‘Cheers’ Stars Reflected on Philip Perlman as Bar Patron on the Show

by Allison Hambrick

The stars of Cheers once discussed a very special guest star: Rhea Perlman’s father, Philip, who played a bar fly on the hit sitcom. Cheers aired from 1982 to 1993. In addition to Perlman, the show starred Ted Danson, Shelley Long, John Ratzenberger and Woody Harrelson, among others.

We felt like a family, we were a family,” said Perlman during the 2016 Cheers reunion. “I mean 11 years and we were all having kids, and then we included another generation, my father, who was an extra on the show because he just loved show business. He was a bar fly with a line every now and then. Then you know, you saw those clips of [us] throwing water? He got inducted into that club, and I got to throw water in my father’s face.”

In the clip, Perlman’s character is waxing philosophical about Elvis when the patron, played by her father, interrupts her. As a result, she simply throws the glass of water in his face. This gag was a staple on Cheers.

“He knew how to save laughs,” added Long. “If he saw an actor starting to go up, he would go [makes interrupting sound] to redo the moment, so that the punchline wasn’t ruined. That was a very handy tool to have.”

The Stars of Cheers Reflect on Series Director Jim Burrows

During the reunion, the stars also discussed another principal figure from Cheers who defined the success of the show. Director Jim Burrows was a fixture on the popular show. Not only did he co-create Cheers, Burrows directed 237 episodes. As a result, he may be the single most responsible person for the tone of the series. The stars discussed how his directorial style defined the

“Yeah, Jimmy never really looked at us,” said Norm actor George Wendt. “He just walked around looking at the floor.”

In response, Ratzenberger compared Burrows to “a third base coach,” adding hand signals to emphasize his point. The actor also joked about how his pranks often escaped the director’s notice, or so he thought.

“When anyone had a monologue or something they were having trouble with doing during the week you could see the other actors say, ‘we’ll be there for you’,” Ted Danson said, before miming shooting a spitball. Ratzenberger said the he and Wendt did just that to Harrelson during a monologue, and the director never saw the spitballs. Burrows then quipped that he edited the spitballs out in post. 

The chemistry shared by the cast was one of the driving factors of its success. Even so, Ratzenberger became “convinced that it would never last because it was too much fun”–way to be proven wrong.

All eleven seasons of Cheers are streaming now on Peacock.