David Angell: The Comedic Brain Behind ‘Cheers’ & ‘Frasier’

David Angell: The Comedic Brain Behind ‘Cheers’ & ‘Frasier’

He provided us the heartiest of laughs, well after he was gone.

David Angell was one of the original writers and producers of Cheers, the TV show revolving around the fictional Boston bar, which hosts a group of local regulars almost every night, and is synonymous with the theme “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”.

After 11 roaring seasons, Cheers called it a day, but not before the spin-off of Frasier, which Angell developed from the character of a psychiatrist who frequented the bar. Like its predecessor,  Frasier was an 11-season success that ran until May 2004 — more than two years after Angell died in the 2001 terror attacks on New York.

It was the morning of September 11 and the 54-year-old Angell and his wife Lynn were returning from their vacation on Cape Cod when their American Airlines Flight 11 became the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.

Angell’s colleagues, Peter Casey and David Lee, who worked with him on Cheers and another sitcom called Wings, paid tribute to one of television comedy’s more creative minds.

“He was a kind and gentle man with a quiet exterior that masked one of the sharpest comedy minds ever to write for television,” Casey and Lee said in a joint statement. “His fingerprints are all over some of the funniest moments in Cheers, Wings and Frasier.” 

Paramount, which produced Frasier, said the company was “devastated”, adding that Angell would be missed for his “grace, humour and talent”. Production of the series was suspended briefly before it was put back on, partly to honor him.

The two-part episode of Frasier to run after the 9/11 attacks, “Don Juan in Hell”, aired on September 25, 2001, ending with the tribute, “In loving memory of our friends Lynn and David Angell”. “Goodnight, Seattle”, the Frasier finale which aired May 13, 2004, featured the birth of Niles Crane and Daphne Moon’s son, who is named David in tribute.

David Lawrence Angell was born April 10, 1946 in Providence, Rhode Island, to Henry and Mae (née Cooney) Angell. He received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Providence College and married Lynn Edwards on August 14, 1971. Soon after Angell entered the U.S. Army upon graduation and served at the Pentagon until 1972.  He then moved to Boston and worked as a methods analyst at an engineering company and later at an insurance firm in Rhode Island. 

Angell moved to Los Angeles in 1977. His first script was sold to the producers of the Annie Flynn series. Five years later, he sold his second script, Archie Bunker’s Place. 

In 1983, he joined Cheers as a staff writer. In 1985, Angell joined forces with Peter Casey and David Lee as Cheers supervising producers/writers. The trio received 37 Emmy Award nominations and won 24 Emmy Awards, including for Frasier. They also won an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy for Cheers, in 1989, which Angell, Casey, Lee and the series’ other producers shared, and an Outstanding Writing/Comedy Emmy for Cheers, which Angell received in 1984. After working together as producers on Cheers, Angell, Casey and Lee formed Grub Street Productions. In 1990, they created and executive-produced the comedy series Wings.

In 2003, Humanitas, a TV nonprofit group, created The David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship to recognize and financially reward young screenwriters.

In 2004, nearly three years after Angell’s death and in the final year of Frasier’s run, The Angell Foundation of Los Angeles, California, was established in honor of the television legend. The foundation gifted Angell’s alma mater, Providence College in Rhode Island, $2 million for the building of the Smith Center for the Arts.

The American Screenwriters Association also awards the annual David Angell Humanitarian Award to any individual in the entertainment industry who contributes to global well-being through donations of time, expertise or other support to improve the human condition.

The names of Angell and Lynn are located on Panel N-1 of the National September 11 Memorial’s North Pool, along with other passengers from Flight 11.

* Adapted from The Independent, Wikipedia and other sources


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