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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

September 27, 2012 at 10:21 AM

And now, a few words about ‘Cheers’

(Holy worst movies, Batman! I had no idea how many of you couldn’t wait to share the worst movie you’ve ever seen — but I thank all of you who did. Expect a follow-up very soon, once I’ve had a chance to analyze the data. That sounds like I should have a lab coat on, doesn’t it? Anyway, stay tuned, and keep sending in your least favorites . . .)
Meanwhile, surely I’m not the only “Cheers” fan in the house, am I? (Amy Poehler says it’s the best TV show ever, and Amy surely knows what’s what.) Thanks to Vulture.com this morning, which pointed me to this massive “Cheers” oral history in GQ, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the show’s premiere. You may find yourself, like me, unable to stop yourself from reading the whole thing, but here are a few tidbits:
— Sam Malone was originally going to be a Stanley Kowalski-ish former football player, but when Ted Danson became the producers’ favorite for the role, he was changed to a baseball player. “He wasn’t the sloth that scratches his armpits, which had been our immediate impulse” said creator Glen Charles.
— Here, in Les Charles’ words, is where Norm came from: “I worked at a bar after college, and we had a guy who came in every night. He wasn’t named Norm, [but he] was always going to have just one beer, and then he’d say, “Maybe I’ll just have one more.” We had to help him out of the bar every night. His wife would call, and he’d always say, “Tell her I’m not here.” I think that was the closest we had to a character based on one guy.”
— John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff, on the “Cheers” writers: “It was the last generation of writers that had grown up reading books instead of watching TV. So you weren’t getting anything that was derivative of I Love Lucy or Happy Days. You were getting real characters [like those] they read in P.G. Wodehouse or Dickens or somewhere along the line, because they had all grown up with a love of literature.”
— A sweet anecdote from Ted Danson about Nicholas Colasanto, who played “Coach,” and who died at the end of the third season. “When Nick had heart disease, he was getting less and less oxygen. There wasn’t a surface on that set that didn’t have his lines written down. There was one episode where a friend of Coach dies, and he says, “It’s as if he’s still with us now.” Nick had written the line on the wood slats by the stairs the actors would use to enter the studio. Nicky dies, and the next year, we’re all devastated, and the first night we come down the stairs, right there was his line: “It’s as if he were with us now.” And so every episode, we’d go by it and pat it as we’d come down to be introduced to the audience.
And then, one year, they repainted the sets and they painted over the line. People almost quit. Seriously. They were so emotionally infuriated that that had been taken away from them.”
— Among the other actresses considered for Kirstie Alley’s role: Sharon Stone, Kim Cattrall, Marg Helgenberger. Alley, after winning the role, showed up for the first script reading dressed as Shelley Long, with a blonde wig.
Oh, just read the whole thing. It’s great. Even though I’m now going to have the “Cheers” theme in my head all day.

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