Court” is in session, or How the NBC peacock learned how to stop worrying and
strut its feathers again on Thursday Nights in the ‘80s
Welcome to the third installment of our look back at classic NBC Thursday Night Sitcoms.
Previously we have covered “Cheers” and “Frasier”
but for this episode, we take a look back at not only another one of favorite
NBC Thursday Night Sitcoms, but one of my all-time favorite sitcoms in general,
“Night Court.” It premiered on January 4, 1984.
“Night Court” was created by Reinhold Weege, who
previously had been a Writer and Producer on the hit ABC series “Barney Miller”
on ABC until it ended its run in 1982. According to the 2002 Special E! TV
Tales: Night Court, Weege stated that NBC and Warner Bros. approached him about
doing a courtroom comedy. Weege got the idea to develop it around a crazy judge
character and began the creative process.
Weege said that for research in creating the show,
he went to a New York and sat on the bench with a Night Court judge.
“I was just moved by the craziness of New
York/Manhattan Night Court,” Weege stated in the documentary. “There were
stories in the newspapers at the time of judges with serious emotional
problems, who the state or whatever local authories had a hard time getting rid
Weege’s concept focused on a judge getting through
the system who was a little off center and a little wacky. The main character
would be Judge Harold T. Stone, a young judge who was a Mel Torme fan and an amateur
magician. When he started casting, he was approached by an actor/magician named
Harry Anderson, who had already gained fame for doing his magic act on
“Saturday Night Live. He had also made occasional appearances on the first
season of “Cheers,” where he played the con artist character Harry The Hat, who
was constantly scamming the gang at Cheers out of their money with cons or
Anderson stated in the 2002 E! TV Tales special that
when he received a copy of the script, he knew he was this character, as both
he and the fictional character shared being magicians, a love for Mel Torme and
just happened to be named Harry.
Anderson lobbied to get the part and Weege was
skeptical. But after meeting Anderson, Weege knew the casting would fit like a
glove. Next up, the supporting cast.
“Alex Keaton grown up” (Referring to Michael J Fox’s
character on “Family Ties”) was how John Larroquette said he first saw the
Assistant District Attorney character Dan Fielding. In a 2008 AV Club Interview
Larroquette stated, “If you look at the early episodes, my character was this
sort of tight lipped, vested, pipe smoking, conservative fellow.”
“I think what happens on a television series like
that is the creator of the show gets used to the characters and the actors
playing them.” Larroquette stated in the same AV Club interview. “They learn to
write towards their strengths, which a good writer does, and Reinhold saw that
I was this maverick, crazy, with an acerbic sense of humor. Reinhold started
writing towards that and creating the character that everybody knows.”
Prior to “Night Court,” Larroquette had made many
film and television appearances, including the narrator in 1974’s “Texas
Chainsaw Massacre.” He also was the narrator in the 2003 remake, and the 2006
film “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.” He also took the role as Captain
Stillman in the 1981 hit comedy film “Stripes” starring Bill Murray and Harold
The role of Dan Fielding proved to be successful for
Larroquette as he won best supporting actor in a comedy series four years in a
row. When “Night Court” ended its run in 1992, Larroquette was offered a
spin-off series that would’ve had him starring as Dan Fielding, but he turned
For the role of strong, tall, but loveably dim Bailiff
Bull Shannon, Weege casted Richard Moll, who had just played Hurok, leader of
the mutant cyclopians in the 1983 cult movie “Metalstorm: The Destruction of
Jared-Syn.” Moll had shaved his head for the part right around the time in he
came in to audition for Bull. He won the part, but with a catch.
On the Season One DVD Commentary of the first
episode of “Night Court,” Weege said he asked Moll if he’d be willing to keep
his head shaved for the show, to which Moll replied “Are you kidding? I’d shave
my legs for the part!” Moll along with Anderson and Larroquette were the only
three main actors to be with “Night Court” for its entire run from 1984 to
1992, as there were some cast changes during its run.
Weege originally wanted to cast Markie Post as
idealistic public defender Christine Sullivan when the show began, but she was
playing Lee Major’s boss on the hit ABC Action/Adventure Show “The Fall Guy.”
During Night Court’s Second Season, she was able to take a one week break from
“The Fall Guy” and play Christine Sullivan in a “Night Court” episode “Daddy
for the Defense.”
The Public Defender role for Season Two ended up
being filled by Ellen Foley as Billie Young. Foley is perhaps best known as a
singer who did a duet with Meat Loaf on “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” When
“The Fall Guy” was cancelled in 1986, Post was free to join the cast of “Night
Court” during Season Three, replacing Foley and she remained until the show
ended in 1992.
Weege told E! TV Tales that role of Bailiff Selma
Hacker was specifically written for Selma Diamond.
“Selma was one of the first female comedy writers in
a male dominated business,” Weege said.
Diamond started off writing for Groucho Marx in
1943. In the 1950’s, she wrote for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” and was
nominated for an Emmy Award.
She made many film and television appearances before
landing the role of Selma on “Night Court.” Sadly after the first two seasons,
Selma Diamond passed away in 1985 due to lung cancer. She was replaced by
veteran television actress Florence Halop as new Bailiff Florence Kleiner for
Season Three in Fall 1985. Sadly, Halop passed away from cancer in 1986 after
only one season.
In Season Four Marsha Warfield joined the cast as no
nonsense Bailiff Roz Russell. Warfield had been a Writer/Performer on Richard
Pryor’s short-lived NBC Variety Show in 1977, whose cast also included a pre
“Mork and Mindy” Robin Williams. Warfield was also in the 1983 film “DC Cab”
and prior to “Night Court” made guest appearances On “Cheers” and “FamilyTies.”
Warfield remained with “Night Court” until the show ended in 1992.
In Season two
of “Night Court,” Charles Robinson replaced Karen Austin as the new court
clerk. In the E! TV Tales Documentary, Robinson said that Weege wanted his
character to be the one to try and keep things sane.
