Les Charles

Writer / Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In their four-hour Archive interview, Glen and Les Charles were each interviewed in a solo half-hour session, and in a joint three-hour session. The writing-partners/brothers talk about their early years growing up near Las Vegas, Nevada and their decision in the mid-'70s to try their hand at freelance writing for television. They discuss selling their first script (to M*A*S*H) and breaking into staff writing at MTM Productions, where they worked as writer-producers on Phyllis and the final season of The Bob Newhart Show. They recall other writing assignments on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Betty White Show, and detail working with the cast and crew of the hit series, Taxi. The pair talk about both writing and producing the ABC run of Taxi (the show would run a final season on NBC) and chronicle the creation  of the series Cheers (with James Burrows). They outline their roles as producers and later executive producers of the show, discuss cast changes, and recall memorable episodes from the show's eleven year run. Gary Rutkowski conducted the interview on December 8, 2003 in Los Angeles, CA.

"Winning the Emmy on Cheers was such a validation of the show. We'd put so much of ourselves into it... [Someone had written] her child was critically ill...one of the worst nights of her life. She needed something to distract her so she turned on Cheers and for a half hour felt better. Lifted her out of it. And that was a source of inspiration to us for a long time, that a silly little 30-minute sitcom can do something good for people sometimes."

Highlights
Les Charles on he and his brother, Glen Charles, deciding to become writing partners
Glen and Les Charles on the theme song and title design for Cheers
03:15
Glen and Les Charles on the three-part finale of Cheers - and writing a cameo for Bill Clinton
01:53
Glen and Les Charles on the legacy of Cheers
03:08
Glen and Les Charles on the cancellation of Taxi
01:20
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on growing up close to Las Vegas and visiting The Strip; on being raised Mormon
04:59
On his hobbies and literary influences; on the first time he saw television and his high school and college years
06:40
On his first job out of college - working in a bar; on substitute teaching; on he and his brother, Glen Charles, becoming writing partners
07:43
On moving to Los Angeles
00:25

Chapter 2

[START OF JOINT INTERVIEW WITH GLEN CHARLES] On writing spec scripts for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and M*A*S*H; on observing the filming of the M*A*S*H episode they wrote
10:20
On writing for The Mary Tyler Moore Show
05:34
On getting hired as story editors for the MTM show Doc; on writing for Phyllis; on working with MTM's Stan Daniels and Ed. Weinberger and what they learned from the pair
10:34
On working for MTM in the company's early days
01:32

Chapter 3

On an embarrassing anecdote about the show Phyllis; on Grant Tinker; on producing and writing for the last season of The Bob Newhart Show
09:18
On the series finale of The Bob Newhart Show; on working with James Burrows
06:07
On leaving MTM to produce Taxi; on production, writing, and the title sequence of Taxi
13:19

Chapter 4

On the writing process and writers on Taxi; on casting the show and working with the actors
16:53
On Andy Kaufman joining the cast of Taxi; on specific episodes of Taxi
11:15

Chapter 5

On dealing with the network and Standards and Practices on Taxi; on the show's cancellation
03:06
On creating their own production company and the early idea for Cheers; on creating the regulars on Cheers
11:21
On the casting process for Cheers; on their deal with NBC
05:15
On James Burrows' contributions to Cheers; on being their own bosses on Cheers and their initial plan for the series
08:32
On the physical comedy between "Sam" and "Diane"; on the writers' room on Cheers; on a typical work-week on Cheers
04:42

Chapter 6

On the Cheers theme song and title design; on the show's initially poor ratings and critical success
06:30
On casting Kelsey Grammar as "Dr. Frasier Crane"; on Shelley Long's decision to leave Cheers and how her departure affected the show; on Kirstie Alley becoming the female lead
05:30
On which characters on Cheers changed the most throughout the run of the show; on favorite episodes and filming in front of a live studio audience
04:58
On their favorite guest stars on Cheers; on the three-part finale and the surrounding press; on the legacy of Cheers
11:52

Chapter 7

On their involvement with the shows All is Forgiven and The Tortellis; on giving their blessing to Frasier; on their writing style
05:46
On then-current projects; on their proudest career achievements; on their mentors and how they'd like to be remembered
04:36
Shows

