Nicolas Colasanto as Coach on Cheers
Movies - TV
Why Coach Disappeared From Cheers In Season 3 And Beyond
On "Cheers," Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto) was Sam Malone's (Ted Danson) former baseball coach. The beloved character added heart to the show and served a practical purpose.
Coach had taken several hits to the head during his baseball career, something he pointed out often. The many concussions he had kept him one step behind his colleagues at the bar.
Writer Ken Levine told The Hollywood Reporter that Coach was helpful for exposition. "When you explained things to Coach, you were really explaining it to the audience," he said.
The bar's father figure was gone when season 4 kicked off in 1985. Director and executive producer James Burrows told Yahoo! the show knew of Colasanto's dire heart problems.
Burrows said the actor had trouble remembering lines because of his health issues, adding, "But we always compensated for it, because he was such an integral part of the show."
According to Burrows, Colasanto started writing down his lines on the scenery, and they often made the lines simpler to help him get them out.
Colasanto was hospitalized in season 3 due to water in his lungs and, on doctors' advice, never returned to the bar. He shot his last episode, "Cheerio, Cheers," in November 1984.
Sadly, Colasanto wouldn't even be around to see the episode air. The actor passed at 61 on February 12, 1985, before the "Cheers" season 3 finale aired on May 9, 1985.
"Cheers" co-creator Les Charles told the Los Angeles Times, "Everyone was heartbroken." Unsure how to write Colasanto's passing into the show, they had Coach leave on vacation.