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The George Wendt Show aired from March until April 1995 on CBS.
George and Dan Coleman ( George Wendt, Pat Finn), were unmarried brothers who co-hosted a radio call-in show " Points and Plugs," from the office of their auto repair shop in Madison, Wisconsin. Although they did provide useful information to callers, they also spent time musing about relationships, including what they considered the eternal triangle-a man, his woman, and his car. Dan, the impetuous younger brother, often got himself into situations that necessitated George's bailing him out, something that had been going on since they were kids. They had 3 other auto mechanics working for them-Finnie, Fletcher, and Libby( Brian Doyle-Murray, Mark Christopher Lawrence, and Kate Hodge).
An Article from the LA Times
Hey, It's That Guy From . . . Nah, Don't Say It
March 07, 1995|DANIEL HOWARD CERONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER
During the final month of "Cheers" nearly two years ago, George Wendt was being encouraged by Paramount, by NBC and by series creators James Burrows, Les Charles and Glen Charles to star in his own TV series. There was talk of spinning off Wendt's immovable barfly, Norm, or making Wendt an ex-cop who ran a comedy club or the loafing owner of a barbecue restaurant.
"They were real valid and real good ideas, but I just wasn't emotionally ready to consider them," said Wendt, who played Norm for 11 seasons--a quarter of his life. "My heart wasn't in it at the time."
After doing a variety of plays, TV movies and a feature film, Wendt's heart for sitcoms has returned. "The George Wendt Show" premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS.
Now the question: Can he pull it off? By his own admission, he faces an enormous challenge--made tougher, not easier, by the fact that another "Cheers" alum, Kelsey Grammer, already has succeeded in NBC's "Frasier."
"This show is bound to be compared to 'Cheers,' and there's a very low chance that it will hit the mark left by 'Cheers,' " Wendt said in a recent lunch interview at his show trailer in Studio City. "Probably even more specifically, it will be compared to 'Frasier,' and that was a home run, too. So the comparisons are almost bound to be disappointing."
Wendt described his reaction to Grammer's success as "multilayered."
"I have a great relationship with Kelsey, and he's a great guy, so we all (the "Cheers" cast) were thrilled for him," Wendt said. "The writers are really cool--they're from 'Cheers.' So it's great to see part of the family just keep on going, holding up the standard. On the other hand, we're all probably--I certainly am--jealous," he said good-naturedly.
Part of the struggle for "George Wendt" has been to avoid being too much like "Frasier." "George Wendt" features two brothers who are auto mechanics and host a radio advice show on fixing cars. "Frasier" features two brothers who are psychiatrists, one of whom hosts a radio advice show on fixing people.
A year ago, Peter Tolan, executive producer of "The Larry Sanders Show" on HBO, bought the TV rights to "Car Talk," a National Public Radio show featuring real-life Boston brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi, known to their fans as Click and Clack.
About the same time, "Frasier" was towering in the ratings and NBC was itching to get Wendt on the air. Network executives wanted him to bring back Norm, but Wendt declined, encouraged by his management. "I don't want to be Norm forever. And you know, like I'm not going to be anyway ," said Wendt, looking and sounding very much like his wise-cracking alter ego.
So Wendt was given the script for "Under the Hood," as it was called at the time, and the first thing he noticed was the similarities to "Frasier." At Wendt's request, the radio show on car repair was changed to a public access TV show, and the location was moved from Boston to Madison, to avoid comparisons to "Cheers." Suddenly, Wendt and Tolan said, the pilot started looking like "Home Improvement."
But with time running out last March, "Under the Hood" was cast--with Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) as the other brother--filmed and assembled in a mere two weeks with the hope of making the fall-season cut at NBC. It didn't. CBS picked up the spoils, giving Tolan the necessary time to retool the series for Wendt.
"If you are doing a show, as I had originally meant to do, about two guys from Boston with a radio program, that's one thing," said Tolan, executive producer of "Under the Hood," which was changed to "George Wendt" to help CBS market the show. "But when you're doing a show with George Wendt, that's a different show.
