On a Thursday night in September 1982, a new NBC sitcom, Cheers, debuted to the sound of crickets. Eleven years later, 80 million people tuned in to watch its series finale. During the course of a little more than a decade, how did an ensemble cast of loveable losers at a Boston bar — real people with real problems — manage to become television’s top comedy and ratings juggernaut?
Created by director James Burrows and writer-producers Glen and Les Charles, Cheers succeeded by replacing set-up and punchlines with smart comedy, conversations and characters, stories and structure in a sea of cut-and-paste formulas. The show made the audience care.
Writing for television’s No. 1 show gave writers street cred in the industry. They went from leaving unreturned messages to taking meetings with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. They became the fifth Beatle. Kurt Vonnegut claimed he’d rather have written for Cheers than anything he’d done.
Cheers writers carry their experiences working on the sitcom as badges of honor. On the 25th anniversary of the comedy’s series finale, The Hollywood Reporter takes a peek inside the writer’s room, to discover the hidden stories and untold secrets behind the minds that gave us ex-ballplayer Sam Malone (Ted Danson), Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) and an ensemble cast inside a bar where decades later, everyone still knows their names.
The Charles brothers had always wanted to do their own show. With an on-the-air commitment for a series from NBC, their production company with Burrows now had a chance to do one. As huge fans of Fawlty Towers, they’d thought about a series at a hotel, but the need for so many sets proved too problematic. They were intrigued however, by one of those hotel sets: a bar.
Les Charles (co-creator): A bar is a place where everything that happens in life can end up. You go to celebrate, drown your sorrows, meet and fall in love, break up. It’s an interesting spot for human dynamics.
Glen Charles (co-creator): People will talk to a bartender in a way they wouldn’t any other stranger. There’s an immediate opening up and frankness.
A hotel bar evolved into a country club and a bar in Barstow before tapping into the brothers’ love of sports and a sports bar. Next came the cast.
Les Charles: In the early stages, Bill Cosby had a deal at NBC and was unattached to a project. So, he was offered to us as the bartender. But we had two rules. No known names and no characters’ name as the title of the show.
Glen Charles: We met with Sid Caesar too. He was interested in playing Coach, but that would have overweighed the show towards one character.
Ted Danson had never bartended, attended a baseball game or been a womanizer before he won the role of Sam Malone.
Ken Levine (writer-producer): Ted felt very uncomfortable at first playing Sam because he wasn’t a lothario in real life. But he brought a quality to Sam that he himself possesses: kindness and humanity. That went a long way toward the audience embracing Sam.
Rob Long (writer-producer): Sam was the coolest guy on TV. Ted’s way of acting is so intuitive, like Jimmy Stewart, because you can’t see any wires. It just comes from his inhabiting this guy.
David Isaacs (writer-producer): A lot of actors don’t know how to play comedy. When there’s conflict with a woman, they tend to get angry. Ted always played it back a little, like he wasn’t going to let her get under his skin. You don’t see that a lot.
Long: If something felt weird to him, he’d look at you and make a hand gesture suggesting it felt weird. He was never wrong. If he couldn’t make it work, then it didn’t work.
Les Charles: What we liked about him most was he looks like a leading man, but he’s a character actor. He could play a lot of colors. Sam had a dark side with his drinking problem and womanizing. It made writing more challenging and fun.
Everyone loved working with Danson.
Peter Casey (writer-producer): The show’s star sets the tone on the stage. Ted knew the crew’s names. He could talk with anybody and joke around with everyone on the set.
Cheri Steinkellner (writer-producer): Ted gave the most valuable notes an actor can give writers. Once, early in the Sam and Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) story, after Diane left, he came into the writers’ room and said something like, “I don’t know what dance we’re doing. I knew it before, now I don’t.” That’s a great actor note. He went straight to the feeling place, and we had to do the same.
Bill Steinkellner (writer-producer): He’s exactly what you want in your lead because he knows what he wants. He trusts you and if he’s got a problem, he tells you.
Glen Charles: One of the things you hope to get with an actor is how well they work with other actors. He was extremely generous with other castmembers and played off them beautifully. It made for a beautiful relationship between Sam and Coach (Nicholas Colasanto). It was as if they’d known each other all their lives. You got a wonderful sense of Sam and Carla (Rhea Perlman), a lot of subtext and natural affection.