“When they would get really crazy,” Robinson told TV
Tales. “I was the one who’d say (To Judge Harry)… take it easy sir, don’t go
Originally set to be on NBC’s Fall 1983-84 TV
Schedule, “Night Court” was held as a mid-season replacement but it came at
tough time for NBC as a whole. In September 1983, the network aired “The NBC
All-Star Special” hosted Mr. Knight Rider himself, David Hasselhoff.
With the setting being a black gala event and
Hasselhoff decked out in full tuxedo he boasted, “We have a fantastic menu
planned for you tonight, were having CBS for dinner, and ABC for dessert.” With
only three major broadcast networks at the time, NBC was positive they had a
successful prime time line up that would dominate the ratings.
Not quite. Fall 1983 is considered one of the most
unsuccessful in television history for NBC. Infact, many of their new shows,
“We Got It Made,” “Jennifer Slept Here,” “Bay City Blues,” “The Yellow Rose,”
“Manimal” and “Mr. Smith” (the last one about an Orangutan who after drinking
an experimental formula develops an IQ of 256, can talk, and becomes a
political advisor in Washington, DC, and no…I’m not making that up) were all
either cancelled by the end of the year, 1983, or early 1984).
The first season of “Night Court” aired on Wednesday
nights after “The Facts of Life” and there were doubts if it would return for a
second second season. But by Fall 1984, NBC decided to counter program the
tight grip CBS had on Thursday nights for the past few years with the top rated
duo of “Magnum, PI” at 8 p.m. and “Simon and Simon” at 9 p.m.
With the success of “The Cosby Show” after its
September 1984 premiere, the network decided to make NBC
Thursday nights a comedy alternative, with Cosby at 8 p.m., “Family Ties” at
8:30 p.m., “Cheers” at 9 p.m. and “Night Court” at 9:30 p.m. The risk paid off
and NBC Thursday night became a huge hit for the network.
Later, the show was moved to Wednesday nights where
it aired at 9 p.m. and was the lead in to a new show “Seinfeld” airing at 9:30.
After “Night Court” ended its run in 1992, it’s
still remains a favorite today in syndication, on DVD and its cast has still
remained strong, moving on to various other projects.
Sadly, Weege passed away in December 2012 at the age
of 62 due to natural causes. According to Weege’s Los Angeles Times Obituary,
Larroquette, in a tribute via Twitter post stating: “In life there are those
who impact us with such a force everything changes. Reinhold Weege was that in
mine. May he truly rest in peace.”
Salad and Scrambled Eggs or How the NBC peacock learned how to stop worrying
and strut its feathers again on Thursday Nights in the ‘90s.
It was May 20, 1993,
and one of television’s most beloved sitcoms was ending. Cheers aired its final
episode after an amazing 11 years, 275 episode run. My God, what were we supposed
to do now. Read a book? That’s it, game over. It’s done, finished, kaput.
Wait! What about the time honored television tradition
of spin-offs? Some, like Laverne and Shirley from Happy Days worked, while
others, like After MASH from Mash did not. And which Cheers character to spin
off? Little known fact, prior to 1993, a
Cheers spin-off had been tried before.
Yes, back in 1987, The Tortelli’s was a spin-off
starring Dan Hedaya as Nick Tortelli, Carla’s sleazy ex-husband, and Jean Kasem
as his bubble-headed second wife Loretta that debuted in January 1987. Both had
appeared on Cheers several times starting in Season Two and continued into
Season Five, the current season at the time. But despite guest appearances by
Carla, as well as Norm and Cliff, The Tortelli’s was never a ratings success
and was cancelled after only 13 episodes in May 1987.
writers David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee had been approached by Kelsey
Grammer who had portrayed Frasier a few years before about the possibility of
creating a new series for him once Cheers had ended.
During Season 11 of Cheers,
when it definitely looked like it was going to be last call, Angell, Casey, Lee
(Who now had been successful with creating the NBC hit sitcom Wings) and
Grammer began collaborating.
Paramount Studios and
NBC were eager to keep some that Cheers spirit going, but Grammer, Angell,
Casey, and Lee were at first hesitant to do a Frasier spin-off, wanting to
something totally different. However, after Paramount and NBC did some
convincing that the character of Frasier already had a built in audience fan
base, a Frasier spin off was agreed upon.
Wanting to make the
show different from Cheers, which had been set in Boston, Frasier was to be set
in Seattle. Instead of a bar being the character’s hangout, a coffee shop was
decided upon instead. According to a blog entry written in 2006 by Peter Casey
for Hollywood and Levine, the idea of making Frasier a radio psychiatrist was
from an abandoned plot towards the end of the Cheers run, where Frasier would
fill in for a colleague of his for a week.
The call letters for
the radio station where Frasier worked, KACL, was an inside reference, as the
first letter A, C, and L came from the last names of Angell, Casey, and Lee. In
the Hollywood and Levine blog, Casey stated that Frasier’s original concept was
to be set entirely in the radio station, surrounded by “Wacky, yet loveable
But as they went on
developing the show’s concept, they felt it was a little too much like the hit
70’s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati.
At the time, David Lee
was helping his Mother care for his Father who had recently had a stroke. Lee
pitched shifting the concept from a workplace comedy to Frasier caring for his
Father, a former policeman who had been injured in the line of duty, while
being host of his own radio advice call in show.
Casey stated that they
wanted to make Frasier’s Father be very different from Frasier. “Differences
create conflict,” Casey stated in his 2006 blog. “Conflict creates humor.” So
it was decided while Frasier was intellectual and pompous, his Father Martin
(John Mahoney) would be a down to earth, no nonsense. The idea to make him a
cop was based on Peter Casey’s Father and Grandfather who both had actually been
San Francisco Policemen.
Originally the Niles
Crane character, Frasier’s Brother, wasn’t a part of Frasier at all, with the
focus being more on Frasier and his Dad. According to a December 1993 Chicago
Tribune article, while developing Frasier, casting director Shelia Guthrie
showed Angell, Casey, and Lee a photo of Broadway actor David Hyde Pierce.