All is Forgiven

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Glen and Les Charles on their involvement with the shows All is Forgiven and The Tortellis
01:28

Betty White Show, The (1977-78)

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Glen and Les Charles on writing several episodes of The Betty White Show
01:08

Bob Newhart Show, The (1972-78)

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Glen and Les Charles on producing and writing for the last season of The Bob Newhart Show
08:41
Glen and Les Charles on the series finale of The Bob Newhart Show
02:34

Cheers

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Glen and Les Charles on the creation of Cheers, setting the show in Boston, and research for the bar setting
04:17
Glen and Les Charles on creating the regulars on Cheers
05:03
Glen and Les Charles on casting Cheers; on their deal with NBC
05:15
Glen and Les Charles on James Burrows' contributions to Cheers
01:58
Glen and Les Charles on being their own bosses on Cheers and their initial plan for the series
01:51
Glen and Les Charles on how "Sam" and "Diane" (Ted Danson and Shelley Long) worked together on Cheers
01:38
Glen and Les Charles on the writers' room on Cheers
02:01
Glen and Les Charles on a typical work-week on Cheers
01:01
Glen and Les Charles on the theme song of Cheers "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" (and how "People Like Us" was almost the theme)
03:15
Glen and Les Charles on Cheers' initial low ratings and how then-House speaker Tip O'Neil did a cameo
03:16
Glen and Les Charles on casting Kelsey Grammar as "Dr. Frasier Crane" on Cheers and the inspiration for that character -- a "Ralph Bellamy" type
02:16
Glen and Les Charles on Shelley Long's decision to leave Cheers and how her departure affected the show
02:51
Glen and Les Charles on which characters on Cheers changed the most throughout the run of the show
02:21
Glen and Les Charles on their favorite episodes of Cheers and multiple-part episodes; on filming in front of a live studio audience
02:37
Glen and Les Charles on their favorite guest stars on Cheers
01:11
Glen and Les Charles on letting other people take the reigns on Cheers
01:39
Glen and Les Charles on the three-part finale of Cheers - and writing a cameo for Bill Clinton
01:53
Glen and Les Charles on the series finale of Cheers
02:35
Glen and Les Charles on filming the series finale of Cheers
00:37
Glen and Les Charles on why Cheers went off the air
00:47
Glen and Les Charles on the legacy of Cheers
03:08
Glen and Les Charles on why Cheers was considered to have sophisticated writing
01:07

Doc

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Glen and Les Charles on getting hired as story editors for the MTM show Doc
02:32

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Glen and Les Charles on Cheers' early Emmy wins
01:02

Fawlty Towers

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Glen and Les Charles on how the British series Fawlty Towers served as an initial for the inspiration for the setting of Cheers
01:01

Frasier

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Glen and Les Charles on giving their blessing to Frasier, a spinoff of Cheers starring Kelsey Grammar
01:06

M*A*S*H

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Glen and Les Charles on writing a spec script for M*A*S*H, which was the first script they sold 
05:30

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The

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Glen and Les Charles on how they finally got hired to write for The Mary Tyler Moore Show a whole year after submitting a spec script
00:50
Glen and Les Charles on the first spec script they ever wrote: for The Mary Tyler Moore Show 
02:06
Glen and Les Charles on getting hired to write for The Mary Tyler Moore Show a whole year after submitting a spec script
04:27
Glen and Les Charles on writing for The Mary Tyler Moore Show
01:07

Phyllis

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Glen and Les Charles on writing for the MTM show Phyllis and working with MTM's Stan Daniels and Ed. Weinberger
06:28
Glen and Les Charles on changes made to the MTM show Phyllis
01:34
Glen and Les Charles on an embarrassing anecdote about the show Phyllis
01:38

