Saturday, January 09, 2021

Weekend Post

I get a lot of questions about the “Bar Wars” episodes of CHEERS that my 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, Joel 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? Not as confusing as WONDER WOMAN 1984.

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. We had a number of twists and turns, and after turning in the script, the staff added a few more. 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.


scottmc said...

In 'It's Gone...', I believe, you told a story that mentioned the Bar Wars episodes. As I recall, you were were the radio man for the Syracuse minor league team. You and the team pulled into a hotel,motel, and the hotel manager gives you a hard time. The upshot is that you told him that you were the guy who wrote the Bar Wars episodes and he shouldn't mess with you. (I don't have the book at hand or I would looked it up for the exact story.)

Glenn said...

Hey Ken, for the Bloody Mary Bar Wars episode, correct me if I'm wrong but after all the twists and turns, doesn't the Cheers gang come out on top...?

Irv said...

Is this the same Robert Desiderio who was a Boston DJ in the late 70's?

Ere I Saw Elba said...

The two that stick out the most for me are the one where they have a bowling contest (season 4), and the Bloody Mary contest (season 6). My two favorites, and Woody has pivotal roles in both. Nice for farce episodes, and the whole cast really shines.

Anonymous said...

“And finally, are you that diabolical?
Let’s just say I hope you’re not allergic to sheep.”

The idea would be to pretend to such an allergy,
after having secretly mastered the art of mutton cooking.

(Ek is ‘n potlood)

J Lee said...

On the final Bar Wars, Cheers brought back a lot of past recurring characters for Season 11, including Harry Anderson -- was he available first, and then the show was tailored around his appearance, or was the show originally written so that someone outside of the bar, like Harry the Hat, would be the one to finally get Gary, and then the story was brought to Anderson, to see if he would do it?

Troy McClure said...

I read the Hollywood Reporter review of a new film, Redemption Day, and one very funny line stood out as rather Levine-esque in its humor.

"I particularly enjoyed the helpful onscreen graphic "Terrorists' Compound," presumably to make sure we wouldn't confuse the setting with an American Girl store."

Mark Harvey Levine said...

Hey I just learned (I'm slow on the uptake) that Nick, the bartender in "It's A Wonderful Life" was played by Sheldon Leonard, the famous producer of sitcoms. I did know that the two main male characters in "The Big Bang Theory" are named after him. And I just found out that his last acting job was a role on "Cheers". What was it like working with him as an actor? Did he threaten to throw you pixies out, t'roo the door or out the window?

tavm said...

Mark Harvey Levine-Hey, that is my favorite movie and I loved that line! Oh, and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer was the guy talking to Donna Reed just before Jimmy Stewart whisked her away on the floor during that high school graduation dance...

Astroboy said...

The 'Bar Wars' episodes are my favorites, just like the "Halloween Heist" episodes are my favorite Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes. If you've seen any of those, did you enjoy them?