November 2, 1998 (1998-11-02) – January 28, 2004 (2004-01-28)
Becker was an American television sitcom that ran from 1998 to 2004 on CBS. Set in the New York City borough of The Bronx, the show starred Ted Danson as John Becker, a misanthropic doctor who operates a small practice and is constantly annoyed by his patients, co-workers, friends, and practically everything and everybody else in his world. He is opinionated and cheap, he smokes, and he doesn't care what any one else thinks. Despite everything, his patients and friends are loyal because Becker genuinely cares about them. The series was produced by Paramount Network Television.
The show revolved around Becker and the things that annoyed him, although the supporting cast also had their moments. The relationships between Becker and Reggie (later, Chris) formed the key plots of many episodes. The show tackled more serious issues as well, such as race, homosexuality, Cerebral AVM, and political correctness.
Between the fourth and fifth seasons, Farrell was fired. She has stated that it came as a complete shock to her and that she is unsure of exactly why it happened, although she denied that it was related to her participation with other cast members in a contract dispute before the fourth season began. Travis was hired just before Farrell's dismissal, and became a regular after the dismissal. Creator David Hackel stated that Farrell was fired only to give the show's writers new ideas after four years, calling the cast change "one of the toughest decisions of my career." Farrell praised Hackel after her firing, stating that he "really let you feel you had permission to fail if you tried things", and stated that the producers did not wish Becker and Reggie to have a Sam and Diane-like romance..
Dr. John Becker (Ted Danson) - a Harvard Medical School graduate and former top Medical researcher, runs a neighborhood medical practice. He is easily annoyed by things such as a flickering street lamp, noisy neighbors, the couple having very loud sex in the apartment above him, or his numerous failed attempts to quit smoking. Becker has a personal superstition that "All midgets are bad luck, whenever I see one, something bad happens to me". He has been married and divorced twice and is very stingy. He is politically liberal (especially in the later years of the series), though he hates political correctness and has had trouble with the IRS. His views on religion are inconsistent in that although he is publicly an atheist, he does not rule out the possibility of an extant God torturing him for his nonbelief; a line of dialogue from the series has Margaret saying to Becker "Interesting...you're being persecuted by a God you don't believe in?" and Becker replying "That's why He's after me, Margaret." Despite his gruff nature, Becker exhibits moments of kindness and shows the utmost professionalism in dealing with his patients, at one point choosing to remain in a run-down Bronx neighborhood instead of taking a job as a researcher at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, because that’s where he is needed. He often accepts gifts, such as baseball tickets or even a duck, from patients who cannot afford to pay him. During the show's run, Ted Danson dyed his hair brown, to match his appearance as Sam Malone on Cheers, as Danson's hair had gone completely white by the time Becker premiered. Outside of filming for the show, Danson appeared with white hair, and stopped dying his hair after Becker ended.
Margaret Wyborn (Hattie Winston) - Becker’s nurse and office manager, and one of the few people who can tolerate Becker, Margaret is a motherly figure to Becker and Linda. She is married, which at best is an on the rocks marriage, to the often mentioned but never-seen "Lewis", who hates Becker (and vice versa). She once thought about becoming a singer instead of a nurse. Margaret is a Christian, specifically a Baptist, and often quotes the Bible. Margaret is generally the most level-headed character and acts as the voice of reason. She also appears to have liberal views; as in one episode, she is asked what Florida is known for, and sarcastically answers “not counting votes?”, and once chastised Becker for what she perceived as homophobic behavior. She is also shown to be quite stubborn, a prime example is where she got her job by not leaving till Becker hired her.
Linda (Shawnee Smith) - A muddle-headed young woman whose surname is never revealed, she works at the doctor’s office as a fledgling nurse's aide to establish independence from her wealthy parents. Becker also mentioned that he owed her father a favor, suggesting that that is the only reason Linda is kept around. Although her help is often of questionable value she can occasionally show surprising competence. She once described herself as being like a spare tire, something that can really come through and save the day when needed, but not someone you want to rely on unless you have to. An example of her more competent moments occurred when Becker was having trouble diagnosing a patient's illness. Linda noted that, despite having returned from a vacation in Bermuda about six weeks ago, the man still had a tan. This led Becker to the cause of the man's problems: Addison's disease. Her mother is an alcoholic and her parents are apparently quite wealthy, having bought Linda a penthouse with a doorman, an original Monet painting, a view of the park, and a Danish ambassador as a neighbor. Even Becker once voiced he was planning to "kill you and live here" after seeing it for the first time. In season two, she invites Bob to live with her after he becomes homeless. Shortly after, she begins trying to set him up with job openings so she can politely kick him out. She has been out with lots of men, including her on-again/off-again ex-boyfriend Gil, who is frequently mentioned (often in a negative context). Linda is popular with some of the patients due to her skimpy outfits and her optimistic attitude; mostly kids enjoy her being around when it comes to take shots. She respects Becker, often calling him "Doctor" no matter where she is, and has even stuck up for him at a parent/teacher meeting she attended with John to straighten out the "sex talk" he gave to a classroom of little kids. She admires him, and does get along with him when he's having one of his few good days. She also respects Margaret and is often helped out of a lot of tough situations. She has a soft spot for small animals and loves to go shopping, clubbing, and dating a new guy every week. Linda also speaks various languages. One of her ex-boyfriends taught her how to speak some Mandarin and it came in handy while Margaret was having difficulty communicating to a Chinese patient. She also speaks Portuguese and speaks it to an at-home patient named Enid Connelly.
