HomeAmerican EntertainmentTVClassic TV‘Cheers’: Why Jay Thomas Was Written Off the Series

‘Cheers’: Why Jay Thomas Was Written Off the Series

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

In each episode of the classic television sitcom series Cheers, we see a tight group of quirky characters. A group of characters who, despite their different daily lives, will always come together to help each other…no matter what. And, as one behind-the-scenes tale tells us, this tight-knit group stood up for each other both on and off camera.

In the fifth season of the hit bar-room comedy series, everyone’s favorite brashy cocktail waitress, Rhea Perlman’s Carla Tortelli meets ice hockey player Eddie LeBec who is portrayed by Jay Thomas. The two hit it off immediately as they are instantly attracted to each other. However, Carla fears she is a jinx to her hockey player-beau, so the couple “break up” before each game.

As their story continues, Carla discovers she is expecting twins; and the couple decides to wed. A happily after story for the down-on-her-luck Carla, right? Not so much, really. By the seventh season of the hit NBC comedy, Eddie is killed off in a disastrously hilarious off-screen Zamboni accident. An odd move for the writers of a series such as Cheers, no doubt. And, as it turns out, there is a real-life behind-the-scenes reason for this shocking character development.

In 2006, Ken Levine who is one of the writers on the popular barroom series went deep into the reason the Cheers execs decided to write off Jay Thomas’s Eddie character in a blog post. The reason, for the behind-the-scenes drama? Some pretty negative comments the actor made about his on-screen love interest during an episode of his radio show.

In Levine’s blog post, which is titled The kiss of death for Eddie LeBec, he explains just what, exactly it was that inspired the Cheers cast and crew to send Jay Thomas packing. According to the blog, Jay Thomas said during a radio show that his time on the series is “brutal,” especially since he has “to kiss Rhea Perlman.”

Naturally, these comments did not sit well with the Cheers group… especially Perlman. So, the writers quickly wrote the character off the series, ending Thomas’s role as Eddie LeBec. An easy fix, right? Well, showrunners soon learned that this was not the case.

As it turns out, viewers liked the Carla-Eddie storyline. So, Levine says, they needed to come up with first a “comic spin” to the character’s death; and, they had to discredit Eddie so the fans would “ultimately be glad he was out of Carla’s life.”

Of course, fans of the series know how the writers got around the latter issue…they turned Eddie into a polygamist. At Eddie’s funeral, Carla learns that Eddie had a secret second wife. The hard work the Cheers writers put into this situation paid off, too. The seventh season Cheers installment earned an Emmy nod, making the push-back for the comments all the more satisfying!