Pierce had just been on another NBC show called The Powers That Be and said if
they were casting Frasier’s brother, Pierce bore a resemblance to Grammer when he
first started as Frasier on Cheers many years ago.
According to Casey’s
2006 Hollywood and Levine entry, he, Angell, and Lee screened tapes of Pierce’s
performance on The Powers That Be and loved his work, thus creating the Niles
character, who was supposed to be even more intellectual and pompous than Frasier.
Niles was envisioned as
if Frasier had never met and been exposed to the gang at Cheers, becoming a
more down to earth character. Pierce studied Grammer’s first season on Cheers
(Season three) to base his character.
Only, if you watch Cheers
reruns, you might notice Frasier mentioning his father is deceased and had been
a research scientist, and says he was an only child. However, if you catch the
season two episode where Ted Danson returns as Sam Malone for a guest
appearance, things do get somewhat cleared up on that matter.
The character of
Martin’s British home care worker Daphne was originally possibly going to be
Hispanic. In the Hollywood and Levine blog, Lee had stated while in a series
pitch meeting with NBC Network President Warren Littlefield, they told him that
she might either be British or Hispanic, but hadn’t decided yet. If they wrote
her as a Hispanic character, they were considering Rosie Perez for the part.
that if they ended up deciding to write the character as British, that he
thought actress Jane Leaves would be perfect. Leeves caught the attention of
Littlefield when she had then recently appeared in a few episodes of Seinfeld
as Marla, aka “The Virgin” character. It was decided to make the character
British, and Leeves won the role.
Last but not least,
there was the character of Roz, Frasier’s Radio Show Producer.
In the Season One DVD
Documentary, “Behind the Couch, the making of Frasier,” Peter Casey stated they
needed the Roz character to be someone strong who could go toe to toe with
Frasier. Someone that Frasier may be superior to in his own arena, but at the
radio station, it was Roz who was the superior one, a veteran who knows all the
Originally, Lisa Kudrow
was cast but was replaced by Peri Gilpin. Things ended up working out in the end
for Kudrow as well, who the very next year broke out into stardom as Phoebe, on
the hit NBC Sitcom, Friends.
Both Mahoney and Gilpin
had guest starring roles in two episodes of the final season of Cheers. Mahoney
appeared as a hack jingle writer Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) hires to write a
jingle for the bar. Mahoney has one brief scene with Grammer in the episode.
In a different episode,
Gilpin played a reporter interviewing Woody (Woody Harrelson) when he’s running
for Boston City Council.
Debuting in September
1993, Frasier was a hit with both critics and audiences, having a successful
run. The show ending up with an 11-year, 275-episode run just like Cheers. Each
of Cheers main cast (With the exception of Kirstie Alley, who had stated she
never guest starred because of her Scientology beliefs) made a guest appearance
Speaking as a die hard
Cheers fan, I definitely recommend Frasier. Now if you’ve never seen an episode
of Cheers, I’d recommend checking that out first, as there are Cheers
references, which might be confusing if you watch Frasier first, given that it
is a Cheers sequel.
But Frasier also works
on its own as a funny-sophisticated comedy. So go for it, now…check out Cheers
and Frasier. Whether you are familiar with both shows or just haven’t seen them
for awhile, catch up on some laughs and memories.
If you’ve never seen
either show and think that they are two old shows from the 80’s, and 90’s might
not be worth your time…I guarantee you, that while one is from the 80’s and one
is from the 90’s, they are both good, quality shows that are 96% better than a
lot of current shows. Yeah I went there. I went there, took pictures and flew back
So watch them…you won’t
be disappointed. Chuck has left the
the NBC peacock learned how to stop worrying and strut its feathers again on
Thursday nights in the 1980’s
Thursday, September 30, 1982, viewers tuning into to prime time television had
a choice from the big three networks to choose from (Fox was still five years
away). If you tuned in to ABC, you could catch the sitcom Too Close for Comfort.
If you already had CBS on (As many viewers then did, tuning into the hugely
popular Magnum, PI) they stayed at 9 p.m. for the successful detective series
Simon & Simon.
As for NBC, not many people had been tuning in over
the past years as the network had been struggling. They hoped to turn that
around but what would be airing in the 9 p.m. slot?
Oh wait, I remember now. It’s was a brand new show
called Cheers that was created by James Burrows along with the duo of Glen and
Les Charles, whose resume includes hit shows as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The
Bob Newhart Show, Mash and Taxi.
Cheers was romantic
comedy about two polar opposites, intellectually snooty college grad student
Diane Chambers (Shelly Long) and womanizing ex-Boston Red Sox Player Sam Malone
(Ted Danson) who were both repulsed, and romantically attracted to each other.
Sam was the owner/bartender of a Boston Bar called Cheers, and in the pilot episode,
Diane is jilted and left at Cheers on the eve of her wedding when her fiancé decides
to go back to his ex-wife.
supporting cast included the slow-witted, but loveably-kind-hearted bartender “Coach”
Ernie Pantusso, played by Nicholas Colasanto, an acclaimed Director/Actor who
played Mob Boss Tommy Como in the 1980 Robert DeNiro film, Raging Bull. Rhea
Pearlman as tough-talking waitress Carla who had a dislike for Diane. Pearlman
had played Zena, the girlfriend of Louie (Danny DeVito) on Taxi. When creating
Cheers, The Charles Brothers created the role of Carla especially for her.
Then there was the classic comedy duo of Norm
(George Wendt) and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) television’s best loved barflys.
But originally, one of these characters almost never existed. Originally John
Ratzenberger auditioned for the role of Norm. After his audition, he didn’t
feel that it went well, and before leaving decided to take a chance that ended
up a successful gamble.
Ratzenberger told Writer Jerry Buck in a June 20,1985 interview with The Day a
New London Connecticut Newspaper, he asked producers, “Do you have a bar room
know it all?”, and when asked to elaborate, Ratzenberger described and
improvised a character based on a cop he knew in his hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
“He was a nice guy, but a know it all,” stated
Ratzenberger in the interview. “All people who wear uniforms and have keys
hanging from their belts tend to be that way. Cliff is the kind of guy who
wishes he’d been a combat marine.”