Danson was the first to admit that Shelley Long carried the show initially. She inhabited the complicated Diane Chambers, making Diane part of herself.
Isaacs: For my money, Shelley’s just after Lucille Ball for great physicality and comedy. Pound for pound I think she’s one of the best comic actresses I’ve been around. She brought a uniqueness to Diane that came out of her and she was totally willing to make the laugh be on her.
Levine: I always felt that Shelley had the toughest assignment. It would have been so easy to hate Diane. Shelley somehow managed to lean into Diane’s arrogance and many neuroses and somehow make her lovable, vulnerable, sexy and funny. To this day I’m in awe watching her in the first season.
Les Charles: Doing a sitcom was hard for Shelley. She’s a perfectionist and works really hard on getting a performance down right, as opposed to Ted who enjoys going with it on an instinctive level.
Casey: What’s irritating to writers is if an actor doesn’t believe in a line and doesn’t give it everything they’ve got, so they can then say that a joke doesn’t work. Shelley always gave her best performance, even if she had doubts about the lines.
Glen Charles: Shelley got into the character more than any actor I’ve worked with. Whenever there was a new script she’d come in and talk about “Where am I?” this week. Not Diane. She personalized it. There was an episode early on when Sam and Carla had a playful kiss and Shelley came into our office and broke down.
Les Charles: She said Diane would be destroyed by this. We said Diane isn’t in the scene and never hears about it and Shelley said, “Yes, but I know.” We’d never confronted anything like that before. We’ve always said that we’re not sure Cheers would have lasted through the first season if it hadn’t been for her. While some of the other members of the cast were still feeling their way along, Shelley came in at full blast with energy and sparkle. She was hilarious, loveable and the dynamic of the show.
The brothers wanted nothing more than realism from the bar’s inhabitants. They came up with Carla Tortelli to represent the embittered working class.
Les Charles: Carla was the one character we wrote for a specific actor. We always had Rhea in mind because she’d worked with us on Taxi and was a friend of ours.
Levine: Rhea was the complete opposite of Carla — quiet, a little shy, very sweet. I think she really enjoyed playing her. It was an alter ego and she could really let loose.
Long: I loved that character because she was the only one actually working for a living, moving around, carrying trays. She makes terrible mistakes with men, has a bunch of kids, no money and is mean because of those things. There was something fun and real about that.
Steinkellner: Rhea could nail a joke like an Olympic gold medal gymnast sticking the landing. She once said, “Carla’s not mean, she’s just honest.” That gave us permission to write her the meanest possible things.
Long: Early on, Rhea came up to me about a line after a run-through and said, “This feels weird to me because Carla’s in love with Sam.” I thought, “Oh, of course. All this time she’s been playing to that because it made sense to her and the character.”
Les Charles: We thought that was the subtext of their relationship from the beginning. They both knew it couldn’t go anywhere. It’s important to establish relationships and how people appeal to one another.
Although the bar was inhabited by many different types, Sam and Diane quickly became the focal point as one of TV’s most complex sitcom relationships ever.
Isaacs: Sam was the polar opposite of Diane. We used to say Diane thinks above the waist and Sam below.
Glen Charles: Like most relationships, they had periods of attraction and repulsion, jousting with sexual undertone. We enjoyed the banter.
Bill Steinkellner: It was Tracy and Hepburn 2.0.
Les Charles: There’s a similarity there. Tracy was down-to-earth, unpretentious, a little rough around the edges, whereas Hepburn always seemed to have a little elevation, an attitude in which she kind of looks down on Tracy.
Isaacs: Jimmy was excited about their potential. He told us directly to always land on Sam and Diane at the end of an episode, regardless of the actual story.
Glen Charles: The relationship was the spine that held everything together. Even if we didn’t highlight them in an episode, we let them have a perspective on it and be the Greek chorus.
The writers had no plan for Sam and Diane other than the inevitability of their getting together, which occurred at the end of season one.
Isaacs: You knew they couldn’t go on like they were forever, but we were as surprised as anybody when they finally kissed and the audience broke out into applause. They were so into that moment that they’d been waiting for.
Levine: The timing just felt organically right. Sexual tension is great but you reach a point where you go, they’re not in high school anymore. It becomes silly.
