows what happened, so there's no point in her twisting the knife, especially when everyone sides with her.

Interesting to hear the actual jokes Thomas made, too.

Great article!

An (is my actual name) said...

I have to agree with the above posters on Rhea Perlman. I'm very McKayla Maroney about her after this article-- not impressed. So disappointing. Grow the hell up already.

Brian Doan said...

Great post, Ken-- thanks so much. I liked the article too, and I share the good feelings for Shelley Long-- I actually really got into the show when Kirstie Alley came on (I was nine when CHEERS debuted, so those later seasons were my entry point), and liked them a lot, but when I caught up with the Long years, I realized they are the heart of CHEERS (especially the first three seasons). And Long is remarkable.

Having said that, I do want to speak up for Rhea Perlman-- I only met her once, when she and Danny DeVito (and James Burrows) came to Oberlin a few years back, but she could not have been nicer. I was so used to seeing her as Carla that it was a little surreal (yes, I know actors aren't their parts, but it was still surreal) to see her being so kind, friendly and menschy to all the students and faculty. I don't know what her beef with Shelley Long was/is, but I'll always remember the lady laughing in conversations and tolerantly rolling her eyes when her husband got up and told an off-color (and very funny) joke at the big banquet.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

Shelley Long was so damn good at playing Diane Chambers people confused the two, apparently.

Lot of hate for Rhea Perleman for saying, basically, 'no comment' on Shelley Long. I'll always love ya, Rhea, and your husband.

An (is my actual name) said...

Jim, it's one thing to say no comment. It's a whole other thing to say you "can't go there" and "it's not worth it at this point in life". Birdie above nailed it. The "no comment" + drama = big comment, and a cowardly one to boot. On top of that, her dishonesty about the Jay Thomas firing (I believe Ken) is shady and rankles. Just cowgirl up and own your words and deeds. More importantly, get over yourself and your grudges after 30 years. I love Carla and all the laughs Rhea gave us over the years. I am disappointed in her as a person with regard to the above.

Tv Food and Drink said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I got to work in a room with Bob Ellison in around the year 2000 and envied the stories he was able to share about shows he'd been a part of. Hope to head some stories about Al Rosen and Nick Hedaya someday... always smiled when either one of them popped up.

Mr. Ace said...

Firday Question: What is your opinon on the old TGIF sitcoms?

Anonymous said...

Great article. I also enjoyed your perspective, Ken.

I don't blame Rhea one bit for reacting to Jay's stupid remark. Goes to show how deeply he resents women, which has always shown in his work or TV interviews. His wife should throw him to the curb.

But Rhea really needs to lighten up when it comes to Shelley. Didn't make Rhea look like someone one would want to work with.

Paul [Daniel] Asuncion, BLUE said...

I think that CHEERS was the show that introduced me to WIT. And, how funny it is, when people say what they are thinking...

At a party:

"Sam, you've grown rather tiresome, so I'm going to stand over there, now."

The FINAL scene seemed painful, not just for the characters, but for the actors too. Maybe, I'm wrong! :)

I wished that the FINAL EPISODE could've been like any of the other episodes of the series. So that even though we would not see the Cheers bar, anymore - we could rest assured that the gang would continue meeting there, as always!

GC from France said...

I would like to carry this blog in my pocket like a book.

Everything, every single thing was just perfect on CHEERS! Great writers, great scripts, great actors = Great show!

Like Diane Chambers would probably say "Merci beaucoup Monsieur Ken Levine!"

Johnny Walker said...

Hmmm. I'm pretty sure Rhea was just trying to be diplomatic and spare Long's feelings. She probably wasn't aware how candid her castmates were being, either.

ScottyB said...

Ken: Like everyone else said, thanks for the post on the GQ article. I read the whole lengthy online version the other day, and the thing that struck me from the way the piece was constructed, was you could actually sense the show's arc like the life of a shooting star from beginning to end. That you said the writer had to wade thru 80-some hours of individual interviews just added to the value.

Still, I was kinda disappointed -- altho not surprised, the Internet being what it is -- over the comments here about Rhea in relation to whatever beef she supposedly had or didn't have with Shelley. A TV show is still and all a workplace, and there's bound to be people you love, hate, or not have an opinion about one way or another. Doesn't make you a bad person, or someone you ought to respect less. Unless you were actually there, you really don't know much about it.

ScottyB said...

