Tuesday, July 6, 2010

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Casting Coup Tuesdays: Cheers

I've discovered many shows by just watching whatever followed reruns of The Golden Girls. The Nanny, Designing Women, Cybill...and eventually, Cheers. Naturally, Cheers was different from these other shows for many reasons. For one, it appealed to men more. For another, it was a show I remembered from childhood, having watched it in syndication with my parents during lunch. I remembered nothing except the opening credits and Norm, except what I had gathered by watching Frasier. So, when Hallmark offered, I accepted.

It's a hilarious show, if you've never seen it. The ensemble is a collections of employees and regulars at a bar in Boston. The protagonist, Sam Malone, is a former baseball star and recovering alcoholic. We never see him partake of what he proffers, though he indulges liberally in women. His unquenchable lust meant the first couple of seasons centered around the on-and-off relationship with snobby, intellectual barmaid Diane Chambers (She would later fall for, bring along, and eventually leave psychiatrist Frasier Crane; he, in turn, would meet and marry Dr. Lilith Sternin). Diane looks at the patrons of Cheers as below her intellectually, but divorcee/head barmaid Carla Tortelli always managed to outsmart her, especially in the clever insults department. The most notable of the barflies are mailman Cliff Clavin, who lives with his mother, and Norm Peterson, an accountant who LOVES his beer. Sam's old Coach served as bartender until his passing, then farmboy Woody came in. And, of course, there was rich, neurotic Rebecca Howe, who bought the bar from Sam after Diane left Boston. It's a rich mythology.

If it wasn't for the fact that I'd found the perfect new Sam Malone, this CCT might not have happened. But one night, I was watching it, and thought to myself, "Oh, you know who'd make a GREAT Sam...?" It all just snowballed from there. Perhaps I had grown used to the idea of recasting TV shows from the increase of film adaptations and TV reboots of old series. The cineplexes this year got The A-Team, a new Hawaii Five-O series is on its way, and there's no end in sight. Why not hop on and join in the (possible, but not guaranteed) fun?

ERNIE "COACH" PANTUSSO
Who is He: Sam's former coach on the Red Sox, he came to Cheers to bartend. Having taken a number of pitches to the head, Coach isn't the brightest of the group, but he's the kindest man, a father to everyone in the bar.

Originally played by: Three-Time Emmy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Cheers)
Nicholas Colasanto (Family Plot, Raging Bull)

My Choice: Indie Spirit Nominee for Best Actor (Hard Eight), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Boogie Nights, Magnolia)
 Philip Baker Hall (Rush Hour, Fired Up!)


WOODY BOYD
Who is He: An old pen pal of Coach's (they exchanged pens), Woody comes to Cheers to meet him. Upon learning of his death, Woody takes over as bartender. Hailing from a small town Indiana, Woody is a naive innocent, frequently misunderstanding the goings-on at the bar. He's a gentleman and pretty handsome, too, which means girls tend to find him attractive.

Originally played by: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor [in a Drama] (The People vs. Larry Flynt) and Best Supporting Actor (The Messenger), Indie Spirit Winner for Best Supporting Actor (The Messenger), SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble (No Country for Old Men), Emmy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Cheers), Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The Messenger)
Woody Harrelson (White Men Can't Jump, Zombieland)

My Choice:
Michael Angarano (Man in the Chair, Gentlemen Broncos)
He's handsome, young (but not too young), and has played naive, goofy kids before. Maybe not ever this dim, but that's acting, right?


DR. LILITH STERNIN
Who is She: A cold, analytical psychiatrist with a hidden libido, Lilith dates and eventually marries Frasier.

Originally played by: Two-Time Emmy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy (Cheers)
Bebe Neuwirth (Celebrity, The Faculty)
By the way, Neuwirth only did one Woody Allen film? For shame!

My Choice: SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble (Sideways)
Sandra Oh (Bean, Blindness)
Too obvious? She has that voice, after all.


FRASIER CRANE
Who is He: A well-to-do psychiatrist from Seattle. Despite a childhood of pretensions and snobbery, Frasier warms to the beer-and-nuts crowd of Cheers. At first in love with Diane, he is eventually set up with, and marries, Dr. Lilith Sternin.

Originally played by: Four-Time Emmy Award Winner for Best Actor in a Comedy (Frasier)
Kelsey Grammer (Toy Story 2, Swing Vote)

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor (What's Love Got To Do With It?), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Mystic River, Bobby)
Laurence Fishburne (Othello, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
The man's voice is almost British in its lyricism. And he's surprisingly funny, too: in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he plays the bear in the beer commercial!


CLIFF CLAVIN
Who is He: A mailman with little to no social skills, a mind full of useless trivia, and a bedroom in his mother's house.

