Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Favorite CHEERS episodes

Yesterday I shared my favorite MASH episodes. Several of you have asked that I do the same for CHEERS. For MASH I chose from the whole series, but David Isaacs and I wrote 40 episodes of CHEERS so I think I will list my Top Ten episodes written by Levine & Isaacs.

TO ALL THE GIRLS I’VE LOVED BEFORE – We wrote this without an outline and it actually turned out really well.

RAT GIRL – Lilith keeps a dead rat in her purse. We won a WGA Award for this sensitive episode.

ANY FRIEND OF DIANE’S – Our first CHEERS and the last scene with Sam & Diane is one of my faves.  And Jim Burrows' father, Abe Burrows said he really liked that episode so that's cause for a swelled head. 

TRUCE OR CONSEQUENCES – Our second CHEERS. Shelley Long and Rhea Perlman were both stellar in the episode where they tried to be friends.

JUMPING JERKS – The guys skydive. Just silly but fun and a fan favorite.

BOYS IN THE BAR – Another first season show. The guys fear the bar will go gay. I doubt if we could do this episode today, but it earned us an Emmy nomination, WGA Award, and GLAAD Award.

DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY ON ICE – We had to kill off Eddie LeBec after Jay Thomas insulted Rhea Perlman on the radio. Happy with the result and it earned us another Emmy nomination.

BAR WARS – The first of what became a series. We wrote this last minute over a weekend and then the WGA went on strike. Paramount was allowed to film existing material but not change it, so what you see on the screen was our rushed first draft. It could’ve been better with polish, but considering the circumstances it didn't suck. 

BREAKING IN IS HARD TO DO – We built an entire episode to payoff one big joke at the end. It was very risky but thankfully it worked. The laugh was about a minute.

THE BIG KISS OFF – Another very frothy episode but lots of laughs another fan favorite. Kirstie was particularly good. 

We wrote so many that I could also do a Bottom Ten… but I won’t. And even those might be better than I think. 


Lemuel said...

Don't remember the episode title but I liked the one where Cliff sold all the bar regulars squeaky shoes.

Jen from Jersey said...

Anything with Gary’s Old Time Tavern. The one with Frazier and Candy (Jennifer Tilly). The one where Cliff takes Diane to the mailman’s ball. Anything with Cliff’s mother.

Side note: my 12 year old was at summer camp and they had a trivia contest. They played the Cheers theme song and he was the only one who knew it. His mama teaches him well.

Rays profile said...

Proof that this blog is educational - it may be common knowledge in show biz but I never knew Jim Burrows was Abe's son.

Jahn Ghalt said...

I played, especially for my son (who is "out"), BOYS IN THE BAR - mainly to get his take on it. He liked it - and what's not to like??

The "homophobes" (regular guys in 1982-83) pressured Sam to kick out his old friend and Sam showed his usual integrity by resisting the pressure.

After the "early closing", Diane issued her "straight line" and the "homophobes" were made to look foolish.

What's not to like - even by the "sensitive" in 2019??

Fortran said...

"BREAKING IN IS HARD TO DO – We built an entire episode to payoff one big joke at the end. It was very risky but thankfully it worked. The laugh was about a minute."

Ahh...Frederick's first word!

Doug Thompson said... should listen to Ken's podcasts. They're fun, informative and always educamacational {sic).

The podcast with Director extraordinaire Jim Burrows was exceptional as was Shotgun Tom Irwin and so many more. Jim and Ken mentioned that Jim's dad was Abe Burrows. Ken always keeps the podcasts to approximately half an hour, so download them and listen in your car. Makes driving in crappy traffic enjoyable.

Even the ones with Ken alone are great behind-the-scenes looks (errr listens).

Rob said...

I know you didn't write it but the pilot is the best half hour episode of a sitcom ever.

Any Friend if Diane's is one of my favorites. I understand Julia Duffy was considered for the Diane role. She was great in this episode.

Gary said...

Along with the best Cheers episodes, I'll always remember individual jokes that made me roar with laughter. One example (paraphrasing):
Cliff: Did you know that the necktie was originally invented so a man would have something to wipe his mouth on while eating?
Coach: You mean they're thinking of changing that?

Mibbitmaker said...