Ratzenberger continued explaining to Writer Jerry
Buck in the interview, “But maybe he was near sided or had flat feet, and
became a mailman. He loves the respect he gets. Cliff lives with his mother and
drives a Studebaker.”
and The Charles Brothers originally had thought to set the series in a hotel in
Las Vegas, but soon discovered the best stories were coming from the hotel bar,
so they decided to change the setting to just a bar, moving from Las Vegas to
Boston. Since they felt it was a great sports town and hadn’t been used much in
prior television shows, it could provide a great setting and it sure did.
Originally Sam Malone was going to be an ex-wide
receiver for The New England Patriots, but after casting Ted Danson in the
role, the Charles Brothers decided that Danson’s athletic build that the
character of Sam would work better as an ex-baseball player. Thus, they rewrote
his character to be an ex-relief pitcher for The Boston Red Sox.
It debuted that Thursday night sandwiched between
Fame at 8 p.m. and Taxi at 9:30 p.m. Taxi had previously aired on ABC and was
cancelled in April 1982. Its time slot had been Thursdays at 9:30 p.m., however
NBC picked it up and paired it with Cheers. Interestingly enough by this time, Pearlman
and DeVito were married, and their shows now paired together. NBC even ran
promos with Danny DeVito as his Louie DePalma character saying “Same time,
Barbra Holsopple of The
Pittsburgh Press praised the show on the night of the premier, concluding the
review with, “Cheers is somewhat of a lone breed this season, the intelligent
comedy that probes human nature for its humor.”
Though reviews were good, ratings were not and by
the end of the 1982-83 television season, Cheers ranked 77th out 77 shows on
the network. But it avoided cancellation due to a few factors, including NBC
itself not doing well at the time, them having nothing to replace it with and
Grant Tinker and Brandon Tartikoff who were in charge at NBC loved the show,
feeling that it just needed time to find an audience.
In a November 29, 1983 New York Times interview with
Peter Kerr, Tartikoff stated, “Cheers is a very important comedy for us. It is
classy, sophisticated and for adults. We never second doubted that we would
renew it for this year.”
Plus, critics loved it and the first season got Emmy
nominations and won, including Shelly Long for Best Actress in a Comedy Series
and Cheers won for best comedy. Fans were also catching up on reruns and liked
what they saw. Season two would now have Sam and Diane actually pursuing a
In September 1983, as
Cheers season two was to begin, The NBC All Star Special aired, kicking off
with the gang at Cheers watching it on TV in the bar, and Diane, having been up
late the previous night studying for an exam, nodding off into a dream she’s
waiting tables there along with Carla, with Sam and Coach bartending at this
party. Norm and Cliff are there as party guests and all the while Diane trying
to pitch to an NBC executive her idea for a series about Emily Dickenson,
entitled, “Damsel in Distress.”
The special was to preview the new NBC 1983 fall lineup
of shows and was hosted by none other than Mr. Knight Rider himself, David
Hasselhoff. Party guests included Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan
(Remington Steele), Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, casts of Gimme a Break, The Facts
of Life, and St. Elsewhere and even Kitt, the talking car from Knight Rider!
Unfortunately this special was never included on the
DVD extras. It is known as the “Cheers edit” version and is available on YouTube.
It is a must see for Cheers and 80’s TV Fans.
Hasselhoff, boasting about NBC’s fall 1983 Schedule and
introducing the first show said. “We have a fantastic menu planned for you
tonight. Were having CBS for dinner and ABC for dessert.”
By spring 1984, Sam and Diane’s relationship ended
in a messy break up, but more viewers were starting to turn in, finishing in
35th place in the ratings. This was a definite improvement from the year
But September 1984
turned out to be much better. NBC debuted The Cosby Show at 8 p.m. on Thursday
nights and became the #1 show on television (Until Roseanne took the spot in
1989). NBC moved Family Ties from Wednesdays to Thursdays at 8:30 p.m., with
Cheers at 9 p.m., Night Court at 9:30 p.m. and Hill Street Blues at 10 p.m.
For Season Three, Diane got a new love interest, Dr.
Frasier Crane, a pompous but well-meaning psychiatrist. The part originally was
offered to John Lithgow (Twilight Zone: The Movie/ Footloose/Harry and the Hendersons)
but Lithgow passed, saying he wasn’t interested in a television role. However
in later years, Lithgow changed his mind, starring in the successful Third Rock
from the Sun from 1996-2001.
The role of Frasier instead went to Kelsey Grammer,
who only was supposed to appear in seven episodes, but became a beloved
character with Cheers’ writers, producers, and fans. He became a permanent
character, even after Diane left him at the alter at the end of the season. In
fact right after Cheers ended, Frasier got his own spin-off with Grammer
playing him for a record twenty years from 1984 to 2004. The only other actor
to have that record is James Arness, who played Marshall Matt Dillion on the
CBS Western Gunsmoke from 1955-1975.
Both Shelly Long and
Rhea Pearlman became pregnant during Season Three. With Pearlman it was easily
written for her Carla character, but what about Diane? A Storyline was
considered of Diane becoming pregnant with a “Who is the Father” plot, Sam or
Frasier? But, it was decided to conceal Long’s pregnancy instead.
Sadly, Nicholas Colasanto passed away during Season
Three so Coach’s passing was written in at the beginning of Season Four. Woody
Harrelson joined the cast as naive farm boy Woody Boyd. Coach and Woody had
been pen pals (Exchanging letters, not pens…as it was Coach’s idea). Woody
began corresponding with Coach while seeking advice on being a Bartender in the
Woody arrived at Cheers to meet Coach in person, but
Sam informed him Coach had passed away. Sam hired Woody to be the new Bartender
and he proved to be a younger version Coach. Ironically, the character was
already named Woody long before Harrelson was cast. Colasanto had previously
hung a picture of Geronimo in his dressing room. After he passed, producers
hung the picture on the wall on the bar where it remained until the end of the
Frasier’s love life improved in Season five when he
began a relationship with fellow psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Sternin (Bebe
Neuwirth). The character of Lilith was only supposed to appear in one episode
of Season Four as a disastrous blind date for Frasier, but the two characters
worked so well together and viewers loved her so she was granted a regular role
on the show.