"It's the same challenge the writers of something like 'The Bob Newhart Show' had. Your main character is primarily reactive and not active. George is the epitome of that. If you think of Norm, here's a guy who sat on a bar stool for 11 years. That's not active, in any way. It's hard to imagine Norm wanting anything--not to say that George is Norm."
For CBS, the cable access show was changed back to a radio show, although the radio element is only really used in the openings. Wendt was changed from a mechanic to a master diagnostician, because the star didn't want to crawl around under cars. Finally, Wendt was given a younger brother, played by Pat Finn, who could--as they say in classic television terminology--get Wendt into all kinds of scrapes.
Despite not wanting to remain Norm forever, Wendt is the first to say that his new character will be very familiar: "He's very Norm-like. He's just me, basically, trying to say the words truthfully. In other words, he's just Norm without a beer in his hand. I have to walk around more."
Wendt has stretched his acting muscles, though, since "Cheers" went off the air in May, 1993. Within a week, he was Off Broadway in search of his masculinity in "Wild Men!," and he returned to the stage last year as a coarse freighter hand in David Mamet's "Lake Boat." He also plays a scout master in the current Disney feature "Man of the House."
"If I had to choose one form of work, it would probably be theater. But it's tough to raise a family on that," said Wendt, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Bernadette, and their three young children.
When asked if he misses "Cheers," he relates a recurring dream he has. Wendt is on set with the actors, and he does or says something that makes everyone laugh. And Burrows says, "That's great, let's use that. Let's put that in the show."
"Then you wake up and there's no show to put it in," Wendt said. "You know, I have dreams about ("Cheers"). I mean, that's missing something."
A Review from The New York Times
More Progeny of 'Cheers'
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: March 9, 1995
"The George Wendt Show," Wednesdays at 8, is inspired by a radio show, "Car Talk" on National Public Radio, on which the brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi offer automobile tips. The brothers are consultants for this television series. Contracts being slippery, NPR gets nothing.
The television brothers, working out of a garage in Madison, Wis., are George and Dan Coleman, played respectively by Mr. Wendt and Pat Finn, both veterans of the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago's. Their weekly radio show is called "Points and Plugs." Listeners complain that they talk longer to women. Ten years older than Dan, George has spent much of his life keeping his happy-go-lucky kid brother out of trouble. Mr. Wendt, who has a genius for suggesting that he is really almost pained to be in the scene he's playing, gets his laughs like clockwork, helped by an obviously comfortable relationship with Mr. Finn.
But so far, the show looks like a concept is search of development. The first episode got the car-talk business out of the way quickly and spent most of its time making cracks about the brothers growing up Roman Catholic and being educated at St. Gabriel's. George recalled "those nights I woke up screaming." Dan spoke about "destroying a small boy's self-esteem" and Sister Mary Borgnine lifting him off the floor by his eyebrows. Long gone, evidently, are the days of "Going My Way" sentimentality.
Next week: A car buff invites the brothers to her cabin hideaway. Automobile tips, it seems, aren't everything.