Overall, my favorite Cheers is the Sam & Diane saga, with the Robin Colcorde storyline a close 2nd. But unlike M*A*S*H, I definitely have an all-time favorite Cheers episode. Or, favorite two-parter. Especially part 2.

There's such great storytelling in "I'll be Seeing You, pt. 1 & 2". It's a dark episode, but fascinating to watch as well as funny. I especially like the final scene, subtly showing Sam and Diane struggle quietly with separating, each one willing to give in, only to see the other not reciprocating. And capped off perfectly with Sam reacting to the painting, a very touching moment (I've noticed characters in this era saying, "wow" a lot).

Frank Beans said...

As with MASH, the first seasons of CHEERS are all so brilliant that it's hard to pick a favorite. "The Boys In The Bar" is definitely one, as is the Harry Anderson "sting" episode where he helps Coach get back his money from a professional card shark. The first seasons are the cast and writers working at their absolute best.

While MASH had some genius season openers, CHEERS had some of the best season enders, specifically season 2 with the Diane-Sam breakup, with Christopher Lloyd as the supposedly crazy artist who seemed to orchestrate it, and the three-part season 4 finale with the politician lady played by Kate Mulgrew, superbly written by David Angell. Those are my favorites.

Susan said...

I imagine you may not know about this podcast, but Gayest Episode Ever breaks down episodes of classic sitcoms that were about gay themes. The Boys in the Bar and your writing in particular got a pretty decent rundown and a shout out for being pretty progressive considering when it was written.

Susan said...

Not sure how familiar you may be with the podcast Gayest Episode Ever, but it is about "the one-off, LGBT-themed episodes that classic sitcoms would do back in the day, when it was rare to see queer characters represented on broadcast television." The Boys in the Bar gets a pretty good review from them, as they consider the time in which it was written and the sensitivity that Diane's character shows.

Chris said...

@Rays profile: and Abe Burrows co-created a popular radio show title "Duffy's Tavern" set in...a bar.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

"Coach's Daughter"

John H said...

I'll take the ten worst Cheers episodes over the best of any other network sitcom released since with the exception of The Office and Everybody Loves Raymond.

Peter said...

I don't remember the episodes but three moments stand out in my memory.

Diane shouting "People, people, work with me, work with me!"

Diane and gang watching her terrible dancing on video. Diane says "Ever since I was a girl, I've wanted to dance so badly", and Norm says "You got your wish."

A Bar Wars episode in which Gary has the bar area bricked up. Sam enters the bar, sees what's happened and says in an exasperated tone "See, now, that's not right."

Mibbitmaker said...

Speaking of excellent Ted Danson line readings, one of my all-time favorites is from the scene where Diane and Frasier are about to go to Europe, and Sam and her are alone in the bar (S&D alone in the bar is always a favorite scene in any Cheers ep.) starting to hook up and ready to leave when Diane stops them on their way out the door. Sam believes she's hot going with him with an outburst that's all "I KNEW you wouldn't do it! I KNEW you couldn't be spontaneous!". She tells him she almost forgot her purse.

His pause, followed by "Let me get that for you, Diane" is the funniest thing! His delivery made it perfect. I always laugh just thinking about it.

Another favorite is the season 5 premier, mainly because, while technically a Sam & Diane episode, Frasier completely runs away with the half hour! Practically very scene featuring him is a standout moment, extremely funny. Cudos the Kelsey Grammer on that one.

Mike Bloodworth said...

"Truce or Consequences" has one of my all time favorite lines. Carla mixes Diane an extremely potent drink. Diane passes out. Sam walks in, sees her and says, "...oh Carla, you made her a 'Open Grave!'" That might not seen that funny here, but it was in the show. It's a great example of how important context is to the humor.
I also liked "Love Me, Love My Car" with guest star, Dana Delaney. I was never a fan of "China Beach," but I fell in love with her on Cheers. I've always felt that had she had the right sitcom she could have been the next Mary Tyler Moore.
Maybe we can come up with a good premise.

D McEwan said...

My mother disliked Cheers for reasons I never understood. It was not her Christian Science aversion to alcohol. After all, she had a Christian Science aversion to medical science and doctors, but she loved M*A*S*H, and saw every episode. It was something to do with Ted Danson, who put her back up for reasons I never got. But she loved Lilith, and if I assured her an episode was Lilith-heavy, she'd watch it and laugh.