Glen Charles: We wanted to end the season with them kissing, figuratively or actually. We thought the best way was to have a heated argument that leads to Sam saying, “Are you as turned on as I am?” That set the tone for the relationship.
Cheri Steinkellner: Once they consummated the relationship that was only the beginning of their problems. They were still who they were. They didn’t suddenly complete each other and meet in the middle. They met where oil meets water, and the tension only grew stronger because those two can’t mix.
Les Charles: We were already thinking of a love triangle and those screwball comedies from the 1930 and ‘40s that we loved like My Favorite Wife and Preston Sturges films. In those cases, the relationship consummates and they’re still fascinating and fun.
Isaacs: We had to reboot and think: What troubles do they have when they’re together? You have to put pressure on the relationship to get comedy.
After breaking up with Sam at the end of season two, Diane had a mental breakdown. That led to the love triangle with a quirky psychiatrist who would go on to become a star on two series: Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer).
Casey: Les and Glen told us there was going to be a new character, a psychiatrist who’d treated Diane and they’re going to have a relationship. They gave us a description of what he was going to be like and said his name was going to be Frasier, but they didn’t have a last name for him.
Glen Charles: Frasier represented everything Diane always said she wanted: brilliant, erudite, cosmopolitan.
Les Charles: We thought the dynamic would work for one season.
Long: Kelsey could do anything. He found new things about that character to play in every episode. That’s lightning in a bottle. A brilliant performer building a character as much as any writer. You just can’t create that.
Les Charles: Frasier was the most hated character on TV. No one wanted to see someone come between Sam and Diane. After that season, he took a cross-country car trip by himself. He stopped in a bar filled with rough characters to get a beer. A big guy comes up behind him with long stringy hair and sleeves cut off, showing his tattoos. He taps Kelsey on the shoulder and Kelsey turns around and the guy says, “You’re that pencil-necked son of a bitch trying to break up Sam and Diane!”
As Frasier’s role grew, the writers decided to give him a female counterpart, Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth).
Cheri Steinkellner: Bebe started as a day-player, one scene, a terrible date, to set up Frasier meeting his dream date, Candi, played by Jennifer Tilly. That was the romantic arc we planned. But Lilith was the romance we pursued. So much fun. The same antagonism that characterized Sam and Diane showed up — only instead of equal and opposite, they were more like equal and identical.
Casey: Bebe blew everyone’s socks off. We said we have to get this character back because she and Frasier were hysterical together.
Cheri Steinkellner: We named her Lilith for Adam’s first wife, who comes from the same earth he does. She’s his shadow — not bad, just dark and misinterpreted. We named her Sternin for our friends, Prudence Fraser and Robert Sternin, who co-created The Nanny.
The writers room served as ground zero for Cheers‘ compelling plotlines and stories.
Les Charles: Our theory was if you get the right story and structure, the jokes will come.
Isaacs: It was finding situations that would give characters a chance to emerge more, like in an early episode when an obnoxious Yankee fan comes into the bar and Carla attacks him. That plays with Carla’s short temper and how it got her into trouble.
Cheri Steinkellner: In the most hellish of hell weeks, first we threw out the baby, then the bathwater, then conceived a new baby, drew more bathwater. Threw them all out. There was an episode that revolved around Rebecca’s sister and we just couldn’t get it right. On our fourth all-night rewrite, at around 3 a.m., Billy gave up and said, “Let’s just have Rebecca shoot her damn sister!” And we all went “Heeey,” and that was the rewrite. That act of desperation won us our first Emmy. (Editor’s note: the sisters were playing a joke on Sam.)
Levine: If you think of those times you laughed the hardest on Cheers, I guarantee some of those jokes came from Jerry Belson and Bob Ellison. Bob was a comic genius. Jerry for years was Garry Marshall’s writing partner. He was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. When my son, Matthew, was born, Jerry sent a gift along with a note: “Dear Matthew, always remember I was funnier than your father.” And he was.
Casey: One day, Glen came into the office and said, “I don’t know what the story is but I’m seeing the final scene. Norm’s carrying a rich guy in his pajamas across the front lawn.” And we worked backward from that. Imagine what kind of contortions you have to go through to get to that? But we did.
Bill Steinkellner: Our son Teddy was born the same year as Freddy [Frasier and Lilith’s child], so everything that happened with Teddy was fair game for story. People ask where we come up with stories. The answer is life.
