David Lee

Producer / Show Creator


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, David Lee recalls his time in Los Angeles as a sandwich delivery boy and his first big break writing for The Jeffersons. He speaks of his tenure on the show and of writing scripts on the side in secret for Cheers. He outlines his years as a staff writer and eventual producer on Cheers, helping to create the character of "Frasier Crane" and dealing with both the death of Nicholas Colasanto and the departure of Shelley Long from the show. He recounts leaving Cheers to create the long-running series Wings, along with his writing partners Peter Casey and David Angell, and talks of directing episodes toward the end of the series' run. He discusses the short-lived Nathan Lane series Encore! Encore! and details creating the Cheers spin-off Frasier along with Casey and Angell. Lee describes the twelve-year history of the show, the dynamics of the characters, directing episodes, and the death of co-creator David Angell during the tragic events of 9/11. He wraps up by discussing the then-current state of television and shares his career highlights and regrets. Jim McKairnes conducted the interview on July 9, 2010 in North Hollywood, California.

"I've learned that in television you can make things better by working on them more. You shouldn't settle. You don't have to settle. You can write up to your audience. You can even shoot over their heads if you want."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
David Lee on creating Frasier with Peter Casey and David Angell
David Lee on creating Wings with Peter Casey and David Angell
David Lee on the end of Frasier 
David Lee on advice to aspiring writers
David Lee on the never-seen character of "Maris Crane" on Frasier 
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on moving to Los Angeles; on his early jobs in L.A.
On meeting his writing partner Peter Casey; on how they came to write for The Jeffersons
On the writing process for The Jeffersons; on the cast of The Jeffersons and the end of the show
On writing a spec script for Cheers; on writing for the character "Frasier Crane" on Cheers; on he and Peter Casey becoming writing producers on Cheers

Chapter 2

On his early experience writing for Cheers; on writing for the character "Diane Chambers"; on becoming Supervising Producer on Cheers
On writing "gang comedy" for Cheers; on Ted Danson as "Sam Malone" and Shelley Long as "Diane Chambers" on Cheers; on replacing "Coach" with "Woody Boyd" on the show and Bebe Neuwirth as "Lilith Sternin Crane"
On Shelley Long being replaced by Kirstie Alley on Cheers; on moving on from Cheers; on the legacy of the show
On creating Wings; on casting Wings; on what he learned from the show

Chapter 3

On creating the series Encore! Encore!; on his production company, Grubb Street; on creating Frasier with David Angell and Peter Casey
On casting Frasier; on creating the pilot for Frasier; on Christopher Lloyd joining the show as a writer
On developing ideas for Frasier; on working with the cast and his dealings with NBC regarding the show
On the farcical elements of Frasier; on having the cast of Cheers guest-star on Frasier; on the running gags on the show

Chapter 4

On Frasier's Emmy wins; on the unseen character of "Maris Crane" on Frasier; on the death of Frasier co-creator David Angell on 9/11
On ending Frasier; on the then-current state of television; on career highlights and regrets and how he'd like to be remembered
Shows

Barney Miller

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David Lee on getting his foot in the door as a writer on The Jeffersons

Cheers

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David Lee on how he and Peter Casey came to write for Cheers
David Lee on the spec script he and Peter Casey wrote for Cheers and secretly writing for Cheers while still with The Jeffersons
David Lee on writing the character "Frasier Crane" on Cheers
David Lee on returning to The Jeffersons after his first Emmy nomination for Cheers
David Lee on becoming a producer for Cheers in 1985 and the writing process on Cheers
David Lee on his early insecurity writing for Cheers
David Lee on a typical production day for Cheers
David Lee on writing the character "Diane Chambers" on Cheers
David Lee on his favorite Cheers episodes
David Lee on his role as Supervising Producer on Cheers and his relationship with the creative staff of Cheers
David Lee on writing for a "gang comedy" like Cheers
David Lee on Ted Danson as "Sam Malone" on Cheers
David Lee on Shelley Long as "Diane Chambers" on Cheers
David Lee on fellow Cheers writer David Angell
David Lee on replacing Nicholas Colasanto as "Coach" with Woody Harrelson as "Woody Boyd" on Cheers
David Lee on Bebe Neuwirth as "Dr. Lilith Sternin Crane" on Cheers
David Lee on Shelley Long leaving Cheers and being replaced by Kirstie Alley's "Rebecca Howe"
David Lee on how the actors on Cheers got along
David Lee on moving on from Cheers
David Lee on the legacy of Cheers

Frasier

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David Lee on creating Frasier with Peter Casey and David Angell
David Lee on casting Frasier
David Lee on writing the first episode of Frasier 
David Lee on the differences between "Frasier Crane" on Cheers and Frasier
David Lee on the first night of filming Frasier
David Lee on directing Frasier after the pilot
David Lee on Christopher Lloyd joining the writing staff of Frasier
David Lee on developing ideas for Frasier
David Lee on the Frasier writer's room
David Lee on James Burrows' contribution to Frasier
David Lee on working with the cast of Frasier
David Lee on Frasier being an instant hit and why it worked
David Lee on his dealings with NBC in regards to Frasier's time slot
David Lee on the Emmy-winning Frasier episode "The Matchmaker" and various farcical episodes
David Lee on having characters from Cheers appear on Frasier
David Lee on Frasier's running gags
David Lee on the various guest-stars on Frasier
David Lee on Frasier's  unprecedented number of Emmy wins
David Lee on the relationship between "Frasier Crane" and "Martin Crane" on Frasier
David Lee on the never-seen character of "Maris Crane" on Frasier 
David Lee on the set design on Frasier
David Lee on the death of David Angell on 9/11
David Lee on the end of Frasier 
David Lee on the finale of Frasier and his favorite episodes