For Season Three, Cheers
finished 12th place in the ratings. In Season Four Cheers finished for the
first time in the top 10 ratings, notching 5th place. During Season 5, Cheers
was 3rd in the ratings, which is why it surprise when an announcement was made
in December 1986 that Shelly Long would be leaving at the end of the season.
While also working on Cheers, Long had made hit films, such as Outrageous
Fortune with Bette Midler and The Money Pit with Tom Hanks.
Long said that she wanted to focus now on her movie
career and family. At the end of Season Five after almost marrying Sam, Diane
left for “Just Six Months” to finish writing her novel. The new character of Rebecca
Howe (Kirste Alley) replaced Diane, only this time she was Sam’s Boss and
instead of owning the bar, Sam was a Bartender (Though in Season 8, he regained
ownership of the bar). Alley made her film debut just five years earlier, as
Saavik, Spock’s Vulcan protégée in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
In 1990, after many
years of being nominated, Ted Danson finally won an Emmy for Lead Actor in a
Comedy Series, Cheers celebrated its 200th episode and for the first time was ranked 1st in the ratings.
On May 20, 1993, it was Last Call as Cheers aired
its final episode when Diane returned, now a successful Hollywood Screenwriter
who had just recently won an award for outstanding writing of a television
movie script based on Carla’s life.
In the final scene, Sam, alone in the bar straightens
the crooked picture of Geronimo on the wall (As a nod to Coach and Actor
Nicholas Colasanto) and walks back from the bar into the poolroom. This was a
nod to the very first episode, when Sam, the first character we ever meet,
walks out from the poolroom into the bar.
This is my all-time
favorite TV Show. It was never preachy, or did any “Tonight on a very special
Cheers” episodes. It’s just a funny, laugh out loud, well-written show, with
Not only was this a great show, but represents in my
opinion, the greatest chapter in NBC Thursday Night Comedy History, highlighted
by Cheers and Night Court (Another one of my favorites).
If you haven’t watched
for a while, get reacquainted with some old friends, and if you’ve never seen
it, start with season one and watch the seasons in order. You’ll enjoy the show
more…I said now, I’m serious dammit…don’t make me sing the theme song again…
This has been one Chuck’s Opinion, thank you, and
Aliens Holiday Special
Christmas time is fast
approaching. Time for sipping egg nog, singing carols, and spending time with
loved ones. And what could be more festive then humanoid aliens who are really
reptilian when you peel their human disguises who’ve come to this planet to eat
us? Deck the halls with bowls of holly…fa la..la?
In the world of pop culture, aliens have been
invading us for decades. Some, like ET, are friendly, just stopping by Earth to
collect flowers and eat Reese’s Pieces, while others, like in “Independence Day”
stop by Earth to blow up our national monuments, or as in “V”, eat us. Bummer,
Okay, so some of you who are too young to remember,
may be asking what “V” is. Well, let’s travel back to the magical year of 1983,
when He-Man had the power of Greyskull (as well as toy stores), Prince was
“Partying like it’s 1999”, and in the third installment of the film franchise,
“Jaws” was attacking his victims in 3-D at your local cinema.
In May of that same
year, NBC premiered a two-night miniseries called “V”, which started off with
50 alien mother ship arriving on Earth, and positioning themselves over major
cities across the world. Once contact was made with them, we discovered they
looked humanoid, but had strange sounding voices.
Claiming their real names would be difficult to
pronounce, they said they chose simple names from Earth to make things easier,
as their supreme commander insisted on being called John. Claiming they needed
our help to produce chemicals to save their dying planet, we were in a position
to be able to help them, and in exchange, they would share their technology
with us, then leave as they arrived, in peace. They even became known as “The
Visitors”, intending that they were only temporary residents of our planet.
They were welcomed and embraced by most of Earth,
and at first, things were going well. Then suddenly there were news broadcasts
about a “Conspiracy” against The Visitors by Earth’s Scientists, to seize
control of Visitor Motherships for their own personal gain, with some
scientists admitting to being part of the conspiracy themselves, and naming
others, as well as authorities claiming in news broadcasts, that major medical
breakthroughs had been discovered by scientists, but they had not been shared
due to money to be gained by research grants. People started turning against scientists,
some of whom were being arrested, and others disappearing.
to find out the truth of what was going on, news cameraman Mike Donovan (Played
by Marc Singer, whom at the time was best known as Dar, from the 1982 film “The
Beastmaster”) sneaks aboard the Los Angeles mothership, and finds out the “Conspiracy”
was created by The Visitors themselves, through help of a “Conversion process”
to discredit Scientists whom the feared might find a way to stop them.
But that’s not all he found out. He also found out
what Visitors like to snack on, and it wasn’t a bucket of KFC. Donovan gets
camera footage of them eating live mice, as well as sexy alien femme fatale
Diana (Jane Badler) who even eats whole Guinea pigs. Yummy. He’s discovered by
a Visitor, and during a struggle, Donovan accidently peels away the visitor’s
face to discover their humanoid appearance is really just a disguise for their
true form, reptilian like creatures which forked tongues, who spray poisonous
After barely escaping the mothership, Donovan tries
to get his news story on to warn us, but it’s too late. The Visitors now have
control of our television airwaves, Donovan’s story never gets on air, and he
is discredited as a traitor to the human race, and is now a fugitive.
John delivers a televised address that the world
government leaders have “Requested” help, and martial law is now instituted,
and The Visitors move in with laser weapons to “Restore law and order”. The
Visitors even get help from humans who’ve either been brainwashed or some
willingly in order to gain positions of power. However, there are some
Visitors who don’t condone with their leader’s plans are, and try to help us
(Including one played by Robert Englund, a year before he would go onto to the
iconic role of Freddy Kruger in “Nightmare on Elm Street”). Later sneaking back
on the mothership in visitor uniform disguise, Donovan finds out The Visitors
true plans are to steal all of Earth’s water, and in a nod to the classic
“Twilight Zone” episode, “To Serve Man”, harvest human beings for food.
