WGA top honor to 'Cheers' creators

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Jan. 31, 2002 at 6:56 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The Writers Guild of America, west has decided to present its highest TV writing honor to Glen and Les Charles, in recognition of a body of work that brought some of the smartest, funniest writing to TV audiences -- reaching as far back as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and continuing to this day with "Frasier."

The brother team from Nevada will receive the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television at the WGA Awards ceremony on March 2. The award is given to writers "who have advanced the literature of television through the years, and who have made outstanding contributions to the profession of the television writer."

Previous recipients include Steven Bochco, Larry Gelbart, Madelyn Pugh Davis & Bob Carroll Jr., Jess Oppenheimer, Carl Reiner, Rod Serling and David Lloyd.

"The Charles brothers have always brought comedic wit and style to their television writing, from 'M*A*S*H' to 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' 'The Bob Newhart Show,' 'Taxi,' 'Cheers' and right on up to 'Frasier,'" said WGAw president Victoria Riskin. "The brilliance of their work has elevated the art of television."

Glen and Les Charles earned their earliest writing credits in 1972 for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," then part of a Saturday night lineup on CBS that also included "All in the Family" and "The Bob Newhart Show." In 1974, they began writing for another CBS hit, "M*A*S*H."

They became part of a stable of writers at MTM, the production company run by Moore and her husband, producer Grant Tinker. Eventually they became producers, spinning off the hit comedy, "Phyllis," based on the character created by the Emmy-winning Chloris Leachman on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

They also produced the final season of "The Bob Newhart Show" in 1977-78.

In 1978, as producers and head writers, they launched "Taxi" -- which won the Emmy for best comedy in each of its three years on ABC, 1978-81, then moved to NBC for its final two seasons. The writing and production staff of "Taxi" included James L. Brooks, Ed. Weinberger, Stan Daniels and David Davis. They left "Taxi" after four seasons with producer-director James Burrows, to create their own show -- and make even more TV history.

Glen and Les Charles won an Emmy and a Writers Guild Award for writing the pilot episode of an NBC comedy set in a Boston bar where "everybody knows your name."

"Cheers" overcame early poor ratings to enjoy an 11-year run as one of the most popular TV comedies of all-time. The show racked up a record-setting 117 Emmy nominations and won 28 Emmys -- second only to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" -- including four for best comedy series.

The final episode, which they wrote, was one of the most-watched television programs of all time when it aired in May 1993.

"Cheers" spun off another long-running hit, "Frasier," which ran off an unprecedented five straight best-comedy Emmys in its first five seasons and is still one of the strongest ratings performers on NBC's primetime schedule.

The Charles brothers have won eight Emmys for writing and producing.

According to their production company, CBC Productions (Charles-Burrows-Charles), they are currently involved in several movie and TV projects -- and are at work on a Broadway comedy, a novel, a grand opera, and a VCR instruction manual.

The Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award is named for one of the most honored writers in TV and movie history.

Chayefsky was a prolific writer of TV dramas during the medium's so-called "golden age" -- contributing memorable teleplays to such anthologies series as "The Philco Television Playhouse" and "The Alcoa-Goodyear Television Playhouse." He was nominated for Emmy awards for "Writer" in 1955 and "A Catered Affair" in 1956, but his best-known TV script is "Marty" -- which won the Oscar for best picture when it was adapted for the big screen in 1955.

Chayefsky won two writing Oscars, for "The Hospital" in 1971 and "Network" in 1976.

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