Cheers


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tabs

About

Cheers, NBC's longest running comedy series, aired from 1982-1993, at 9:00 P.M. Thursdays. The show narrowly escaped cancellation during its first season and took several years to develop a strong following. By 1985, however, Cheers was one of television's most popular shows. It garnered top ten ratings for seven of its eleven seasons and often earned the number one ranking in the weekly Nielsens. The final episode, aired 20 May 1993, received the second-best Nielsen ratings of all-time for an episodic program. Numerous awards complemented Cheers' commercial success and the show boosted the careers of all its stars.

This popular situation comedy is often cited for successfully blending elements of romance and soap opera into the sitcom format. Fans of the show enjoyed its witty dialogue and comic situations, but also followed the twists and turns in the lives of the main characters. Would Sam and Diane get together? Would Rebecca marry Robin? These sorts of plot questions strung together episodes and whole seasons, which often ended with summer cliffhangers, a rare device for television comedy.

The show was set at Cheers, the Boston bar "where everybody knows your name." Bar owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson), a former Red Sox pitcher and an irascible womanizer, served up beers and traded one-liners with regular customers Cliff (John Ratzenberger) and Norm (George Wendt). Carla (Rhea Perlman), a feisty waitress with a weakness for hockey players, kept the men in check with her ascerbic comments. Bartender "Coach" (Nicholas Colasanto) was the slow-witted and ironically funny straight man of the ensemble cast. When Colasanto passed away in 1985, Woody Harrelson joined the cast as Woody, a young bartender who took slow-wittedness to new heights.

Sam's on-again, off-again romance with cocktail waitress Diane (Shelly Long) exemplified the show's serial-comedy mix. In the first season, Diane despised Sam and constantly rejected his come-ons. In the second season, she started a torrid affair with him. They broke it off in the third season, and Diane took up with a neurotic psychiatrist, Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). Diane almost went back to Sam after the fourth season, but then rejected his marriage proposal. The ongoing romantic tension allowed Sam and Diane to develop as characters. Flashbacks and references to past episodes gave the show a sense of continuous history, like an evening soap. Over the years, other characters developed their own plot lines. Rebecca (Kirstie Alley), who replaced Diane when actress Shelly Long left the show in 1987, pursued a futile romance with Robin, a corporate raider who briefly owned the bar. Woody dated Kelly (Jackie Swanson), a wealthy socialite who matched him in naiveté. Frasier married Lillith (Bebe Neuwirth), an ice-cold psychiatrist who matched him in neurosis. Only Cliff and Norm remained essentially static, holding down the bar with their mutual put-downs.

The creators of Cheers, Glen Charles, James Burrows, and Les Charles, previously worked on various MTM sitcoms, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis, and The Bob Newhart Show. Like Taxi, another of their creations, Cheers inherited the MTM emphasis on character development. Upscale audiences appreciated this emphasis--and advertisers appreciated the upscale audiences. Fans of Cheers especially enjoyed the show's irreverent attitudes toward social conventions. Cheers was not politically correct: the main character was a womanizer; Rebecca pretended to be a career woman but really just wanted a rich husband; and the collegial atmosphere centered around drinking. Though several of the characters were working-class, the show completely avoided social issues. And Cheers never preached to its audience on any subjects whatsoever. Even the poignant moments of personal drama that quieted the set from time to time were quickly counter-balanced by sardonic one-liners before any serious message could take hold.

In 1993 Paramount announced that Cheers would go off the air. The show was still highly rated, but production costs had soared to record numbers--$65 million for the 1991-92 season. Star Ted Danson, reportedly in on the decision to cancel, was earning $450,000 per episode. The network orchestrated a rousing finale, which garnered a 45.5 rating and a 64 audience share. On the evening of the finale, many local newscasts aired segments from bars, where fans saluted Cheers from an appropriate setting. In 1994, Kelsey Grammer launched a spin-off, Frasier, and George Wendt tried his own series, The George Wendt Show. Woody Harrelson landed starring roles in Hollywood, following in the footsteps of his Cheers co-stars Alley and Danson.

