Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Episode 19: “Final Call”–-The Last CHEERS episode


The last CHEERS episode drew over 42 million viewers. Ken discusses the making of that classic show, bringing back Diane, the filming, airing, and disastrous TONIGHT SHOW that followed.  For fans of the show this week’s episode is a must-listen. Also, have you heard the CHEERS theme in its entirety?  You will this week.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

25 comments :

slgc said...

My husband and I, along with our two children, were in Toronto the night of the final Cheers episode. Skydome, as the Rogers Center was known at the time, was open to the public that night for the price of a food bank donation, so we showed up for the viewing party. It was very cool to be there when 40,000 people in unison shouted, "Norm!"

It was a memorable night.

Barry Traylor said...

42 million, wow! The networks would kill for numbers like that now.

Steely Dan said...

POSSIBLE FRIDAY QUESTION: Of all the popular and/or well-regarded comedies of the 1970s ("M*A*S*H," the MTM shows, the Norman Lear shows, the Garry Marshall shows), "Taxi" seems to have essentially vanished from the cultural memoryscape. Why do you think that is? I think that of all the shows of that era it was consistently the funniest, and its humor seems to have aged the best ("Taxi" clips and episodes on YouTube still make me laugh out loud in a way that the other aforementioned series do not). Thoughts?

Mike Barer said...

Podcasts have been must listen, can't wait to hear this one.

Roy DeRousse said...

Thanks, Ken. I have been enjoying the podcasts. The download link at the top of this page goes to a 287 MB WAV file, not an MP3. You may want to change that.

Anonymous said...

Friday question and a hypothetical: if Sam and Diane actually got together and had children just how screwed up would those kids be? It would be like being raised by Punch and Judy.


Sean

Mel Agar said...

I will never forget that night. The last episode of Cheers aired during one of my last weeks of college. Cheers had been my favorite show for a decade, so I remember feeling that it seemed so fitting that Cheers should be ending at the same time I was reaching this huge milestone. I had my final radio show that night on our campus station, so I promoted it as "Mel's Last Call" and then went home to my campus apartment where all my friends gathered and we watched the last episode of Cheers. I was kind of an emotional mess because I was saying good-bye to my tv friends and getting ready to say good-bye to my college friends who had become a real family unit for me. Cheers still carries such tremendous nostalgia for me after all these years.

Boomska316 said...

I've always had it in my head that Sam and Diane ended up finally getting back together for good sometime after their separate appearances on Frasier. I felt like they'd both finally matured enough for a real long term relationship.

Jahn Ghalt said...

People like what's familiar. The long version of the Cheers theme has a double-length opening verse, so when you expect the chorus, you get more stanza (what?). Substituting an organ/synth for the piano when the chorus finally come in is a bit jarring. That Kenny G soprano sax did not impress (pretty much like KG).

The arrangement generally disappointed - I guess a "safer" option would be to not mess with the familar complement and sound of the familar theme song.

Terrence Moss said...

I remember watching that night and recording on VCR. I watched it several times after and yeah -- it was quite the spectacle.

Ken Levine said...

Working on correcting to technical problem. Thanks for alerting me. In the meantime, the link at the top of the blog works. Just click on the big gold arrow. Thanks and sorry for the inconvenience.

Mike Barer said...

Love the mud puddle anecdote. Driver may not have been a Cheers fan.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Friday question based on the LAST CHEERS podcast:
You mentioned the stitches together of scenes/lines for the last few seasons that would produce a well-shown TV episode.

Is there any written Issacs-Levine script (for ANY show) which was recreated into an episode that made you think, "Wow! I don't know what they (crew/cast/etc) did but they turned that into a thing of beauty beyond our wildest expectations".

Julian Brown said...

perhaps this is the same technical problem, but on my tablet the podcast, when played, opens an additional window i've never seen before, and won't respond to pause/rewind/FFWD/volume. very strange.

Jay said...

Hi Ken,
If I remember correctly, the entire full-length version of "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" was played at the end of the 200th episode special in November, 1990.

Also, a Friday question:
With the upcoming "Twin Peaks" revival, can you think back to the spring of 1990 when that show was up against "Cheers" for a hot minute on Thursday nights...was there any concern within the "Cheers" offices about this trendy, mega-hyped show going up against your still-hilarious-but-it's-still-an-eight-year-old show? Of course in the end, it only lasted six weeks against "Cheers", was moved to Saturday night the following fall, and died a quick death following the resolution to the Who Killed Laura Palmer mystery, but still...for a few weeks in April 1990 (and especially after the boffo ratings "Twin Peaks's" pilot received), I seem to remember a sense of "Cheers" possibly having met its match ratings-wise.

Thank you!

Johnny Walker said...

Yes, I just checked my podcast app and the file is indeed 287MB! (It should be more like 28MB if it was an MP3.) Beware if you're using your mobile data to download it!

@steelydan Strange that Taxi has fallen by the wayside. It really is still very very funny (except for maybe Season 5 where it stopped being an ensemble show). Maybe it's a rights thing?

Y. Knott said...

Well, it shouldn't be *that* big a surprise the Cheers theme flopped. It was issued as a single in early 1983 when Cheers was dead last in the ratings ... it was the theme to a show nobody watched. And on its own merits, without listening to it with the fond association with the show, it sure doesn't fit in with the rotation of Michael Jackson's "Beat It", Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf" and Prince's "Little Red Corvette". (Yes, those were all on the hit parade when the Cheers theme was issued as a single.)

