The behind-the-scenes stories of NBC's glory days are coming to light in Warren Littlefield's new book Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV. From Noah Wyle's lackluster memory to Bill Cosby's taste for the limelight to Matt LeBlanc's nervous first audition, the former NBC president of entertainment is dredging up a treasure trove of humorous and revealing moments from at the network's hey day. Here are some of the more amusing moments book reviewers are pulling out.
Noah Wyle's forgetfulness
In the AP review of the book, David Bouder pulls out an amusing story about Noah Wiley, ER's boyish Dr. John Carter, who apparently had trouble remembering the names or faces of his fellow colleagues—even if they shared tender on-camera moments. "Noah Wyle of 'ER' recalled being introduced to Rebecca De Mornay at a party for what he thought was the first time, only to be tartly informed by the actress that she had done six “ER” episodes and they had even shared a sex scene." Woops.
Cruising with Cosby
Molly Driscoll at The Christian Science Monitor took a look at Littlefield's relationship with Bill Cosby, who apparently had the ability to part traffic:
Littlefield remembers realizing how beloved Bill Cosby had become during the first season of 'The Cosby Show' when he was in a car with Cosby. The two were trying to get to Cosby's house for dinner, but had left at rush hour. "I was convinced it would take us forever to get into Manhattan," Littlefield said. "But I was riding with Mr. Bill Cosby, who would lower his window and stick his head out when need be. Almost as if by magic, traffic cones were scooted aside. Police stopped cars and trucks to let us pass.... It was all out of love for Bill. We arrived at his town house in fifteen minutes, just in time for dinner."
New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum, who's tweeting along as she reads the book, found some interesting casting calls. Apparently Nancy McKeon almost played the role of Monica in Friends, a part that was
actually written for inspired by Janeane Garofalo. "The Friends writers said that they had 'Janeane's voice in their head'—i.e. the character was written a bit darker, edgier and more sarcastic" says Nussbaum.
Despite not scoring Garofalo for the part, there apparently wasn't any doubt in the mind of veteran director Jim Burrows that he had a hit on his hands. When he dined with the six main actors from the show in Las Vegas before the first episode had aired, "he urged them to look around, that they’d never have the anonymity to do the simple thing of dining together unnoticed again." Rather prescient.
Seinfeld's breakout moment
Although many diehards will say the show never had a bad episode, a moment pulled out by Christian Science Monitor shows that it did at least hit a turning point for creative Nirvana. Driscoll explains the moment as told by the show's lead actor:
Jerry Seinfeld ... said the episode 'The Junior Mint' was a turning point for writing on the show. During the episode, Jerry and Kramer go see an operation and cause a Junior Mint to fall into the patient's open body cavity. "It was a completely preposterous situation," Seinfeld said. "We'd never done anything that implausible.... When we got to that story line and nobody questioned it, the horses were out of the barn. Then Kramer was hitting golf balls into a whale's blowhole, and we were just having fun."