Jeffersons, The

View Show Page
David Lee on getting his foot in the door as a writer on The Jeffersons
David Lee on his first script for The Jeffersons
David Lee on becoming a staff writer on The Jeffersons
David Lee on his vision for The Jeffersons and the state of the show when he started
David Lee on his and Peter Casey's day-to-day experience writing The Jeffersons
David Lee on writing for the cast of The Jeffersons
David Lee on the legacy of The Jeffersons
David Lee on the end of The Jeffersons
David Lee on what he learned from writing The Jeffersons

Wings

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David Lee on creating Wings with Peter Casey and David Angell
David Lee on casting Wings
David Lee on what he learned from creating Wings and his first directing job
Topics

9/11

View Topic
David Lee on the death of David Angell on 9/11

Characters & Catchphrases

View Topic
David Lee on Frasier's  running gags
David Lee on the difference between "Frasier Crane" on Cheers  and Frasier
David Lee on the never-seen character of "Maris Crane" on Frasier 

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
David Lee on his role as Supervising Producer on Cheers and his relationship with the creative staff of Cheers

Emmy Awards

View Topic
David Lee on returning to The Jeffersons after his first Emmy nomination for Cheers
David Lee on the Emmy-winning Frasier  episode "The Matchmaker" and various farcical episodes
David Lee on Frasier's  unprecedented number of Emmy wins

Pop Culture

View Topic
David Lee on Frasier's  running gags
David Lee on the difference between "Frasier Crane" on Cheers  and Frasier
David Lee on the never-seen character of "Maris Crane" on Frasier 
Professions

Show Creators

View Profession
David Lee on developing ideas for Frasier
David Lee on writing the first episode of Frasier

Writers

View Profession
David Lee on becoming a producer for Cheers  in 1985 and the writing process on Cheers
David Lee on advice to aspiring writers
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
David Lee on writing for The Jeffersons
David Lee on writing for Cheers
David Lee on writing and producing Cheers
David Lee on creating and writing Wings
David Lee on creating and producing Frasier
David Lee on creating the series Encore! Encore!
David Lee on production on Frasier
People

Kirstie Alley

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David Lee on Shelley Long leaving Cheers and being replaced by Kirstie Alley's "Rebecca Howe"

David Angell

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David Lee on fellow Cheers writer David Angell
David Lee on moving on from Cheers
David Lee on the death of David Angell on 9/11

James Burrows

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David Lee on working for a sandwich delivery business
David Lee on his role as Supervising Producer on Cheers and his relationship with the creative staff of Cheers
David Lee on James Burrows' contributions to Frasier

Peter Casey

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David Lee on meeting his writing partner Peter Casey
David Lee on the first scripts he wrote with Peter Casey
David Lee on how he and Peter Casey came to write for Cheers
David Lee on the spec script he and Peter Casey wrote for Cheers, and secretly writing for Cheers while still with The Jeffersons
David Lee on moving on from Cheers
David Lee on his relationship with Peter Casey

Glen Charles

View Interview Page
David Lee on how he and Peter Casey came to write for Cheers
David Lee on becoming a producer for Cheers in 1985 and the writing process on Cheers
David Lee on his role as Supervising Producer on Cheers and his relationship with the creative staff of Cheers

Les Charles

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David Lee on how he and Peter Casey came to write for Cheers
David Lee on his role as Supervising Producer on Cheers and his relationship with the creative staff of Cheers

Nicholas Colasanto

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David Lee on replacing Nicholas Colasanto as "Coach" with Woody Harrelson as "Woody Boyd" on Cheers

Franklin Cover

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David Lee on writing for the cast of The Jeffersons

Ted Danson

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David Lee on Ted Danson as "Sam Malone" on Cheers

Marla Gibbs

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David Lee on writing for the cast of The Jeffersons

Woody Harrelson

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David Lee on replacing Nicholas Colasanto as "Coach" with Woody Harrelson as "Woody Boyd" on Cheers

Sherman Hemsley

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David Lee on writing for the cast of The Jeffersons

Christopher Lloyd

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David Lee on Christopher Lloyd joining the writing staff of Frasier

Shelley Long

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David Lee on writing the character "Diane Chambers" on Cheers
David Lee on Shelley Long as "Diane Chambers" on Cheers

Joan Plowright

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David Lee on the various guest-stars on Frasier

Roxie Roker

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David Lee on writing for the cast of The Jeffersons

Isabel Sanford

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David Lee on writing for the cast of The Jeffersons

Patrick Stewart

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David Lee on the various guest-stars on Frasier

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