‘Cheers’ up for refill

Paramount Network TV reportedly is in active discussions with Charles/Burrows/Charles and star Ted Danson to belly up to the bar for a 12th year of the NBC comedy “Cheers,” which many had assumed was currently in its final season.

An official decision probably will be made within the next month, but Danson is said to be leaning toward another year and other cast members will likely follow suit.

NBC hasn’t engaged in formal discussions with Paramount yet regarding a renewal, awaiting word from Charles/Burrows/Charles and Danson on whether they’d like to continue.

“We would very much like to have ‘Cheers’ on the schedule next year and are working with Paramount toward that end,” an NBC spokeswoman said.

The network certainly could use another year of the long-running hit, which, with “The Cosby Show” gone and “L.A. Law” clearly weaker, remains the last vestige of dominance from its Thursday lineup.

“Cheers” has shown signs of erosion over the past two years as well, averaging a 17.6 rating, 27 share in Nielsen last season and 17.1/27 this fall over six airings. By contrast, the show gulped down an average 21.3 rating in 1990-91 and more than a 22 rating during the two seasons before that.

Nevertheless, the sudsy sitcom remains NBC’s top-rated program and continues to dominate its time period, draw strong demographics and rank among the top series on television.

NBC and Paramount negotiated the “Cheers” license fee down last season, to an estimated $ 2.25 million per episode from the $ 2.5 million reportedly paid the prior year. That fee still covered all Paramount production costs on the show, which, due to the high star salaries, is believed to cost more than $ 2 million per segment.

“Cheers” is so expensive to produce because of those salaries, with Danson commanding more than $ 400,000 an episode (per 26 each season) and other cast members in the six-figure range. As one observer put it, “That kind of money is hard to walk away from.”

The cast and producers have also said that they’ll continue to do the show as long as they enjoy it and voted on the matter before agreeing to an 11th campaign.

Since that time, creators-exec producers James Burrows, Glen Charles and Les Charles disbanded Triangle Entertainment, which they formed specifically to develop new shows to fulfill their various “Cheers” commitments–in order to pursue projects separately.

Because “Cheers” is a partnership of Charles/Burrows/Charles and Paramount, the studio needs the trio’s approval to proceed with another year.

Although Paramount doesn’t really need more episodes of “Cheers” for syndication (more than 250 will have been produced by the end of 1992-93), another year of the series would ensure a strong lead-in for the sister Paramount comedy “Wings,” which is in its fourth year.

Aside from being a ratings champ, “Cheers” has amassed more Emmy nominations (109) than any other prime time series in history as well as 26 Emmy awards.

“Cheers” has been nominated as outstanding comedy series every year it’s been on the air, winning four of those 10 years.

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