And, as a girl growing up, my mother kept pet rats in a cage. She had cats her entire life, which you'd think would be a bad match with rats, but not so. Mother loved rats, and actually waxed nostalgic for rats. She thought rats were beautiful. (Have I ever mentioned that at times, I thought my mother was insane?)

So "Rat Girl" was definitely one of absolute favorite Cheers episodes. She loved that episode, and she was with Lilith and shared her grief for her dead rat all the way. I'm not joking. She loved "Rat Girl." She WAS Rat Girl. And bringing it up today, which happens to be the 22nd anniversary of Mother's death, brings back that memory of her laughing at that episode, but also her utter empathy for Lilith's grief for her rat.

(Mother would have preferred "Lilith" be the spin-off show, not Frasier. She didn't like Kelsey much, but then she LOVED David Hyde Pierce, and watched it for him. He just killed her. When David was on Letterman once, just back from a vacation, and in talking about staying at a resort with nude beaches, had said how he now had a sunburned penis because he could not figure out how to put sunscreen on his dick without getting arrested, my mother laughed the longest and hardest I ever saw. We had to freeze the playback while she had uncontrollable fits of laughter at that gag. Mother had her ribald side.)

DrBOP said...

Friday question:

So the teams are set and it's time for the excitement of MLB Post-Season baseball. I'm thinkin' that a Dodgers v Yankees World Series would ring alot of bells with the maximum amount of googilly eyeballs: thinkin' they're watching Mantle v Koufax. or Drysdale v Yogi Berra.....yes, pop's medication timetable might be the biggest factor. Regardless,
....who 'ya got?

Dr Loser said...

I'm with Kevin FitzMaurice, Coach's Daughter, no question.

I will never again watch a scene where I laugh and cry at the same time, and want to hug both the characters, and where (according to you, as I recall, Ken) the audience just didn't get it. That's an incredibly hard scene to plot, to act, to direct, and to film. And it was perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that I have to admit that I was lying. I will indeed see it again, because I have it on DVD.

First thing tomorrow, I think.

Brian said...

Carson and Jeopardy

Matt in Westwood said...


You wrote many of my favorite CHEERS, with ANY FRIEND OF DIANE’S at the top of the list of your episodes. With so many great episodes can we get another 10 written by your peers? As a longtime reader, I’m betting GIVE ME A RING SOMETIME, DIANE’S PERFECT DATE, PICK A CON...ANY CON, and SIMON SAYS would be on your list.

Mark said...

I loved the first half of the series, because they weren’t afraid to mix in some serious moments. One poster mentions “Dance, Diane, Dance” as a favorite. I love this one, too, especially the end, where Diane learns that her teacher’s dance review had been altered, and she gives one final, wistful look at the dancers onstage before the scene goes black and the credits roll. The look on her face says it all, and the episode ends on a melancholy note.

I also like the first “Bar Wars” episode where Diane saves the day when Cheers bowls against Gary’s. I also like the three part episode with Kate Mulgrew as the councilwoman, who is Sam’s new love interest. And I like “Chambers vs. Malone”, when the two finally get engaged. But honestly, there are so many that I love, particularly in the first six years.

Kendall Rivers said...

Cheers is one of my favorites. Most of my faves are from the Rebecca years so seasons 6-11: Woody and Kelly's Wedding, Home is The Sailor, Christmas Cheers, the Bar Wars where Sam thought he killed Gary etc. From the Diane years: Thanksgiving Orphans, the pilot, The one where Lilith and Frasier got together. Friday Question: Now since you've done Mash and Cheers you know I have to ask about your favorite Frasiers lol

Caleb Martin said...

Y'all did an exceptional job for the time with BOYS IN THE BAR. Some of the lines and attitudes are cringeworthy to modern ears, but you did an extremely sensitive job given the public attitudes at the time.

In fact, the more accepting attitudes like the ones you modeled in the episode helped spur a shift away from gay ghetto-ization and more toward gay-straight integration in big city nightlife. Boston, especially!

In 2019, gay men absolutely complain about straight people invading our longtime drinking holes. Bachelorette parties, especially. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, we see that the attitudes expressed in your work are actually universal! You could probably flip the sexual orientations of most of the cast, mount it as a play, and win another GLAAD Award.

I'm only half kidding.