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on March 10, 1995
Pop Culture News
BEYOND THE NORM
'CHEERS' ALUM GEORGE WENDT BELLIES UP TO THE CAR IN HIS OWN SITCOM
Sure, everybody knows his name. Not to mention his deadpan delivery, his ability to hoist a frothy brew, and the batch of brown curls topping his world-weary head. For 10 seasons, viewers knew George Wendt as plain old Norm, the guy permanently planted on Cheers' corner barstool. But does everybody know that Wendt can actually walk? ''Apparently he has knees that bend, and we're looking forward to using them,'' says Peter Tolan, executive producer of The George Wendt Show, premiering March 8 on CBS. Not that Wendt's new role will be a huge departure from the, um, norm. ''I don't think they're gonna notice much difference other ( than the fact that I won't have a beer in my hand,'' says Wendt. ''I'm not a chameleonlike character actor. I'm not somebody who comes off differently with each role.'' In other words, Wendt is a Norm-like kind of guy. ''He watches football, likes having a coupla beers and hanging out,'' says Tolan. ''I met him in Chicago and when I asked him where he was staying, he said, 'My mom's house.' '' Sitting in his trailer at CBS' Radford Studios, dressed in shorts, a black T-shirt, and Nikes, Wendt, 46, describes himself as a prototypical slacker. (He got kicked out of the University of Notre Dame, and his location trailer contains a stash of CDs that includes Pearl Jam, Gutterball, Bob Mould, and Hole.) His voice low, his pace slow, he admits that for a long time after Cheers he had difficulty reading scripts: ''The timing was wrong. It felt like the body wasn't cold yet, or the divorce wasn't final.'' He still isn't completely convinced he should star in another sitcom, but he was overcome by the nagging feeling that it was time to get back to steady work. Not that he seems exactly comfortable with the attention. Mention the title the network has chosen for his new series and Wendt rolls his eyes. ''That's probably the weirdest thing about all this,'' he says. ''I can't tell you how weird that feels.'' Wendt also has to get used to serving a bigger piece of the sitcom pie. ''Now that he's the star, he has to set the tone,'' says coexecutive producer and former Cheers producer Dan O'Shannon. The series revolves around two brothers and is loosely based on Tom and Ray Magliozzi and their Boston-based National Public Radio call-in show, Car Talk. After NBC passed on the original pilot in 1994, the show's locale was shifted to Madison, Wis. (Wendt wanted to get away from Boston), the radio angle was played down (it was thought too Frasier-like), and the role of Wendt's brother, originally played by Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson), was recast with TV newcomer Pat Finn, 29. ''We wanted to make this about the relationship between a much younger brother and an older responsible one,'' explains Tolan. Wendt first saw Finn in Chicago when the young actor was in a Second City production directed by Wendt's wife, Bernadette Birkett. (The couple, who married in 1978, now live in L.A. with their five children-two from her previous marriage.) Wendt says of his costar: ''He's so funny. He can't not be funny. And although we don't look like each other, we look like we could be | brothers.'' That's just the beginning. Both actors hail from the Windy City, have devout Catholic mothers (''I tease him that my mom's holier,'' says Wendt), worked on soda trucks, caddied, and began their acting careers on the Second City stage. When it's suggested that both also lack pretense, Wendt mumbles, ''I would never say that but I might nod.'' The first time Finn went to Wendt's house for dinner, they dined on pizza and watched a Marquette basketball game. ''He's like an older brother,'' says Finn. ''He's the senior and I'm the freshman.'' Despite his easygoing style, Wendt is probably more worried about his new series than he lets on. The flailing CBS hopes for a Wednesday-night ratings boost, but Wendt says he'll be happy if ''the audience can have a laugh and go along for the ride.'' Then again, if the show fails, he adds with a sigh, ''I'll take it as a sign.'' Wendt would probably be just as happy watching TV as starring on TV. So would Norm.
A Review from People magazine
* March 27, 1995
* Vol. 43
* No. 12
Picks and Pans Review: The George Wendt Show
By David Hiltbrand
CBS (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET)
In this new sitcom, the Cheers veteran plays the cohost of a radio show, Points & Plugs. Together with his brother (Pat Finn), he dispenses automotive advice from a makeshift studio inside their car repair garage. (The premise is lifted from the popular NPR show Car Talk, hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi. That program is based in Boston, but Wendt, opting to put some miles between himself and Norm, situates this show in Madison, Wis.)
Wendt and Finn deliver their lines with such assurance and crisp rhythm that you may be puzzled after a few minutes to find that you're not laughing. These guys sure act funny. The problem is they're driving a lemon. Under the hood: stale and obvious writing. Combine the running-on-empty humor with a woeful supporting cast, and you have a sitcom hitting on about two cylinders.
For more on The George Wendt Show go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_George_Wendt_Show
For some The George Wendt Show-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/george-wendt-show
For a CBS Promo go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvPbkR_OVk8
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