Over the years Cheers received 26 Emmy Awards and a record 111 Emmy nominations. In 1995 it rivaled M*A*S*H and Roseanne on the rerun circuit and showed all signs of continuing to be a major hit in syndication. As an inheritor of the MTM character-comedy tradition, Cheers pushed the "serialization" of sitcoms to new levels and was one of the most successful shows from the 1980s.

-J.B. Bird

CAST

Sam Malone............................................ Ted Danson

Diane Chambers (1982-97)...................... Shelley Long

Carla Tortelli Lebec ...............................Rhea Perlman

Ernie "Coach" Pantusso (1982-85).. Nicholas Colasanto

Norm Peterson..................................... George Wendt

Cliff Clavin..................................... John Ratzenberger

Dr. Frazier Crane (1984-93)................ Kelsey Grammer

Woody Boyd (1985-93)...................... Woody Harrelson

Rebecca Howe (1987-93).......................... Kirstie Alley

Dr. Lilith Sternin (1986-93)..................... Bebe Neuwirth

Evan Drake (1987-88).............................. Tom Skerritt

Eddie LeBec (1987-89)............................. Jay Thomas

Robin Colcord (1989-91)............................ Roger Rees

Kelly Gaines (1989-93)....................... Jackie Swanson

Paul (1991-93)........................................ Paul Willson

Phil (1991-1993)................................... Philip Perlman

PRODUCERS

Glen and Les Charles, James Burrows

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

274 Episodes

NBC

September 1982-December 1982   Thursday 9:00-9:30

January 1983-December 1983   Thursday 9:30-10:00

December 1983-August 1993   Thursday 9:00-9:30

February 1993-May 1993   Thursday 8:00-8:30

FURTHER READING

Brooks, Tim. The Complete Directory To Prime-Time Network TV Shows. New York: Ballantine, 1992.

Carter, Bill. "Why 'Cheers' Proved so Intoxicating." New York Times, 9 May 1993.

Feuer, Jane. "Genre Study and Television." In Channels of Discourse, Reassembled. Robert C. Allen, Editor. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Hamamoto, Darrell Y. Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and Liberal Democratic Ideology. New York: Praeger, 1989.

Long, Rob. "Three Cheers." National Review (New York), 7 June 1993.

Marc, David. Comic Visions. Boston: Unwin-Hyman, 1990.

Marc, David and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time, Prime Movers. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.

Papazian, Ed. Medium Rare: The Evolution, Workings and Impact of Commercial Television. New York: Media Dynamics, 1991.

Sackett, Susan. Prime-Time Hits: Television's Most Popular Network Programs. New York: Billboard, 1993.

Highlights
Glen and Les Charles on the creation of Cheers, setting the show in Boston, and research for the bar setting
04:17
Sam Simon on showrunning Cheers and what made the show work
03:34
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how they came to write for Cheers
03:02
James Burrows on the legacy of Cheers
01:06
Warren Littlefield on Cheers becoming a hit series
02:34
David Lee on a typical production day for Cheers
01:03
Who talked about this show

Andy Ackerman

View Interview
Andy Ackerman on working with the Cheers cast
14:26
Andy Ackerman on his favorite episodes of Cheers that he edited
02:00
Andy Ackerman on the Cheers finale, "One for the Road"
00:49

Howard Anderson, Jr.

View Interview
Howard Anderson Jr. on creating the opening titles for Cheers
00:54

James Burrows

View Interview
James Burrows on the origin, casting, and typical work week of Cheers
29:32
James Burrows on the rising popularity of Cheers and some memorable episodes
21:30
James Burrows on the "Showdown" episode of Cheers in which Sam's brother appears - 2 part episode - and "Sam" and "Diane" kiss at the end
02:13
James Burrows on Shelley Long's last episode of Cheers  
00:37
James Burrows on his favorite epiosde of Cheers
01:12
James Burrows on Kirstie Alley joining the cast of Cheers
06:29
James Burrows on the series finale of Cheers
02:22
James Burrows on guest-stars on Frasier, some crossover actors from Cheers
01:01