Taxi

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Glen and Les Charles on producing Taxi
00:30
Glen and Les Charles on producing and head-writing for Taxi
06:18
Glen and Les Charles on the premise and production of Taxi
04:56
Glen and Les Charles on the title sequence of Taxi
01:38
Glen and Les Charles on a typical work-week on Taxi
03:32
Glen and Les Charles on the atmosphere in the writing room of Taxi
05:34
Glen and Les Charles on the actors and the casting process on Taxi
10:06
Glen and Les Charles on Andy Kaufman's peculiar deal (with Tony Clifton) on Taxi and the character "Latka Gravas"
04:31
Glen and Les Charles on the "Sugar Mama" episode of Taxi with Ruth Gordon
00:56
Glen and Les Charles on the "Going Home" episode of Taxi, for which they won an Emmy
01:13
Glen and Les Charles on the "Honor Thy Father" episode of Taxi, featuring Jack Gilford
01:14
Glen and Les Charles on their favorite Taxi episodes and why the show was cancelled
02:08
Glen and Les Charles on dealings with the network and Standards and Practices on Taxi
00:58

Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The

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Glen and Les Charles on the series finale of Cheers
02:35

Tortellis, The

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Glen and Les Charles on their involvement with the shows All is Forgiven and The Tortellis
01:28
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Glen and Les Charles on dealings with the network and Standards and Practices on Taxi
00:58

Characters & Catchphrases

View Topic
Glen and Les Charles on the title character "Phyllis" on Phyllis
01:27
Glen and Les Charles on the character "Louie De Palma" on Taxi
00:57
Glen and Les Charles on the character "Alex Reiger" (played by Judd Hirsch) on Taxi
01:34
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Norm Peterson" on Cheers
00:40
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Sam Malone" on Cheers
00:55
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Coach" on Cheers
00:45
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Cliff Clavin" on Cheers
00:53
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Carla Tortelli" on Cheers
00:51
Glen and Les Charles on which characters on Cheers changed the most throughout the run of the show
02:21

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
Les Charles on being influenced by Charles Dickens; on his literary influences
01:36
Glen and Les Charles on their mentors
00:54

Criticism of TV

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Glen and Les Charles on Cheers' initial low ratings, good critical response, and then-House speaker Tip O'Neil's cameo
03:16

Emmy Awards

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Glen and Les Charles on Cheers' early Emmy wins
01:02

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Les Charles on remembering when JFK was assassinated
01:37

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
Glen and Les Charles on the series finale of The Bob Newhart Show
01:58
Glen and Les Charles on the title sequence of Taxi
01:38
Glen and Les Charles on the series finale of Cheers
00:37

Pop Culture

View Topic
Glen and Les Charles on the title character "Phyllis" on Phyllis
01:27
Glen and Les Charles on the character "Louie De Palma" on Taxi
00:57
Glen and Les Charles on the character "Alex Reiger" (played by Judd Hirsch) on Taxi
01:34
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Norm Peterson" on Cheers
00:40
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Sam Malone" on Cheers
00:55
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Coach" on Cheers
00:45
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Cliff Clavin" on Cheers
00:53
Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Carla Tortelli" on Cheers
00:51
Glen and Les Charles on the theme song of Cheers "Everyone Knows Your Name" (and how "People Like Us" was almost the theme)
03:15
Glen and Les Charles on which characters on Cheers changed the most throughout the run of the show
02:21

TV Theme Songs

View Topic
Glen and Les Charles on the theme song of Cheers "Everyone Knows Your Name" (and how "People Like Us" was almost the theme)
03:15

Television Industry

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Glen and Les Charles on dealings with the network and Standards and Practices on Taxi
00:58

We Cried

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Glen and Les Charles on the series finale of Cheers
00:37

We Laughed

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Glen and Les Charles on the series finale of The Bob Newhart Show
01:58
Professions

Producers

View Profession
Glen and Les Charles on producing Phyllis and the last season of The Bob Newhart Show
01:38
Glen and Les Charles on being Executive Producers on Cheers
00:46

Show Creators

View Profession
Glen and Les Charles on being their own bosses on Cheers and their initial plan for the series
01:51

