The NBC comedy Cheers had a number of memorable guest stars. There were celebrities like Alex Trebek and Tip O’Neill. There were actors who would become well known for other roles like Harry Anderson and John Mahoney. In fact, Mahoney guest starred on Cheers when another actor bailed forcing the Cheers producers to recast.
Cheers writer Ken Levine discussed the show’s celebrity guest stars on an episode of his Hollywood & Levine podcast. Here’s why Mahoney had to fill in at the last minute.
The original Sy Flembeck guest star on ‘Cheers’ got really nervous
Levine didn’t out the original actor for the part, but he shared how nervous he was. This was a season 11 episode so Cheers must have been daunting. Levine was entirely sympathetic to the nervous actor, and did his best to reassure him throughout the rehearsals.
“An episode called ‘Do Not Forsake Me, O’ My Postman,’ this is sort of a sad story actually,” Levine said on Hollywood and Levine. “There was another actor who was slated to play a part of an old jingle writer, Sy Flembeck. Rebecca wanted to hire Sy to write a jingle for Cheers. And the actor who is a lovely guy and I had known and worked with for years was always nervous the whole week. Is he doing okay? Is he doing okay? I would reassure him after run-throughs, you’re fine, you’re fine, don’t worry about it.”
The original Sy Flembeck bolted before filming ‘Cheers’
The nerves got to this actor and he couldn’t go through with filming. Too bad he didn’t notify the producers. They had to cancel filming for that night. That’s no small inconvenience to a weekly show on the night of production.
“After the dress rehearsal, he was so panic stricken, he got in his car and left, just drove away, never came back,” Levine said. “Well, we couldn’t film those scenes obviously that night. We had to recast and so we recast John Mahoney.”
A happy ending for John Mahoney
While one actor never got over his stage fright, he might have actually helped make television history. Mahoney would be cast as Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer)’s father on the spinoff Frasier. His guest starring role on Cheers brought him to the attention of producers.
“This was right around the time that Peter Casey, David Lee, and David Angell were casting Frasier,” Levine said. “And they saw that episode and they saw John Mahoney and they thought you know, he would probably be really good for the dad. You kind of wonder. They probably would’ve come upon him anyway. You’d like to think that his name might be on a list but who knows? Maybe if that other actor hadn’t fled, John Mahoney might not have become the dad on Frasier. One of those things you never know.”