Even worse, those goofy extra lyrics push what was a mournful-but-hopeful slice-of-life number much closer to a not-terribly-funny novelty song. And okay, yes, novelty songs can get airplay ... but the ones that do are usually peppy, and funny. This one really isn't either.

And again, it was the theme to quite literally the least-watched show on TV! So nobody was flooding radio station request lines to hear it, because they'd never even heard *of* it...

The insanely valuable ARSA chart archive (google it!) lists only one station as having the courage to play the Cheers theme week after week during the spring of '83. Yes, despite public indifference, one station in New York gave the people what they didn't even know they wanted: Theme from Cheers hit #10 during an 11-week chart run on ... uh, WNBC.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the station is owned and operated by the network that aired Cheers.

Mike Barer said...

I would like to hear a podcast on "Standards and Practices" Curious on words that can be and cannot be used on TV. Bullshit can't be said on TV, but it's such a common word and almost totally non-offensive.
Cable shows and Netflix, in my opinion, overuse the eff word. More than is common, is that overcompensation for non being able to use those words on network TV.
I've seen subtle changes on what words can be used, do you see bigger changes in the future?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

That's Y.Knott for the ARSA chart info.
this is an internet rabbit hole of fun

ScottyB said...

The more I listen to Ken's podcasts, the more I think he'd be a major candidate to inherit Casey Kasem's 'American Top 40' if AT40 was still around and if music today didn't suck, or if kids today listened to radio. Well, at least we have your podcasts, Ken.

ScottyB said...

Here's a FQ for Ken, after listening to the latest podcast up to the point where you stars talking about wine: You mentioned about the last 2 or 3 seasons where all the 'Cheers' cast got sloppy and a lot of episodes became an abortion agency. Question: How do you as a director (much less a writer) now deal with those circumstances where now the show is a national phenomenon and now the actors have gone from actors to ac-TORS (or worse, just fuckin' celebrities)? As a director, how do you try to corral cats? And worse, as a writer, how do you just go to work each morning without just hanging yourself from a rafter in your garage (I always think of writers on 'Roseanne' or 'Grace Under Fire' the last few seasons of their shows in that respect)? Holy Jesus, man. And here's the other thing: Altho I don't think you ever covered it, I somehow can't picture the cast of MASH being that way the last few seasons of that show.

ScottyB said...

Not related, exactly -- but in your latest podcast you mention Ted Danson having other things in the works, which makes me think of 'Becker'. You also mention, as you frequently do on your blog here, Nancy Travis and your incredible regard for her. Which always brings up the total 'Wilma vs. Betty/Ginger vs. May Ann' question for me when it comes to 'Becker': Best diner babe -- Reggie Kostis or Chris Connor? (BTW, don't even anybody bring up Linda (Shawnee Smith) in any occupation against anyone. Even if I was totally penniless and living under a bridge, I'd to this day shank someone for pocket change to buy a major drink and a killer cigar for whoever cast Shawnee Smith in 'Becker'.)

ScottyB said...

It's interesting that you mention about the final moment of the last episode of 'Cheers' where it's left with Sam saying 'Sorry, we're closed" ... and then that was it. Especially in comparison with the final moment of 'MTM'. I think there's a major, yet subtle comparison, especially with Ken's comments on how networks want major-phenomenon shows to go out with a bang or some shit. While I loved 'MTM' during its early seasons (before Rhoda started sucking up attention and 'MTM' started becoming IMO more about the clothes and the hair and and shit and started losing its original charm), I still consider the last MTM show to be -- I dunno -- still and all a major *production*, a highly-wrought "big finale" despite it being understated. It was like the writers were *trying*, even tho that final episode pulled it off in a half-hour. Compared with the final 30 seconds of 'Cheers' and 'MASH', I think there's a huge difference.

suek2001 said...

I enjoyed this podcast..and I appreciate you filling in the details of how the actors were drunk on Leno. You're right..Letterman would have handled it differently but the network should have simply asked the special to be on another night.
BTW- I listened to your podcast through my ROKU device on my TV..through the TUNE IN app...works great! I did have a random question...how much did you have to pay to make your own theme song for the Podcast?

Andy Rose said...

The single version of the Cheers theme was really pretty dire. I remember hearing it a lot as "elevator music" in stores and gas stations much more than on the radio. Gary Portnoy has a great article on his website about the evolution of the theme, and mentions that the TV version only has 4 instruments: acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and the piano played by Gary. Gary provided all of the vocals. Nice, basic arrangement. And if you listen to the original demo he recorded, it works just fine with only the piano.
http://www.garyportnoy.com/cheers-story/

@Johnny Walker: CBS still syndicates Taxi, but there's just not a lot of interest out there for it. My theory has been that it's because Taxi is so firmly rooted in the late-70s/early-80s version of New York as a gritty, somewhat depressing city. The show is about a group of good-natured sad sacks that can never get ahead in a place like NYC, and that's just not appealing to the contemporary audience. Especially to younger viewers who have no memory of a New York where you wouldn't walk in Times Square at night, and only reluctantly during the daytime.