Ironside with a Laugh Track

Ken Levine is out of town, so he’s handed over his wonderful blog to Emmy-winning writer/producer Peter Casey, who talks today about the creation of his hit sitcom FRASIER.

We frankly feared that anything we created for Frasier would pale in
comparison to CHEERS. Kelsey wasn’t particularly interested in
continuing the character of Frasier either, so we came up with a new
concept. Kelsey would play this very high-brow, eccentric
multi-millionaire publisher (think Malcom Forbes) in New York who was
paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident. He would run
his publishing empire from his bed in his fabulous Manhattan penthouse.
His live-in nurse would be a very street smart, dedicated Hispanic
woman (we pictured Rosie Perez) who would be a thorn in his side, but
bring out the humanity in him.
Kelsey liked it, Paramount hated it.

This anecdote reminds me of something a producer once told me (was it Steve Cannell? Michael Gleason? Fred Silverman? Roy Huggins? I can’t remember). He said that veteran drama series stars love coming up with series concepts for themselves where all they have to do is sit somewhere and everybody comes to them. It began, he said, with Raymond Burr and "Ironside." The producer said that after "Ironside," every drama star wanted his gig. I believe the producer said that it was one of the things that killed "Bret Maverick" — after "Rockford Files," James Garner didn’t want to have to run around any more. He wanted the stories to come to him, preferrably while he was sitting on a soundstage at a poker table. Which is why Maverick settled down in a small town on the Warner Brothers backlot instead of roaming the west…

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