Writers

View Profession
Les Charles on he and his brother, Glen Charles, deciding to become writing partners
02:31
Glen and Les Charles on the atmosphere in the writing room of Taxi
05:34
Glen and Les Charles on the writers' room on Cheers
02:01
Glen and Les Charles on their writing style
01:35
Glen and Les Charles on why Cheers was considered to have sophisticated writing
00:30
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Glen and Les Charles on writing for the MTM show Phyllis and working with MTM's Stan Daniels and Ed. Weinberger
06:28
Glen and Les Charles on producing and writing for the last season of The Bob Newhart Show
08:41
Glen and Les Charles on producing and head-writing for Taxi
11:28
Glen and Les Charles on the writing process and writers on Taxi; on casting the show and working with the actors
16:53
Glen and Les Charles on Andy Kaufman joining the cast of Taxi; on specific episodes of Taxi
11:13
Glen and Les Charles on the creation of Cheers, setting the show in Boston, and creating the main characters
09:20
Glen and Les Charles on James Burrows' contributions to Cheers; on being their own bosses on Cheers and their initial plan for the series
08:32
Glen and Les Charles on the physical comedy between "Sam" and "Diane"; on the writers' room on Cheers; on a typical work-week on Cheers
04:42
Glen and Les Charles on casting Kelsey Grammar as "Dr. Frasier Crane"; on Shelley Long's decision to leave Cheers and how her departure affected the show; on Kirstie Alley becoming the female lead
05:30
Glen and Les Charles on the Cheers theme song and title design; on the show's initially poor ratings and critical success
06:30
Glen and Les Charles on which characters on Cheers changed the most throughout the run of the show; on favorite episodes and filming in front of a live studio audience
04:58
Glen and Les Charles on their favorite guest stars on Cheers; on the three-part finale and the surrounding press; on the legacy of Cheers
11:50
People

Kirstie Alley

View Person Page
Glen and Les Charles on Kirstie Alley becoming the female lead ("Rebecca Howe") on Cheers after Shelley Long's departure
01:47

David Angell

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Glen and Les Charles on David Angell joining the writers' room on Cheers
00:16
Glen and Les Charles on giving their blessing to Frasier, a spinoff of Cheers starring Kelsey Grammar
01:06

James L. Brooks

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Glen and Les Charles on working with James L. Brooks on Taxi
01:08
Glen and Les Charles on the energy James L. Brooks brought to the writing room of Taxi
00:34
Glen and Les Charles on the co-creators of Taxi
00:45

James Burrows

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Glen and Les Charles on meeting and working with James Burrows
01:55
Glen and Les Charles on the Taxi episode that re-introduced "Reverend Jim"
02:12
Glen and Les Charles on James Burrows contributions to Cheers
01:58

Peter Casey

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Glen and Les Charles on Peter Casey and David Lee joining the writers' room on Cheers
00:20
Glen and Les Charles on giving their blessing to Frasier, a spinoff of Cheers starring Kelsey Grammar
01:06

Glen Charles

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Les Charles on his relationship with his brother, Glen Charles, and deciding to become writing partners
03:48

John Cleese

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Glen and Les Charles on their favorite guest stars on Cheers - John Cleese
01:11

Bill Clinton

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Glen and Les Charles on the three-part finale of Cheers - and writing a cameo for Bill Clinton
03:32

Barbara Colby

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Glen and Les Charles on the death of Barbara Colby on Phyllis
01:34

Jeff Conaway

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Glen and Les Charles on the character "Bobby Wheeler" (played by Jeff Conaway) on Taxi
01:18

Stan Daniels

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Glen and Les Charles on getting hired to write for The Mary Tyler Moore Show a whole year after submitting a spec script
04:27
Glen and Les Charles on working with MTM's Stan Daniels and Ed. Weinberger
02:52
Glen and Les Charles on the co-creators of Taxi
00:45

Ted Danson

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Glen and Les Charles on casting Ted Danson and Shelley Long as the leads on Cheers
03:36
Glen and Les Charles on how "Sam" and "Diane" (Ted Danson and Shelley Long) worked together on Cheers
01:38

Tony Danza

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Glen and Les Charles on the character "Tony Banta" (played by Tony Danza) on Taxi
00:56

