Letter: British saved 'Cheers' for the Americans

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Sir: The demise of the television series Cheers, which, with MASH, was arguably the best ever imported American comedy series, gives rise to an interesting story. When I was first shown the pilot episode in 1982, it had already been seen but not purchased by both the BBC and ITV. I was the lone representative of the newly constituted but unlaunched Channel Four Television; at that time the station was low in the pecking order of UK broadcasters. My reaction was immediate and, after long entreaty, a rather reluctant senior managment at Channel Four agreed to go along with my enthusiasm.

In 1983, within the first year of the launch of Channel Four, Cheers won the Broadcasting Press Guild of Great Britain award for 'Best Imported Comedy'. However, no such accolade was then on offer in the US (although it did eventually receive more than 100 US award nominations during its 11-year run). At that time, its US viewing and audience appreciation figures were low and a further series looked very doubtful.

I was later told by some of the cast that they believed the reaction of the audiences in the UK helped to convince the American network television chiefs to stay with the show and commission another series. It would be nice to think this was so; certainly, whenever we met, some of that excellent cast always paid tribute to the British viewers and their help in keeping Cheers alive.

Yours faithfully,


Esher, Surrey

27 May

The writer was senior commissioning editor, Entertainment, for Channel Four Television, 1981-1984