Saturday, October 22, 2016

Everything you wanted to know about the CHEERS "Bar Wars."

I get a lot of questions about the “Bar Wars” episodes of CHEERS that my writing partner, David Isaacs and I wrote. So here are the FAQ’s.

Did we purposely plan for the Cheers gang to lose every time?

Yes. Except for the last one. Frustration is much funnier than victory. The trick however, was to find different ways for them to lose – or screw themselves. Guess I grew up watching too many Road Runner cartoons.

What about the last Bar Wars in the final season?

Ultimately, we decided to not only let Cheers win but to demolish Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern once and for all. We’re nothing if not vengeful. Trivia note: That is the only episode of CHEERS that I appear in. I’m sitting at the bar in an early scene.

Who played Gary?

The answer is: which time? We had two actors who played Gary, in no particular order. The first time the character appeared, Joe Polis played him in a 1985 episode called “From Beer to Eternity”. When we wrote the first Bar Wars episode Joe wasn’t available. It was the very end of the season. We had no other scripts so we just had to recast. Robert Desiderio became Gary. For Bar Wars II we went back to Joel Polis and used him one other time. Otherwise, it was Robert Desiderio. Confusing? I don’t understand why we did it either. Hopefully this mystery will be tackled in the sequel to the DA VINCI CODE.

What is your favorite Bar Wars episode?

Bar Wars V. My partner came up with this idea. Sam’s prank kills Gary. Or at least that’s what Sam thinks. If you can’t get laughs with a man digging up a grave you’re not a comedy writer.

What is your least favorite Bar Wars episode?

Bar Wars VI. The gang thinks a wise guy buys Gary’s bar so a prank unleashes the Mafia after them. We were reaching. And sometimes too clever for our own good. In Bar Wars II, there’s a Bloody Mary contest. I mentioned this last Thursday.  We had too many twists and turns. By the end I think there were maybe six too many. It was the BIG SLEEP of Bar Wars episodes – no one alive can tell you exactly what happened.

Was it hard to plot these episodes?

Yes. Very. These episodes were a bitch to conceive and then hard to write because there was always so much story. By nature, exposition and set ups are not inherently funny and entertaining. We had to pull a lot of jokes out of nowhere.

What was your favorite gag?

Filling Rebecca’s office with sheep. That’s the power of being a writer. You come up with a goofy idea. And voila, there are fifty sheep being herded onto the set. I’m sure the guy who came up with snakes on the plane had the same heady feeling.

There are some Bar Wars type episodes not called Bar Wars. How come?

Those were episodes not originally designed to be bar wars but evolved into them. Or they were competitions not practical joke wars, per se. In other words, I dunno. I’m still trying to figure out BAR WARS II.

And finally, are you that diabolical?

Let’s just say I hope you’re not allergic to sheep.


Glenn said...

The sheep in Rebecca's office gave us one of the great Woody lines... "I thought it smelled like home."

Zappa the Unholy said...

As a big fan of mob movies I loved VI. The guy you casted as the boss was priceless. I never fail to laugh when he busts out that giggle of his.

Unknown said...

Sorry Ken, you're 100% wrong. Bar Wars II was genius, and improved at every twist and turn. So, just admit you were wrong, and accept the accolades for having written one of the more entertaining 30 minutes in TV history. I apologize for being so harsh, but you truly deserve it.

Boomska316 said...

Followup Friday Question:So you guys wrote every Gary episode not just the ones specifically called "Bar Wars?"

Johnny Walker said...

The guys actually won during Bar Wars II, didn't they? Or the one with the Bloody Mary? I forget. Gary's death remains a favourite, though. I wish they'd kept the Monster Mash music for the home video releases -- it added a lot. I can still remember laughing at its appearance from when I was a kid.

There was an (I guess) unofficial Bar Wars episode, not penned by Levine and Isaacs, plus the original rivalry episode by Casey and Lee that led to the original Bar Wars.

Here's the whole "saga":

From Beer to Eternity (S04.09 - 28 Nov. 1985)
Bar Wars (S06.23 - 03/31/88)
Bar Wars II: The Woodman Strikes Back (S07.11 - 01/12/89)
Bar Wars III: The Return of Tecumseh (S08.21 - 03/15/90)
Cheers Fouls Out (S09.02 - 09/27/90)
Bar Wars V: The Final Judgement (S10.07 - 10/31/91)
Bar Wars VI: This Time It's for Real (S10.23 - 04/03/92)
Bar Wars VII: The Naked Prey (S11.19 - 03/18/93)

mmryan314 said...

I thought Cheers won the first Bar Wars with Diane bowling.?

Ann said...

Thanks for clearing up what you call the "Bar Wars" episodes-- I'd always been puzzled by why you left From Beer to Eternity off your Bar Wars lists. It's easily my fave of the Gary's battles, maybe because Cheers won, but mostly because I adored Diane v. Gary perhaps even more than I adored the rest of the gang v. Gary. "Oh, couldn't make summa?" is one of the best moments ever, and in my opinion, it may be the perfect Cheers episode.

Oh, and on a related note, and if it hasn't already been covered: What do you consider the perfect Cheers episode?

John Hammes said...

Remembering the "Cheers" vintage photographs opening, in particular the gentleman holding up the "We Win!" newspaper headline. I suspect that "We Win!" moment is being re-enacted in a lot of Cheers-type bars, restaurants, etc. located throughout the Chicago Land area, and will not abate anytime soon.
Seriously. During our lifetimes. Who dared imagine?

Storm said...

My best friend and I watch/love "The Thing" rather a lot and quote it often. If we're watching some kind of mystery and a character is clearly a red herring and not the villain, one of us turns to the other and says (Wilford Brimley voice) "It ain't Fuchs." Watching it again recently for the umpteenth time, it started bothering me; where the hell do I know the guy playing Fuchs from? Hit the IMDb for Joel Polis and whaddaya know-- GARY! The huge beard threw me off.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


Barry Gilpin said...

I love Bar Wars VI. The delivery of the "your pets...dead" line gets me every time. Then Woody calls it back later in the episode and I crack up again.

Big3Fan William said...

Bar Wars II is one of my favorite episodes. I can not see a Bloody Mary or Black Cardamom without thinking of that episode.

Brian said...

Still fun to read these posts after all these years. I recently re-watched all the Cheers episodes and the Bar Wars one were some of my favorites.