Donovan soon hooks up with a group of rebels led by
scientist Dr. Julie Parish (Played by Faye Grant, who at the time was best
known for her role as delinquent high school student Rhonda Blake on “The
Greatest American Hero”). Other members of this resistance group include an
anthropologist whose daughter Robin (Blair Tefkin) has been impregnated by a
visitor…will her bun in the oven be the destruction of mankind? Or it’s hope?
“V”(Which stood for
Victory) was created, written, and directed by Kenneth Johnson, a graduate from
Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon College, when it was still Carnegie Tech and, in
the same graduating class as Steven Bochco (creator of “Hill Street Blues” “LA
Law”, and “NYPD Blue”) who by that time already had impressive television
credentials, as a writer/producer of “The Six Million Dollar Man”, creator of
its spin-off The Bionic Woman”, and created the television adaptation of “The
It was an allegorical retelling of the Nazi’s rise
to power in World War II. Johnson had envisioned telling a story of a fascist
takeover of The United States, but not involving extraterrestrial’s, but NBC
and Johnson disagreed on where the fascist takeover would come from, until due
to the success of “Star Wars”, that NBC thought “What if the Nazi’s were from outer
According to a 2009 interview, Johnson didn’t like
the idea at first, but then decided he could hook in viewers, especially
younger ones with all the eye candy of aliens and spaceships, then tell the
story he wanted to tell. Airing on NBC May 1st
and 2nd 1983 (right before that year’s May 25th release of “Return of The
Jedi”) “V” was huge ratings success, originally intended as pilot for a series
for the fall 1983-84 TV Season. (Since at the end of the two-part four-hour
mini-series, the aliens were now in control, not like “Independence Day”, where
after two hours, humans have won, and the aliens are defeated).
There was even a similar premise that been
established at the four-hour miniseries similar in sorts to “Star Wars”, where
“The Visitors” are set in role of “The Empire”, and Donovan (Semi established
in the first miniseries as Han Solo/Indiana Jones type character), Julie and
the rebels one could argue were fighting for freedom against an evil tyrannical
force like in “Star Wars” trilogy. And instead of Darth Vader, you had in
Diana, a sexy conniving villainess character, as an evil leader, with laser
weapon visitor troops at her command, much like the Storm Troopers, and who
answered to an Emperor Palpetine type character, known only as “The Leader”
unseen but referred to, who was still back on the visitor’s home planet.
Johnson stated in the miniseries DVD commentary that
it was decided that “V” in 1983 would be too expensive to produce as a weekly
series. In 1984, a three-part miniseries “V: The Final Battle” aired to
conclude things, with the human rebels defeating the alien visitors. Johnson
and NBC parted ways to creative differences. Though the Final Battle did
introduce who ended up becoming one of the most popular characters in the “V”
franchise, mercenary Ham Tyler (Played by Michael Ironside, of “Scanners”, “Top
Gun”, and “Total Recall”).
In fact, in a 1990 interview with Ironside in
Starlog Magazine, Ironside stated his approach to playing the villainous henchman
Richter in “Total Recall” was playing him as his “V” Ham Tyler character, but
this time as a villain instead of a good guy as on “V”.
The Final Battle” did even better in the ratings than the original miniseries,
and NBC immediately ordered a one-hour weekly series for fall 1984, but in the
mid 1980’s era it did prove too expensive to do as a weekly series, even
recycling stock footage from the original two miniseries, plus storylines lost
it’s serious tone it originally had in favor of more campy storylines, trying
to cash in the two top rated Prime Time TV Soap operas at the time, “Dynasty”
and “Dallas” and was cancelled after only one season in 1985. Also by the time the weekly series aired, Ken
Johnson was no longer involved, though in Fall 1989, he got to create the
television adaptation of the hit 1988 film, “Alien Nation” which aired on Fox.
It had a successful first season run, letting Johnson use a television series
to tell more serious sci-fi stories as he had originally planned to do in later
incarnations of “V”, but unfortunately “Alien Nation” was considered too
expensive to produce as a weekly series, and was cancelled in 1990.
However dangling storylines got resolved via later television
movies on FOX, and later enjoyed a successful DVD release.
ABC aired a reboot with totally new characters in
2009, (Without Johnson’s involvement) but was unsuccessful, and was cancelled
in 2011. Both original 1983 and 1984 Mini Series, the 1984 TV Series, and
2009-2011 TV Reboot are all available on DVD. They’re definitely worth a look.
You can check out Marc Singer in “The Beastmaster”
DVD and Faye Grant on Season one of “The Greatest American Hero” DVD which
perhaps shall be covered in a future article. That’s a show if you haven’t
seen, and you’ve been enjoying 80’s nostalgia as I have with “Stranger Things”,
then all three seasons of “The Greatest American Hero”, which ran on ABC from
1981-83 are available on DVD…Believe it or not… (More on that later).
last but not least, if you’re a fan of aliens using humans for food, though go
back and check out the original “To Serve Man” episode on the season three DVD
of the original “Twilight Zone” Television Series, which first
aired in 1962, 55 years ago. With only a half hour format, it got a lot of
great things in plot wise, much like “The Twilight Zone” did on a regular
The main alien villain is played by Richard Kiel,
who later would go on to fame as Jaws, dastardly foe of the Roger Moore era of
James Bond, in “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker”.
conclusion, if you have an extraterrestrial visitor this Christmas Season, and
it likes snacking on Guinea pigs instead of Reese’s Pieces, then you definitely
better watch out for Goodness sake. HO! HO! HO! And Happy Holidays from your
friends at Cash in Culture.com
A long time
ago…in a galaxy far, far away…1987, there was no internet, no cell phones, no Twitter, and only three broadcast networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC. In the fall of
1984, NBC debuted a new hit “The Cosby Show”, which was followed by ABC’s
“Growing Pains” in fall 1985.