Ken: I just re-looked at the photo montage you posted at the top of your post and something really, really struck me, more than any other time reading your blog the past few years. And that thing is, how incredibly incredibly fucking lucky you are to have been a part of all that. GOD -- I imagine that's a feeling and fulfillment nobody in the whole creation of the earth can ever describe. I guess that's the sort of feeling we all live for and, if it were possible for someone to take those frames from 'Cheers' you put up and swapped them for moments in our own lives, we'd feel better about our own time here.

Just sayin'.

Robin Raven said...

We definitely don't mind another "Cheers" article. In fact, I'd be happy if you wrote them daily. :)

Someone shared what they would want in the last episode above. What I would have loved would be Sam and Diane together finally. I always loved Diane so. I LOVE the ending that was, of course, too.

So also thank you for standing up for Shelley, who I think is amazing, as is the rest of the cast, writers, crew, and all involved in the creation of the show. :)

Thanks for sharing this with us. It was so interesting for me to read.

Tom said...

Is there any chance you will be on the Jay Thomas radio show to discuss your book and Cheers? You would be great on his show!

Madame Duchery said...

Although "Diane" often made me cringe, I also always related to her because she was a striver among people who were not. And I loved that "Sam" was not just a dumb jock (at least in the beginning) but a worthy opponent for her. "Rebecca" constantly made me roll my eyes at her choices (usually choosing the rich guy over her career), and I hated that "Sam" became more and more pathetic and dumb as the show went on (sorry!).

In reference to Shelley's leaving the show, I think the character and the character's relationship to Sam had become tired in some ways, and I think that factored into her decision. Surely people can understand that she wanted to leave while the character still was iconic and fresh—a "Diane" who stayed another five years would have become increasingly shrill, desperate, and unrelatable. In addition, Shelley must have feared that if she continued to play the character that she would become so associated with "Diane" that she wouldn't ever get any other work. (Such is the pitfall of playing a hit character.) While I really missed her character from the later episodes, I think it was a reasonable decision on Shelley's part to leave.

Paul Duca said...

Max Clark's comment really hit home, about the "love of literature" remark. Last night they showed "The Merchant of Korea"--along with Shakespeare, you and David referenced Erskine Caldwell ("to God's little acre" "and His gardener")and James Hilton ("goodbye, Mr. Chip").

davidly said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Ken.

To me, Shelley Long was the strongest actor on the show, not only for her great timing, but good instinct and fresh and interesting choices. I think she made the right decision in departing when she did.

Ken, your mention of the actors' complacency in the later years reminds me of something you said about laugh tracks quite a while back, more specifically, the "sweetening" that Cheers eventually employed: I'm almost certain that it seemed to become obvious right about season eight, and continued into the next couple pretty strongly.

In fairness, however, it didn't seem to me to be just the actors, but the gags were stale and the timing was all off. The laughs just seem to make it weird.

That said, the show did manage to remain good much longer than other sitcoms. I've coined a Rule of 5 Seasons, which Cheers managed to overcome in spite of Long's following that rule out the door: Woody fulfilled his role perfectly, and Alley managed to keep it decent for a couple more years.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken, read the article online last night, and it brought back a whole lot of good memories of episodes I watched during the 11 year run.
I think what stood out in the pilot was that while Sam and Diane certainly seemed to be the primary characters around whom the series was built, you weren't sure exactly what direction the show was going to take and who may end up being featured. I don't know if that's the strategy the Charles brothers and James Burrows had planned on, but that was my first impression.

To me, what what became the dominant sense I had was that as we watched, we discovered this cultured educated young lady who ends up in a situation that is totally foreign and possibly even repugnant to her. She finds herself among a bunch of seeming losers with little outlook on the world outside or even on life itself and she has to deal with it in the only way she knows how -- by trying to raise the culture and the consciousness of those around her in what she probably considers a hellhole, only to be constantly met with apathy and indifference towards her efforts -- the classic saying "The thing I fear the most has come upon me."

The comedy and the empathy on the part of we the viewers comes as she learns more about the others, and against her better judgment at times, begins to care about them as real human beings, and thus the relationships start to develop and the stories occur.

One final note: I had the chance via the opportunity of working on the Paramount lot for a short time in 1993 to actually stand on the set of CHEERS, and thought I'd died and gone to Heaven.

Well, now that I've finished my Sitcom 101 treatise, I think I'll go find a bar and celebrate the good old days.

Jeff Hargarter said...

Scotty, I may be just the mean ol' internet talking here, but I may also have a legit opinion on the article, as I'm sure the others above me do as well.

Anyway, if Rhea still wants to be all butt hurt about Shelly after all this time, that's her issue. It's the bullshit "oh-I-can't-eeeeven" way she responds about her and then her outright lie about the Jay Thomas situation that gets me. Really, three loaded for bear sentences to say no comment? Bullshit. And I don't care if she was pissed at Thomas to the point she wanted him fired, just don't lie about it, especially when Ken's saying just the opposite. Says a lot, IMO.

