Time for Friday questions. First though, thanks so much for all the lovely comments and remembrances of Dave Niehaus from yesterday’s post. Like I said, he was the best broadcast partner I ever had. Nice to know that the genuine affection and respect came through on the air between us.
Okay, to your questions. The first will be answered by David Lee, former CHEERS producer (later FRASIER co-creator), who along with his partner, Peter Casey, wrote the classic John Cleese episode of CHEERS.
The query comes from John Trumball.
I've long thought that the episode of Cheers where John Cleese guest stars and provides some pre-marriage counseling to Sam and Diane is one of the all-time great sitcom episodes. Is it true that there was a sequel planned where Cleese's character returned to get the money that Fraiser Crane still owed him from his first appearance? And if so, why was it never produced?
David Lee: This episode was filmed just after I left the show, but I was around for the lead up to it. Though my memory isn't the best, this is the gist of what I remember from being around campus at the time.
Season 7, episode 22. "The Visiting Lecher" . The script was written by David Lloyd and was originally intended as a vehicle for the John Cleese character, Dr.Simon Finch Royce. Mr. Cleese had expressed an interest in returning to the show, and everyone was thrilled that he was interested in coming back to revisit the character. A story was broken specifically for him, and David went enthusiastically to work. A great script resulted and was put into the production schedule. Shortly before they were scheduled to go into rehearsal, Mr. Cleese's people called up to inform us that he was, as I remember, "too tired" or something and would not be doing the episode. It was quickly rewritten (if you knew Mr Lloyd you can imagine what he had to say about that!) and John McMartin was hired to play Dr. Lawrence Crandall, who, if you look closely, is very very similar to Dr. Finch-Royce. It turned out to be a fine episode, but the once fondly remembered name of Mr. Cleese was- how shall we put this? -- Not.
Thanks, David. I must owe you eight lunches by now.
Max Clarke asked:
I just looked at SFgate and their coverage of the documentary about Glenn Burke.
The article mentions your interview for the doc, and how you did an episode of Cheers based upon Burke's experience.
That was a good episode, it was a test for Sam Malone as well. He picked the wrong day not to read a book, but he stood by his baseball teammate.
Would be good to hear your background on this, I always thought it was a gutsy episode to run way back then.
The documentary you referred to is called Out. The Glenn Burke Story, shown on Comcast in the Bay Area and Direct TV. It’s terrific and I highly recommend it.
The episode of CHEERS was called “Boys in the Bar” and a couple of years ago I posted this background piece on it.
It could just be due to the nature of my favourite British shows, but it seems to me that British television writers get more credit than American ones do. Many times the writers are as least as important to the fans as the actors are. Stephen Moffatt being a good case in point. Do you think that's the case?
I only wish that were the case in America. TV writers are held in much higher regard in the U.K. Writers are even listed in British TV Guide loglines. Jessica Alba and Katherine Heigl will both sleep with me before that happens in the U.S.
For an American TV writer to achieve any notoriety (without having to shamelessly start his own blog) he has to create a huge hit. Or six. Matt Weiner, David Chase, Chuck Lorre. Otherwise, watch for screen credits but don’t blink because they go by faster than subliminal messages.
Did you see Michael J. Fox's guest appearance on The Good Wife this week? He played a character who had a similar disease to the one Michael has in real life. He clearly relished the freedom he had in not needing to restrict his symptoms.
I did see that. THE GOOD WIFE is fast becoming my favorite show. I thought he was amazing. The scene where he’s trying to pour a glass of water to distract the jury during a cross-examination was brilliant, hilarious, and something I had never seen in a courtroom show.
What do you think of actors who continue to work despite illness (a recent example is Jill Clayburgh who died after working consistently through 21 years of chronic leukemia)
I find them enormously courageous. Unfortunately, I observed this first-hand with Nick Colasanto during his final season with CHEERS, and with Mary Tyler Moore, who is in a constant battle with diabetes. There are quite a few other examples including: Teri Garr, (multiple sclerosis), Richard Burton (epilepsy), Ingrid Bergman (no one knew she was in the later stages of cancer while filming GOLDA), and who could possibly be more inspiring than Christopher Reeve?
And finally, from Bob Gassel:
Did Gene Reynolds contribute much as 'Creative Consultant' when he left MASH?
He contributed much more than most creative consultants. I’ve never worked with a writer who had a better sense of story than Gene Reynolds. We would meet with him once a week and run our outlines by him. He would then fix them, solve them, find more inventive ways to tell them. He could zero in on problems and almost instantaneously formulate solutions. I’d walk out of his house every week shaking my head and saying, “We’re not worthy”.
In over thirty years I’ve never encountered another writer who can do what he does. We’re NOT worthy.
What’s your question?