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Lucy on Cheers?

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From Ken Levine's column today:

When Rhea Perlman was interviewed by Andy Cohen a listener asked about a rumor that Lucille Ball was in the running to play Diane Chambers’ mother. Rhea didn’t know anything about it. 

I was there.

I do.

And the story is sort of true.

This was towards the end of season one. 

We had heard from someone that Lucy was a fan of the show. We were preparing an episode featuring Diane’s mom. David Angell wrote the script. So some calls were made and the Charles Brothers and Jim Burrows were invited to lunch at Lucy’s house in Beverly Hills. 

Once they arrived they learned that Lucy had only “heard” it was a good show. She had never actually seen it. Nor did she have any interest in guesting on a (then low rated) sitcom. So they had an awkward lunch and that was that. 

Glynis Johns (who God bless her is 95) got the part and was wonderful.

And now you know the rest of the story.

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I have a few articles from the 80s that when Lucy is asked about her favorite TV Shows, she does mention Cheers. So I'm thinking at some point that she did watch it. Shelly Long was at Lucy's 84' Variety Clubs tribute and spoke. I think she was seated with Ted Danson, but I could be wrong remembering that. 

 

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From GQ’s oral history of Cheers a few years ago:

Quote

Bill Steinkellner [(writer-executive producer)]: That was the aura of Cheers: It was special. It was more than TV; you could get people to guest on the show you couldn't normally get.

 

Cheri Steinkellner[(writer-executive producer)]: Somebody would let us know they were a fan, and we'd say, "Let's put him on."

 

[Ken] Levine [(writer-producer)]: We heard the first year that Lucille Ball loved Cheers, and we all thought she should play Diane's mom. We thought that would really boost the show. Somehow, the Charles brothers and Jimmy got a meeting with her.

 

Glen Charles: That was really a treat. But she backed out.

 

Les Charles: She said everybody tuning in would expect to see Lucy, and for her to play something so completely different—even a little bit different—would be disappointing to her fans.

 

Here is the complete oral history:My link

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So in today's blog post, Ken states that Lucy had only heard of the show, but in the GQ article from 2012 he says that she was already a viewer in '82? The Charles Brothers' claiming that she was a fan but backed out for fear of playing something different from the Lucy character sounds very believable. Just earlier that year she hosted the Three's Company retrospective, so clearly she was willing to appear on a show that she liked, and a few years before she did a guest appearance on the poorly-rated The Practice. If her reasoning really was that she didn't want to be on a show that nobody was watching, it's a shame they didn't ask her back a couple of years later. 

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In the book on the Golden Girls a few years back it talks about her turning down the role of Rose’s blind sister. The reason stated in the book was essentially the same as she stated in this oral history. This came after Stone Pillow and she felt that her fans wanted her back as funny Lucy and that too much of a departure from that was a bit much after she just gave them a dramatic character. Another reason given was scheduling conflicts due to dental work.

 

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I've noticed Ken's answers can vary somewhat depending on what mood he's in. Sometimes in recounting the same event, he changes small details. 

I was pleasantly surprised when he answered one of my Friday Questions a few weeks ago, about whether or not Crystal Bernard actually played the cello on "Wings." I used the name Marcus as I seldom submit questions under my own name. 

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1 hour ago, Mot Morenzi said:

I was pleasantly surprised when he answered one of my Friday Questions a few weeks ago, about whether or not Crystal Bernard actually played the cello on "Wings." I used the name Marcus as I seldom submit questions under my own name. 

Oh I saw that. That was a good question. 

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