Casey: We used to have a thing called “the bank.” Every now and then we’d have a great joke that missed the moment. We’d rip the page out of the script and put it in a binder that had tabs with the name of each character. If you needed a joke for a character you’d get “the bank” out. We liked to think of ourselves as comedy Eskimos. We used all the whale.
Glen Charles: The one thing I miss most about the business is after a reading, going back to the writers’ room. Before we got around to discussing the show and its problems, we’d spend 50 minutes doing comedy gymnastics in which everyone in the room, at the network and in the cast, was fodder for jokes. No holds barred. Then we’d get to work. It revved us up.
Almost every episode had a Norm greeting, also known as a “Normism.” Everyone hated writing them.
Isaacs: The trick to writing a good Norm entrance was making a clean joke that didn’t come out of the situation. You have a blind set-up and write a good Norm response to that. That was always a challenge.
Casey: They became more difficult because the bar kept getting set higher and higher.
Cheri Steinkellner: One of my favorites of ours was, “How’s the world treating you?” and Norm says, “Like a baby treats a diaper.” I was pregnant at the time with our second child.
Long: Ken and Dave wrote a B-story once where Norm’s furious with the city for installing a parking meter in front of the bar where he used to park for free. They discovered as they were writing that Norm had to leave and come back four or five times.
Levine: And it was our idea. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Long: If you look at later scripts, it would say, “Woody’s behind the bar and Norm’s there.” He’s already come in. You missed it.
At the end of the fifth year, Long’s contract was up and she left to pursue a film career.
Les Charles: We had mixed emotions about it. On the one hand we were terrified and didn’t know if the show could survive, but on the other hand, short of getting them married, we felt we had exhausted that relationship. We were ready for the challenge of writing for someone new.
Bill Steinkellner: The audience wanted them to be together but in reality, they weren’t good for each other. If they’d gotten together at the end, I don’t think they’d have had the happiest marriage.
Levine: I think it was the right choice. Based on those characters and who they were, they’re better apart.
Long: Glen and Les wrote that last episode. I’m softy saying to them, “Can’t we get them together?” and they’re looking at me like, give me a break kid. This is supposed to be a love-hate relationship. That’s what made their relationship fun to watch. It wasn’t just they’d get over it or go to a therapist and work it out. No, these two people would be locked in mutual antagonism for their whole lives.
The introduction of Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) added a very different dynamic to the show. Sam used to have status over Diane, but Rebecca, in becoming manager of the bar, held it over him.
Glen Charles: We did a lot of casting for Rebecca but nobody seemed right. We had very strong recommendations from two or three people including Carl Reiner who’d worked with Kirstie on a film. We weren’t convinced that she could do comedy. The latest thing she had done was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and as funny as that is …
Les Charles: We thought we’d cast her as a villainess. She’ll be the dragon lady, Cruella de Vil, and make everyone else uncomfortable and funny.
Glen Charles: In rehearsal, before the first show, I was watching from the grandstand and saw Kirstie, who wasn’t in the scene, chain smoking. She was obviously nervous and who wouldn’t be following Shelley? I thought we could probably use that, break down this cool, sophisticated façade she presents. So we found ways by making her be hopelessly in love with Evan Drake, who owns the bar, and having her stutter and stammer when he’s around.
Cheri Steinkellner: It took a while for us to figure out where the fun was with her. In her early episodes, you can see we contrived all kinds of ways to send her into the office or out on an errand, just so we could return to the cast — and comedy we knew. It was always going to be a discovery process, but none of us knew if we were ever going to find it.
Les Charles: There was a scene early on where someone says she got a call from Evan and she goes to the office door in a hurry to answer. In rehearsal, Kirstie couldn’t turn the doorknob. She improvised, “I locked myself out, no I didn’t.” It’s this little dithering moment. It was the first time we saw comedy potential.
Casey: There’s an episode where Norm’s between jobs and starts doing house painting and Rebecca asks him to paint her office. We did a scene with them where he’s painting and she comes in, breaks down and starts crying. And she was really funny crying.
Isaacs: She could cry on a dime. I’ve never seen any other actor do that. In the middle of a scene fall into crying. It’s hilarious.
Cheri Steinkellner: She started crying like nobody since Lucy Ricardo. That was the day we got our handle on Rebecca. We figured out she was not just another loser, she was the biggest, saddest loser in the bar.
Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson) replaced Coach in the fourth season when actor Nicholas Colasanto passed away.
Levine: When Nick died, they wanted the new character to be similar because of the role Coach played. Having such a “dumb” character (from too many head concussions in baseball) allows you to get exposition out. When you explained things to Coach, you were really explaining it to the audience.
Les Charles: The network wanted someone younger. We settled on a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn type from the Midwest. We cast the role and then our casting director said there’s someone you should look at.
Casey: This guy walks in wearing basketball shorts, a T-shirt and unlaced high-tops. He looked like he could be trouble if you crossed him. And then he read and caught everyone’s attention in that room by doing one thing that nobody else did. When Sam told him that Coach died, he teared up and started to cry. You’re sitting there going, “This is a comedy audition,” but then he does that and it’s like, ‘Whoa, he can really act.”
Les Charles: Ted says to me, I know the other guy is on-the-nose but there’s something different about this guy. He had this intensity and so he was our guy.
Long: The way Woody played Woody was he thought the best of everyone. He didn’t think Carla was mean or Cliff talked too much. That was one of the things that made his performance so luminous.
Isaacs: Woody had this charm, this good-natured innocence, a Billy Budd quality, that you could write to. He’s always telling stories about Indiana. It was fun making those up.
The history of Cheers includes a who’s who of guest stars.
Cheri Steinkellner: The episode “One Hugs, the Other Doesn’t” was everything I ever wanted in a half-hour, including introducing Emma Thompson to American audiences.
Long: She was a huge fan of the show in the U.K. She freaked out that she was on the set of Cheers.
Cheri Steinkellner: The part of Nanny Gee was originally written for Glenn Close, who may have been dating Woody at the time. Maybe they stopped dating. Maybe she didn’t think the script was funny. Not that she told that to People magazine. Not that they printed it. Not that I remember. So, we had to recast immediately, and our casting director showed us a VHS of a woman who had a variety show in the U.K. Two minutes in, we said “cast her.” That was Emma.
Glen Charles: Our casting director’s mother was Tip O’Neil’s secretary. She convinced him to watch the show and he did and said, “I wouldn’t mind sitting at that bar talking to that guy (Norm).” We were struggling in the ratings so we put him in a teaser and it got us on the news.
Les Charles: Lucille Ball had seen the show the first season and got in touch with us indirectly that she liked it and would consider coming on. We had the idea of Diane’s mother. We met with Lucy at her house and had a long chat with her. She very wisely decided against it because she felt that Lucy fans wouldn’t want to see her as another character. There’s something to that.
Casey: John Cleese did a terrific episode. At the table read, the first act went gangbusters. And then we got into the second act and it started losing steam. We went to the writers’ room. Glen paused and said, “It seems impossible, but we’ve managed to make John Cleese unfunny.”
Les Charles: Cleese himself said, “You’re trying too hard to service me. I think you should make this the best Cheers you can and let me be an actor in it. That solved our problem.
Isaacs: We always wanted to get famous Boston athletes in. Kevin McHale actually had acting chops. He was completely at ease in front of an audience to the point we brought him back for a second episode.
Levine: We did a show for Larry Bird and he decided not to do it. The role ended up being played by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral William J. Crowe.
Bill Steinkellner: He didn’t have his military attaché with him but he had four or five other officers. I realized at some point, “Oh my God they’re all packing heat.” It may have been the first time someone was armed on Cheers.
Isaacs: There was a lot of talk about getting JFK Jr. to do a teaser.
Glen Charles: President Clinton heard about the show’s last episode and said he wanted to make an appearance while on his way to Vancouver to meet with Gorbachev. It was going to take 15 minutes of program time. We set up everything and then in the last minute we got word he wasn’t going to be able to do it. So, we had to rewrite it.
One of the show’s most famous episodes is the Thanksgiving food fight at Carla’s house.
Bill Steinkellner: When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was about as bitter as my family would get. You’d have to take the long car ride there. My two aunts would fight like crazy.
Cheri Steinkellner: Everyone had to stand up before dinner was served and say what you were thankful for. It could go on a long time.
Les Charles: My wife and I went to a Thanksgiving party many years ago where the turkey wouldn’t cook and then we got drunk and then sober again. We finally ended up eating peas and carrots. We never got to the turkey. It got uncomfortable because everyone was starving.
