Sunday, June 5, 2011

ST. ELSEWHERE goes to CHEERS: the inside story

In maybe the strangest cross-promotion in television history, there was an episode of ST. ELSEWHERE where three of their main characters went to the Cheers bar. Readers are always asking me about this scene so I thought I'd go to the source. John Masius is a multi-Emmy winning writer who co-wrote and produced the episode. He graciously has agreed to fill in the details. Many thanks, John.  I'm very big about going to sources this week (while I'm in Seattle and don't have as much time to write.)  First Dave Hackel and now John Masius.

how st.elsewhere came to cheers: a revisionist history

tom fontana, john tinker and i wrote the episode..bruce paltrow directed it..

the episode had three story arcs..westphal dealing with his autistic son,
craig coping with his mentor's alzheimer disease and auschlander coming to
grips with his own mortality..

we thought it would be fun to write a scene where the three friends met for a drink after work..something we had never done...and obliquely share their concerns and we thought why not the cheers bar? tartkoff loved the idea, paltow called his old friend burrows and they hashed the production day to shoot during a cheers hiatus week...perleman and ratzenberger graciously signed on..

i wanted the coach behind the bar but he was creatively we decided to go for it and wrote essentially a one-act play that was the entire third act of the episode..due to the constraints of the three-camera set we shot pretty much in one direction..blew through 15 pages,twice our normal load in one day...

i remember it being a great fun day..the show turned out was picked to be aired at our 20th anniversary event held at the paley museum of t.v. and beer-drinking...

the only negative feedback was from the charles bros who didn't like the dialogue we wrote
for carla and cliff...however their bastard step-brother ed charles, utility infielder extroidinaire for the '69 mets, was a big fan of the episode..

john masius

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