Dave Davis

View Person Page
Glen and Les Charles on co-creator Dave Davis leaving Taxi
00:29
Glen and Les Charles on the title sequence of Taxi
01:38
Glen and Les Charles on the co-creators of Taxi
00:45

Danny DeVito

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Glen and Les Charles on the actors and the casting process for Taxi
00:57

Ava Gardner

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Les Charles on why his parents moved to just outside of Las Vegas (because they saw Ava Gardner)
00:32

Larry Gelbart

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Glen and Les Charles on writing a spec script for M*A*S*H, which was the first script they sold
05:30

Jack Gilford

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Glen and Les Charles on the "Honor Thy Father" episode of Taxi, featuring Jack Gilford
01:14

Ruth Gordon

View Person Page
Glen and Les Charles on the "Sugar Mama" episode of Taxi with Ruth Gordon
00:56

Kelsey Grammer

View Person Page
Glen and Les Charles on casting Kelsey Grammer as "Dr. Frasier Crane" on Cheers and the inspiration for that character -- a "Ralph Bellamy" type
02:39
Glen and Les Charles on giving their blessing to Frasier, a spinoff of Cheers starring Kelsey Grammer
01:06

Woody Harrelson

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Glen and Les Charles on Woody Harrelson coming in as the new bartender on Cheers
00:27

Marilu Henner

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Glen and Les Charles on the character "Elaine O'Connor-Nardo" (played by Marilu Henner) on Taxi
01:43

Judd Hirsch

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Glen and Les Charles on the actors and the casting process for Taxi
00:34
Glen and Les Charles on the character "Alex Reiger" (played by Judd Hirsch) on Taxi
01:34

Carol Kane

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Glen and Les Charles on Andy Kaufman teaching Carol Kane to speak "Latka's" native language on Taxi
00:31

Andy Kaufman

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Glen and Les Charles on Andy Kaufman's peculiar deal (with Tony Clifton) on Taxi
04:31
Glen and Les Charles on Andy Kaufman's character "Latka Gravas" on Taxi
01:19

Cloris Leachman

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Glen and Les Charles on writing for the MTM show Phyllis
01:12
Glen and Les Charles on changes made to the MTM show Phyllis
01:34

David Lee

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Glen and Les Charles on Peter Casey and David Lee joining the writers' room on Cheers
00:20
Glen and Les Charles on giving their blessing to Frasier, a spinoff of Cheers starring Kelsey Grammar
01:06

Christopher Lloyd (actor)

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Glen and Les Charles on the character "Reverend Jim" (played by Christopher Lloyd) on Taxi
00:37
Glen and Les Charles on the Taxi episode that re-introduced "Reverend Jim"
02:12

Shelley Long

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Glen and Les Charles on casting Ted Danson and Shelley Long as the leads on Cheers
03:36
Glen and Les Charles on how "Sam" and "Diane" (Ted Danson and Shelley Long) worked together on Cheers
01:38
Glen and Les Charles on Shelley Long's decision to leave Cheers and how her departure affected the show
02:02

Bob Newhart

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Glen and Les Charles on working with Bob Newhart on The Bob Newhart Show
01:56

Rhea Perlman

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Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Carla Tortelli" on Cheers
00:51

John Ratzenberger

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Glen and Les Charles on the basis of the character "Cliff Clavin" on Cheers
00:53

Gene Reynolds

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Glen and Les Charles on writing a spec script for M*A*S*H, which was the first script they sold
05:30

Brandon Tartikoff

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Glen and Les Charles on getting a deal at NBC with Brandon Tartikoff to do their own series, Cheers
00:56

Grant Tinker

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Glen and Les Charles on Grant Tinker creating a wonderful atmosphere at MTM
01:30
Glen and Les Charles on Grant Tinker and how he supported his writers at MTM
01:33

Ed. Weinberger

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Glen and Les Charles on getting hired to write for The Mary Tyler Moore Show a whole year after submitting a spec script
04:27
Glen and Les Charles on working with MTM's Stan Daniels and Ed. Weinberger
02:52
Glen and Les Charles on the co-creators of Taxi
00:45

Robin Williams

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Glen and Les Charles on the actors and the casting process for Taxi
00:35

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