When a new fourth network, FOX, debuted in 1987,
America was introduced to a brand new sitcom family that broke all the rules,
when Married…with Children premiered. It featured The Bundy family of Chicago,
consisting of sarcastic sexist Dad Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill), his lazy, horny
housewife Peg (Katey Segal), their two children, boy-crazy bimbo teenage
daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) and young con artist Bud (David Faustino).
Along with The Bundy’s, we met their yuppie newlywed
neighbors, Steve and Marcy Rhoades (David Garrison and Amanda Bearse). The
series was created veteran TV Writing duo Ron Leavitt and Michael Moye, who
together their resume included hit shows such as “Happy Days”, Laverne and
Shirley”, “Good Times”, “Different Strokes”, and “The Jefferson’s”, as well as
creating the critically acclaimed, but short-lived (Due to its time slot being
up against ABC’s hit soap, “Dynasty”) 1984 NBC sitcom, “It’s your move” which
starred a then 15 year old Jason Bateman, as well as David Garrison, who three
years later to be a “Married…with Children” cast member as Steve Rhoades.
Leavitt and Moye were tired of happy, sticky sweet
TV Families as featured on “Family Ties”, “Growing Pains”, and television’s
then #1 show, “The Cosby Show”, and felt that other viewers were to, and there
could be an audience out there that would enjoy a more dysfunctional TV family,
in fact the original working title was “Not the Cosbys”.
In a Biography Channel Married…with Children
special, Marcy Vosburgh, a Writer/Producer on the show stated, “Their theory
was, when you watch Television Family Sitcoms, you just feel terrible about
your own life, because your life sucks, and they all have clean houses and hug
at the end.”
“And Ron and Mike wanted to do a show where no
matter what happened”, added Vosburgh, “At the end you could turn of the
television and feel a little better about yourself.”
The show became Fox’s first hit series, and ran in
primetime from 1987, until 1997, and since entering syndication in fall 1991,
has remained a hit in reruns, and the series later enjoyed a successful DVD
In honor of
its 30th anniversary, here are some show fun facts:
1. The original working title of the show was “Not the
2. Originally the show was greenlit as “What if Sam
Kinison and Roseanne Barr were married?” Both turned the show down, though
Roseanne got her own blue collar family sitcom on ABC in Fall 1988, which ran
until 1997, just as “Married with Children”, and in December 1989, Kinison
guest starred as Al Bundy’s Guardian Angel, in an hour long episode spoofing
“It’s a Wonderful Life”, entitled, “It’s a Bundyiful Life”
3. Al Bundy was the last role cast. Show Co-Creator
Michael Moye said in the “Married…With Children E! True Hollywood Story” half
of the actors who came into to audition for the part read it like Ralph Kramden
(Jackie Gleason’s beloved husband character on “The Honeymooners”), yelling, and
the other half in a scarier, creepy way as in “I’ll get you in your sleep Peg”,
like Jack Nicholson from “The Shining”.
4. Seinfeld’s Michael Richards read for Al Bundy
according to Casting Director Mark Hirschfeld during an interview on
“Married…with Children…E! True Hollywood Story”, while Richards didn’t get the
Al Bundy role, Hirschfeld said he later remembered and recommended Richards for
the part of Kramer when casting for “Seinfeld”.
5. The first role cast was that of next door neighbor
Steve Rhoades (David Garrison). Show Creators Ron Leavitt and Michael Moye had
previously worked with Garrison on a 1984 NBC Sitcom “It’s Your Move”, and
wrote the Steve Rhoades character specifically with Garrison in mind.
6. Show Creators Leavitt and Moye were big wrestling
fans, and the Bundys got their last name from pro wrestler King Kong Bundy,
who later appeared as a guest star on the show, first as one of Peg’s
relatives in Season 2, and in a later season as himself.
7. Steve Rhoades got his last name after wrestler Dusty
Rhoades, and in early episodes, Al had a co-worker at the shoe store name Luke
Ventura (Ritch Shyder) named after Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
8. Ted McGinley, who played Marcy’s second husband
Jefferson Darcy, actually first appeared as Peg’s husband during Season 4, in
the Christmas episode spoofing “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Sam Kinison
playing Al Bundy’s Guardian Angel, showed Al what life would’ve been like if he
was never born, McGinley played Peg’s perfect husband, Norman Jablonski.
9. When the Bundy’s made their TV Debut in 1987,
another series debuted the same time on Fox, “The Tracey Ullman Show”
featured short animated segments before and after the commercial breaks. Two
years later, that animated family had a 1989 Christmas special air on FOX,
followed by a spin-off series debut in January 1990, and the show still airs on
Fox today, “The Simpsons”.
10. David Boreanaz’s first television role was as Frank,
Kelly Bundy’s Biker Boyfriend on a 1993 episode “Movie Show”. When Kelly goes
out to the movies with her family for her birthday, she discovers Frank is
cheating on her, and later has her Dad Al Bundy beat Frank up.
11. Boreanaz of course went on to play Vampire Angel on
“Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and later in his own spin off “Angel”, late r
playing FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth on “Bones” and
currently stars as Master Chief Petty Officer Jason Hayes on “Seal Team”.
New shows premiere each fall TV Season. But most shows are not met with the controversy that "Soap" ignited in 1977 when debuting on ABC.
There was backlash from various religious groups, calling
it “A low-life, salacious program”, protests from The National Gay Task Force,
on the handling of the portrayal of a homosexual character on the show, some
ABC Affiliates refused to air the show, and other that did agree to air it,
only would in a later time slot, not its scheduled Tuesday 9:30pm scheduled
After a Newsweek article earlier in the year on a
possible storyline (Which was later proven to be false), ABC received 32,000
letters, nine didn’t have a problem with the show, but the rest did. Many sponsors also refused to air ads during
the show, and there many notes from the network about what scenes or dialogue
just why was there all this backlash and controversy? What was “Soap” about?