Kelsey sucks for what he said about her too, but he's at least got his Cheers-era substance abuse as an excuse for a warped perspective. I've no doubt Shelly could be a pain in the ass about the work, but she was awesome and raised everyone's game.

Anyway Ken, love the article, love your reaction. And I believe your side of the stories. Thanks for sharing it with us. Please keep doing it, especially when it comes to Cheers.

RCP said...

Loved what Vonnegut said, and among other highlights the poignancy of Nick's line being painted over.

Anonymous said...

I was 17 when Cheers first hit the screens here in the UK and i was hooked after just a few episodes and yes initially it was the incredible sexual/romantic chemistry between Diane & Sam that got me hooked.
To this day i have never seen a better sitcom couple where the chemistry was just so electric and i for one was gutted when shelley left.
Don't get me wrong Cheers went on for another 6 brilliant years and had some great episodes and a fantastic cast, but for me when i think of Cheers i always first and foemost think of Sam & Diane one just doesn't seem right without the other :-)

JediJones said...

Courtney, that's a very funny observation on the notion of a "minor principal." You sound like you're channeling Diane Chambers, which I for one welcome.

I always related to Diane's character more than any other. It sounds like I can relate to Shelley herself too. I was the high school valedictorian, yet I always make mistakes relating to socializing and have trouble fitting in with any group. I am the one who prefers to eat lunch by myself than with a group of people. I am the one who makes nitpicky comments about grammar and tries to make complex observations about life that just go over people's heads, make them roll their eyes and cause them to make fun of me. I am a perfectionist who loves to put in extra time working on something long after everyone else just wants to turn in half-assed work and go home.

My only disappointment with Diane was that she would ever choose to be with someone like Sam instead of someone like me, who can actually relate to her and appreciate her. Society in general seems to be much more comfortable with a female intellectual dating a jock vs. a male intellectual dating anyone at all. Cheers in a way perpetuated that relationship stereotype. So I am actually quite grateful that Sam and Diane did not get together in the end. I wholeheartedly agree with John Cleese's character's conclusions about their relationship. Their conflict and turmoil is very entertaining to watch on TV but it wouldn't impart a good lesson to suggest that those two actually made sense as a couple.

Tim Norton said...

It's gratifying to see Shelley Long getting some real appreciation for her work on Cheers. She has the most expressive face of any performer I have ever watched. Her ability to show emotion and the entire range of feeling, both spoken and unspoken, should be required viewing for every aspiring performer.

I wish that Cheers had done fewer episodes featuring Cliff. I found him as hard to take as the other characters in the show did. The Cheers pilot was amazing and Shelley showed her understanding of her part immediately and she mastered her character from the first scene.

Ted Danson deserves more praise for being the hub in the wheel and Woody Harrelson's refusal to carry on without Ted is good evidence of that.

Unknown said...


Brian Matley said...

I have recently been binge watching Cheers on Netflix and I've just been so impressed by Shelley Long. She really carried this show. Of course Ted Danson was also great, but in his own words Shelley put Cheers on the map.
I'm halfway season 5 and I am dreading it's last episode 'I do
Adieu'. I'm planning to bawl my eyes out...then skip to the final season 11 Cheers episode and cry some more.
Thanks Ken for your insights in to everything Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I loved Cheers and Shelley Long was brilliant in the part of Diane. Her acting had depth and nuance and her timing was spot on. I have never understood Rhea Perlman's popularity. I always felt the show succeeded IN SPITE of her. Her comedy was heavy handed and always seemed to try to emulate the style and attitude of Danny De Vito (who is great) but she is no Danny DeVito. Sad that Shelley Long seems to have been ostracized by the rest of the cast and in particular by Rhea Perlman. Seems like a real case of jealousy on the part of a mediocre actress who rode the coat tails of her husband to get a career she didn't deserve based on her own abilities.

Dana5570 said...

I know I am SO late this blog post, but, oh well. I have read that GQ article so many times--and still love reading it. It's amazing. Regarding Rhea Perlman, I took her comment as meaning she's been asked it so many times that it just wasn't worth talking about anymore. Imagine if you had someone you didn't particularly work well with and people were still asking you about working with them 30 years later. As far as Shelley's departure, I think there could have been some hilarious episodes with Sam and Diane as man and wife, then having children. I also think the last episode could have gotten them together and all you hear, showing the outside of the bar, is Carla screaming.