‘Cheers’ Executive Spoke Out on ‘Tension’ Between Actors and Staff Coming Up on Camera

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by NBC Television/Fotos International/Getty Images)

In a recent interview with The Archive of American Television entertainment executive, Richard H. Frank talks candidly about Cheers, cast changes, and the importance of finding the right chemistry on camera. 

During the interview, Frank spoke of the “what if” surrounding the fifth season exit of Shelly Long from the hit NBC television “Cheers.”

“Tension will come through as a way of people not interacting with each other,” the “Cheers” Executive explained. “So, funny things aren’t funny.” 

During his conversation, Frank spoke candidly about issues surrounding Long’s last few episodes and the producer’s decision to find someone to replace Long in the hit series. 

“They decided on that,” Frank explained of the decision to ax the character of Diane Chambers. “It worked, they got lucky.”

“Cheers” Executive says Being Able to Adjust is Key to a Show’s Success

After producers of the long-running hit television series wrote Long’s character out of the show, they replaced her with Rebecca Howe, a businesswoman played by Kirstie Alley. Richard H. Frank added that if the cast change hadn’t worked, the show would have suffered. 

“If it didn’t work, the show wouldn’t have stayed on,” said Frank.  “As I remember, the show went on for another five years after that.”  

Frank, who has long been a fixture in the entertainment industry added that chemistry is a key component of any series. 

Richard H. Frank served as president of the Paramount Television Group in 1985. Frank later became president of Disney Studios.  

Audiences Can Feel the Good Moments As Well As the Tense Moments

During his conversation with The Archive of American Television, Frank noted that audiences can often feel the tension between players. Frank added that when this happens the conversations on camera no longer flow. 

“People can see what’s happening,” the executive said of audiences. “If you think other people can do it better, you just move on.” 

Richard H. Frank added that when a show is in production, the goal is to always expand and do it better, so when that isn’t happening it is usually time to move on. 

“Since you’re always trying to expand and do it better,” he said. “If you think someone is not giving you the performance, you move on.” 

While Shelly Long’s example may be one of tension on set, Richard H. Frank noted that tension isn’t always the cause when a character leaves a series. 

“Other times it has nothing to do with that,” he said, noting that character changes can simply be due to the direction of the show. 

“You can let it go and the whole thing goes downhill or you can take a deep breath and say we have to make a change,” Franksaid, adding that while those are the tough decisions, they are the ones that create television hits.  “You have to take those steps, we owe it to the audience.”