Regina "Reggie" Kostas (Terry Farrell) - The owner and operator of a diner she inherited from her late father, Reggie is a former model and is unhappy being stuck running a diner. When Becker is away from his office or apartment, he can almost always be found at her diner. Reggie is torn over her feelings for Becker – the two have the kind of love–hate relationship often seen in sitcoms. She is frequently taunted for her poor cooking and drops hints that the Board of Health has issued her warnings before. Although disenchanted with her occupation, Reggie does seem to enjoy her customers and lets them make it a sort of extension of their homes, allowing Becker, for example, to operate the register to access the cigarettes he keeps there. Reggie eventually goes on to acquire a degree in psychology but has a panic attack when the jokes of the episode hinge on the uselessness of the degree. In the 5th season's premiere episode, "Someone's In The Kitchen with Reggie?", she and Becker sleep together because she is jealous of the fact Chris likes John. The following day, she leaves town, leaving a message telling everyone that she regrets sleeping with Becker and that she looks at that as the pivotal moment she hits rock bottom. She also says that she wants to pursue a better career. Jake receives a phone call from her, answered by a random customer who wants a cup of coffee while the group is discussing Becker's decision to dump Reggie, saying that she went to Miami to meet up with a few of her modeling friends and that they were going to travel through Europe.
Jake Malinak (Alex Désert) - Becker's best friend, Jake also works at the diner selling newspapers and miscellaneous items such as candy, magazines, cigarettes, gum, etc. Jake is blind following a car accident several years before. He lived with his grandmother as a youngster and was close to her before she died. Jake married a woman, Amanda (played by Lindsay Price), 24 hours after they met but they got the marriage annulled, deciding to live together instead. Amanda left Jake after two and a half years, taking all his possessions with her. Jake competed three times in the National Scrabble Championship and even won once. The show ends with him going off to college in Chicago with the money he got in an inheritance and staying with a relative who teaches at the University.
Bob (Saverio Guerra) - Bob is an old high school classmate of Reggie's who is short, hyperactive and annoying, like the way he refers to himself in the third person. Bob largely serves as the larger-than-life comic relief of the series, bringing levity to many of the serious issues the series encountered. Bob is a sex addict who originally wants to be with Reggie, who was his classmate in high school, in spite of the fact Reggie has made her disgust for him quite clear and that he was married. During season two, Bob becomes homeless after losing most of his money in his divorce. Linda invites him to live with her in her parent's penthouse but quickly tries to figure out ways to kick him out. After messing up several job openings Linda tries to set him up with, Bob becomes the superintendent of Becker's apartment building in the third season. As with Linda, Bob's last name is never revealed, although we do discover his middle name is Benito. Bob is a recurring character for the first two seasons, and is made a main character for Seasons 3 through 5. Although he avoids his job as a building superintendent at Becker's building, one of his few talents is that he is an excellent cook. Despite the food at Reggie's Diner being sub par, he is still able to cook very well. Bob disappears after the fifth season. His absence is explained by Jake in the Season 6 premiere episode in which Jake claims he went on a vacation. Despite being one of the show's major characters, he is never referred to again nor does he return for the series finale (it could be said that he went on a year-long holiday and that he would have returned the next year). Saverio Guerra decided not to renew his contract for the sixth season. Bob served as a replacement for an intended recurring character named Manny (played by James Lorinz) who shared the same style and personality as Bob.
Chris Connor (Nancy Travis) - the new neighbor who moves to the Bronx after traveling the world. Chris, originally supposed to be in the show for only four episodes, joined the show at the end of Season 4 and became a regular cast member in Season 5. Chris takes over the diner and begins a love-hate relationship with Becker. She is his total opposite – always nice and cheerful, but they eventually got together by the end of the series. Travis had previously worked with Danson in Three Men and a Baby and in its sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady.
Hector Lopez (Jorge Garcia) - an old friend of Jake. Jake knew Hector as a little brother of one of his childhood friends. When Jake talked about him as kid, he said that he would do anything to get money including selling his parents' condoms, to which he responded by saying, "Hey, those weren't scams, they were business ventures. Besides I got a baby sister out of it." He was a cast member only during the sixth season and served as a replacement of sorts for Bob (Saverio Guerra did not renew his contract for the 6th season). In the last episode, Hector takes over control of the news stand after Jake announces he will be moving to Chicago for college the next day. After his 13-episode stint in Becker, Garcia moved on to do the hit TV show LOST.
The show was offered in syndication between 2003-2006, after its network run on CBS ended. In the U.S., the show has previously aired on WGN America until 2010. ReelzChannel added the show in fall 2010.
Becker debuted in a Monday slot at 9:30 PM Eastern time. The show performed well for its first four seasons, piggybacking off the ratings of its lead-in, Everybody Loves Raymond. CBS moved the show to Sunday in 2002, and its ratings deteriorated quickly, eventually forcing the network to put it on hiatus. CBS had planned to cancel it after the fifth season, but gave it a last-minute reprieve because of a dearth of promising comedy pilots. Becker's sixth season was to be as a mid-season replacement for the 2003–2004 season, and thus only 13 episodes were ordered. Despite this, CBS' comedy lineup forced them to move Becker's sixth season debut to the fall, where the show was moved to Wednesday and paired up with The King of Queens. Ratings remained low, and the show finished out its run in January 2004, after 129 episodes.
CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released the first three seasons of Becker on DVD in Region 1. Season 4 & 5 are Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) releases, available exclusively via Amazon.com's CreateSpace program.
In Region 2, Paramount Home Entertainment released the first season on DVD on April 28, 2008. There were issues with the discs that meant audio and video were out of sync.
In Region 4, Paramount Home Entertainment released the first three seasons on DVD in 2008/2009. These releases have been discontinued and are out of print. In 2013, Umbrella Entertainment acquired the rights to the series and have subsequently re-released the first three seasons. Season 4 will be released on February 5, 2014.