Casey: We never did the fight in the rehearsal. We were going to shoot it once and that was it because we couldn’t clean the set and everyone again.
Cheri Steinkellner: It starts with a pea. We wanted it to be the smallest unit of Thanksgiving aggression. Carla flicks a pea at Norm, who brought a giant turkey that wouldn’t cook. Next comes a spoonful of mashed potato, then Frasier flings gravy skin, everyone rears back, ready to rumble. Diane enters in her pilgrim suit, scolding them all to behave, then Sam flings cranberry sauce on her crisp white bib and all hell breaks loose.
Casey: One thing we never thought of was warm food getting on the floor. Nobody could keep their footing so not only were they getting pummeled with food, but everybody was slipping and falling. The audience went crazy.
Glen Charles: It wasn’t real food. Real food wouldn’t have stuck on things. The combination of things we used caused the worst smell. When I run into anyone in the cast they still comment on the smell.
Bill Steinkellner: Jimmy yelled “Cut!” but nobody stopped. It went on and on. It was payback time for Woody, George and John for a few things that had happened that year.
The writers, like the fans, all have their favorite episodes and bits.
Casey: Norm tells everyone he got this great job and office at this accounting firm. The guys go to visit him and find out his office is essentially a broom closet and that he’d been making the whole thing up because he was embarrassed. When we first did the scene, it wasn’t funny. We were trying to figure out what was wrong. Glen said, “Make the office smaller.” So, he called in the set designer and the next day the scene was a little better. Glen said, “Smaller.” The next day it worked even better and Glen said, “Smaller.” It ended up being so small that when people opened the door, the door hit his desk. That was when it worked.
Levine: My favorite teaser is the one where everyone’s sitting at the bar and Norm starts tapping and they kind of all start tapping and it builds to, [Queen’s] “We Will Rock You.”
Les Charles: Woody and Frasier are talking and Woody says he’s reading a magazine article about stem-cell research. Frasier says, “That’s wonderful. You understand it?” And Woody says, “No, thank God I’m almost finished.”
Bill Steinkellner: It’s interesting to do these intellectual jokes and pride yourself on being really smart, then the bit everyone remembers is Cliff Clavin’s squeaky shoes. When they’re all walking around in those shoes for the first time.
Isaacs: In “From Beer to Eternity” the Cheers bar takes on Gary’s Old Time Tavern in a bowl-off. It has one of my favorite Norm exits. He tells Cliff he’s going to get a beer in the bowling alley’s bar. You see him go through a door and you hear “Norm!” Sam says to Cliff, “How the hell do they know him here?” And Cliff says, “He’s got a life, you know.”
In 1993, after 11 years, a lifetime on television, Cheers had its last call. Although the show ended 25 years ago, its legacy lives on with fans and sitcoms today.
Long: The whole point of the show was people hanging out at a bar don’t really change. I would have loved to do the show for 20 years. If you’re working with the best cast and funniest people in the world, what else would you want to do with your life?
Bill Steinkellner: Cheers wasn’t cynical nor meant to be. It was a warm and inviting place, where everyone insults each other the way friends do. They put-down with love.
Casey: I think it was groundbreaking in the sense that it wasn’t a family comedy or a joke machine, just character driven. Jimmy always said, “I stage it like a play and then I film it.”
Isaacs: It re-established romantic comedy on TV and unrequited love like you see with Ross and Rachel on Friends. It reset the bar to ensemble comedies that has never been matched for my money in terms of an iconic set of characters set in a world.
Levine: Cheers was a comedy built around characters you were really invested in. It wasn’t enough to make you laugh, our goal was to make you care. Everything about the show was inviting — from the setting to the people to the situations. It’s a place you wanted to be with people you liked to spend time with. And that doesn’t change with time.
Cheri Steinkellner: The brothers said that we were writing radio. It was all about the dialogue, spoken and unspoken. It was the characters, the relationships. They were so interesting, consistent, and mutable, that we rarely had to leave the bar. One set, 11 years.
Glen Charles: We based it on conversation. A show in a bar where you observe how people talk and relate to each other. We were the first show to have continuing developing stories in a sitcom. In a way it was a different show every year. It was never static. We never got into a rut. Even now when I mention what I did, people still have that fondness. It’s gratifying.