Originally played by: Two-Time Emmy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy (Cheers)
John Ratzenberger (The Empire Strikes Back, House II: The Second Story)

My Choice:
Ed Helms (Confessions of a Shopaholic, The Hangover)
Not much of a stretch from his previous roles, maybe...but we could still give him a mustache!


NORM PETERSON
Who is He: Accountant, house painter, interior decorator. Norm is the most beloved of the regulars, greeted by a chorus of "Norm" whenever he enters. Norm loves the bar, loves the beer, and loves his friends. He's Cliff's bestie, which means he's the only one subjected to invitations to craft days with Cliff and his mother.

Originally played by: Six-Time Emmy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy (Cheers)
George Wendt (House, Dreamscape)

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Chicago), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy and Best Song - "Walk Hard" (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), Indie Spirit Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The Anniversary Party, The Good Girl), SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble (Chicago)
John C. Reilly (Dark Water, Step Brothers)
Isn't this obvious? He's like the skinnier George Wendt (think about that). Pudgy and lovable, he has an easygoing-ness about him. He's also one of the best at both understated and over-the-top comedy, which could serve him well here.


CARLA TORTELLI
Who is She: Head waitress/barmaid of Cheers. Carla is a tough-talking, wise-cracking, working-class broad with three marriages and eight kids under her belt. Though unlucky with men, she does get lucky quite often. She hates Diane and Cliff with equal disdain.

Originally played by: Four-Time Emmy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy (Cheers)
 Rhea Perlman (We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, Matilda)

My Choice:
Wanda Sykes (Pootie Tang, Monster-in-Law)
So she's not Italian. So what? She's sassy, funny and tiny, and that's all I need to know to cast her as Carla. Tortelli's just her married name, anyway.


REBECCA HOWE
Who is She: After Diane leaves Boston, Sam sells Cheers to a corporation. Rebecca is assigned to manage it, and boy is she nuts. She wants to present herself as a poised, in-charge woman, but she's often clumsy and neurotic. Rebecca often goes after rich men, though there is considerable tension between her and Sam.

Originally played by: Emmy Award Winner for Best Actress in a Comedy (Cheers)
Kirstie Alley (Look Who's Talking, Drop Dead Gorgeous)

My Choice: Academy Award/SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Junebug, Doubt), BAFTA Award/Golden Globe Nominee/Hollmann Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress/SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Doubt), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress in a Comedy (Enchanted), Indie Spirit Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Junebug)
 Amy Adams (Drop Dead Gorgeous, Serving Sara)
Neurotic. Funny. Hot. I think we've got these bases covered.


DIANE CHAMBERS
Who is She: The only child of a wealthy family, Diane arrives at Cheers after being jilted by her lit professor/lover Sumner Sloan. She begins waitressing there, but considers herself intellectually superior to everyone around her. Intelligent yet naive, elitist yet attracted to Sam, Diane is a hodgepodge of sexy and awful. She and Sam are perpetually on-again-off-again, due less to their compatibility than to their sexual chemistry.

Originally played by: Emmy Award Winner for Best Actress in a Comedy (Cheers)
Shelley Long (Irreconcilable Differences, The Brady Bunch Movie)

My Choice:
Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, The Ugly Truth)
She is Diane. In interviews, she comes off as smart, but not as smart as she thinks. She declares herself to be a feminist, but she stars in films in which she surrenders to an alpha male. But she's also a fine actress who could excel in this role.


SAM MALONE
Who is He: Former relief pitcher for the Red Sox, recovering alcoholic, owner/bartender of Cheers. Sam is a notorious ladies' man, regaling Norm and Cliff with tales of his conquests. He frequently proposes to, and is denied by, Diane Chambers, until she leaves to pursue a writing career. He then turns his attentions to Rebecca, though Diane still haunts him.

Originally played by: Two-Time Emmy Award Winner for Best Actor in a Comedy (Cheers)
Ted Danson (Saving Private Ryan, Little Danson Man)

My Choice:
Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers, The Hangover)
Handsome, fit, funny, and a little smirky, Cooper has that great combination of humor and charm -- and MAN -- that is Sam Malone. Expect the fireworks between him and Heigl, or him and Adams, because it would be explosive. He's also got great chemistry with most of his co-stars, which would work with an ensemble-heavy project like this.

4 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Really, you had me at Sandra Oh...but then you add in Katie Heigl, Amy Adams, John C. Reilly AND Wanda Sykes. I've never seen this show (only heard of the legendary-ness, but this is too goo).

Caleb Strul said...

LOL Larry as Frasier?!?! That's an awesome idea!!

Gemma said...

He was the bear in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?!

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Andrew: Oh, you have to see it! It's genuinely funny, and the on-again off-again relationships among the key players doesn't even get annoying! They manage to make it work somehow. No wonder it got a lot of Emmy love.

Caleb: I mean, duh! :)

Gemma: Hell yeah! Watch it again and think about that.