Well, it was a sitcom, that was also a spoof day time soap operas. Basically
the show took all the melodramatic story lines viewers had seen (And still see)
on daytime soap operas (And later night time ones, this was pre “Dallas” and
“Melrose Place”) but played them for laughs, and its continuing storylines
didn’t end in just one half hour episode, and when one storyline was later
concluded, another began, which added to the fun.
even a narrator who at the beginning of each new episode would give a recap of
what happened previously (Remember, this was 1977, before DVRs, or Internet
spoilers, or being able to watch a show online, if you missed an episode, you
had to wait for months or summer time before it was rerun). The Narrator (Rod
Roddy, later the “Price is Right” announcer) would ask “What will happen next?
To find out tune next week to “Soap”.
The continuing storyline of the show
revolved around two sisters, Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) who had married
rich, and Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon) whose family was blue collar, and the
spouses and children of both in the fictional setting of Dunn’s River,
Jessica was a spacey, but kind hearted socialite
married to rich, pompous stockbroker Chester Tate, (Robert Mandan) who
unbeknownst to Jessica, was having many extra marital affairs, and now was
being blackmailed by his secretary/mistress. Their promiscuous daughter
Corrinne (Diana Canova) was still in love with her former high school boyfriend
Tim (Sal Viscuso) who was now a Priest, and fought off her advances.
Since Corrine couldn’t have the man she truly was in
love with, she began an affair with her tennis instructor Peter (Robert Urich)
who was having affairs with most of his female students, including Jessica, who
had begun an affair with Peter, because she was lonely because Chester was
never home due to his philandering. Neither Jessica or Corrinne knew the other
was sleeping with Peter. Got all that so far? Oh wait…were just getting
residents of the Tate household included Chester and Jessica’s other daughter
Eunice (Jennifer Salt) a reporter secretly having an affair with a married
congressman. 13 year Billy Tate (Jimmy Baio) was a smart aleck, dealing with
puberty. Jessica and Mary’s father, known only as “The Major” (Arthur Peterson)
was a shell shocked World War II Veteran who still thought the war was going
on, and last but not least, Benson (Robert Guillame) the level headed sarcastic
Tate family butler who couldn’t stand Chester, but stayed because he loved the
rest of family, who needed his help to hold things together.
Meanwhile, across town, Mary lived with her second
husband Burt Campbell (Richard Mulligan) a construction worker and decent fella
with one slight problem…impotence. Unbeknownst to Mary, the reason for Burt’s
impotence was due to Burt feeling guilty about killing Mary’s first husband, a
Also living in the Campbell household were Mary’s
two sons from her first husband. There was Danny (Ted Wass), who also worked
for the mob, but wanted out. The Godfather agreed only if Danny killed the man
who killed his father…which would be Danny’s Stepfather Burt.
Mary’s younger son Jodie (Played by Billy Crystal,
pre “Saturday Night Live” and his successful film career) who was a homosexual,
who wants to have a sex change to be with his boyfriend, an in the closet
popular pro football player.
also has two sons from a previous marriage, Chuck (Jay Johnson) a ventriloquist
who thinks his dummy Bob is real. Chuck is mild mannered and shy, but uses Bob
to express a lot of politically incorrect views he feels deep down. Burt’s other
son? Well…he turns out to be the previously mentioned Peter, the womanizing
tennis pro, who ends up being murdered midway through the first season, though
at first we don’t know by who, setting a murder mystery where all the
characters are suspects the second half of the first season.
Who did it? Well Jessica ends up being put on trial
and found guilty, but we learn she isn’t the real killer, Peter’s real murderer
is…well…you’ll have to watch the series (All four seasons available on DVD) to
used in later seasons episodes include, soap opera staples such as amnesia,
child custody battles, convicts, kidnapping, love triangles, revenge, duels,
more affairs, cliffhangers, corruption, shocking revelations, shot-gun
weddings, scandals, a baby possessed by The Devil, cults, and horny aliens…yes,
you read that last one right. Everyone loves horny aliens.
“Soap” ran for four seasons on ABC before being
cancelled in 1981, leaving a lot unanswered cliffhangers, but has lived on in
reruns. The character of Benson got his own spinoff in 1979, which ran until
1986, and in a 1983 episode, even helped partially resolve one of the
unresolved cliffhangers from Soap’s last episode.
found a whole new audience in January 1994, when Comedy Central (pre “South Park”
era) began airing reruns of the show. Originally it only aired at 7:30pm
weeknights, but soon became the network’s highest rated series. Just a few
months later, Comedy Central began airing it 7:30, 8:00, and 11pm weeknights,
and occasionally aired weekend marathons.
mentioned before, the entire four seasons of “Soap” are available on DVD,
either separately by season, or all four seasons as a set. I can’t recommend
this series enough, it’s my #2 all-time favorite series after “Cheers”. The
first two seasons of “Benson” are also available on DVD, and while not
serialized like “Soap”, “Benson” has a more traditional sitcom setting, (And
season two features a then unknown Jerry Seinfeld, appearing in three episodes)
It’s a funny show worth checking out. Burt and Benson were tied as my two
favorite characters, and actor Robert Guillaume, who sadly recently passed
away, was an excellent actor, giving top notch performances in both series.
“Soap” was created by veteran TV Writer Susan
Harris, who perhaps had her greatest success with creating “The Golden Girls”
in 1985. According to a recent book on The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan was
originally cast as Mary Campbell on “Soap” but declined, because she wanted to
play Jessica, whom she thought was a more interesting character, but that part
had been already cast with Katherine Helmond, who later in 1984, would go onto
play Mona on “Who’s the Boss?” Richard Mulligan (Burt) later starred in “The Golden
Girls” spin-off “Empty Nest”.
Susan Harris wrote just about every episode of the
first two seasons herself, and even appeared on screen in two episodes in
Season One as a prostitute named Babette. Having created many hit shows, Harris
says her favorite to write for was “Soap”, with great writing and a great cast,
I’m going to shut the hell up now, and let you check it out for yourself.