Nancy Cartwright

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Nancy Cartwright on her guest appearance on Cheers
03:31

Les Charles

View Interview
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

Glen Charles

View Interview
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

Barbara Feldon

View Interview
Barbara Feldon on her guest appearance on Cheers
02:29

Richard Frank

View Interview
Richard Frank on keeping Cheers and Family Ties on the air after low-rated first years
01:40
Richard Frank on developing Cheers
03:50
Richard Frank on Shelley Long's departure from Cheers
02:57

Felicity Huffman

View Interview
Felicity Huffman on a moment during her time on Frasier that was a nod to Cheers
01:36

Eddie Foy III

View Interview
Eddie Foy III on casting Cheers
01:39

David Isaacs

View Interview
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how they came to write for Cheers
03:02
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the writers' room with Glen and Les Charles at Cheers and how it differed from M*A*S*H
04:10
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on developing the characters of Cheers and creating the character of "Eddie LeBec," played by Jay Thomas
02:45
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
04:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on Shelley Long leaving Cheers
01:40
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, and "Lilith Sternin," played by Bebe Neuwirth, on Cheers
07:14
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
02:00
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on winning an Emmy for Cheers
04:12

Lisa Kudrow

View Interview
Lisa Kudrow on her first guest-starring role on Cheers (the episode "Two Girls for Every Boyd"), and on what she learned from that set about working in television
08:14

David Lee

View Interview
David Lee on how he and Peter Casey came to write for Cheers
03:31
David Lee on the spec script he and Peter Casey wrote for Cheers and secretly writing for Cheers while still with The Jeffersons
02:50
David Lee on writing the character "Frasier Crane" on Cheers
01:14
David Lee on returning to The Jeffersons after his first Emmy nomination for Cheers
02:40
David Lee on becoming a producer for Cheers in 1985 and the writing process on Cheers
04:10
David Lee on his early insecurity writing for Cheers
02:58
David Lee on a typical production day for Cheers
01:03
David Lee on writing the character "Diane Chambers" on Cheers
02:51
David Lee on his favorite Cheers episodes
02:03
David Lee on his role as Supervising Producer on Cheers and his relationship with the creative staff of Cheers
05:32
David Lee on writing for a "gang comedy" like Cheers
02:15
David Lee on Ted Danson as "Sam Malone" on Cheers
01:34
David Lee on Shelley Long as "Diane Chambers" on Cheers
01:55
David Lee on fellow Cheers writer David Angell
02:01
David Lee on replacing Nicholas Colasanto as "Coach" with Woody Harrelson as "Woody Boyd" on Cheers
04:39
David Lee on Bebe Neuwirth as "Dr. Lilith Sternin Crane" on Cheers
02:55
David Lee on Shelley Long leaving Cheers and being replaced by Kirstie Alley's "Rebecca Howe"
05:21
David Lee on how the actors on Cheers got along
02:18
David Lee on moving on from Cheers
02:36
David Lee on the legacy of Cheers
01:44

Ken Levine

View Interview
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on how they came to write for Cheers 
03:02
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the writers' room with Glen and Les Charles at Cheers and how it differed from M*A*S*H
04:10
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on developing the characters of Cheers and creating the character of "Eddie LeBec," played by Jay Thomas
02:45
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
04:27
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on Shelley Long leaving Cheers
01:40
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on the relationship between "Frasier Crane," played by Kelsey Grammer, and "Lilith Sternin," played by Bebe Neuwirth, on Cheers
07:14
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on writing for "Sam Malone," played by Ted Danson, and "Diane Chambers," played by Shelley Long, on Cheers
02:00
Ken Levine and David Isaacs on winning an Emmy for Cheers
04:12

Warren Littlefield

View Interview
Warren Littlefield on the state of NBC when he started at the network
05:48
Warren Littlefield on Cheers becoming a hit series
02:34
Warren Littlefield on the development of Cheers
08:00
Warren Littlefield on replacing Nicholas Colasanto ("Coach" on Cheers) with Woody Harrelson 
02:05
Warren Littlefield on replacing Shelley Long as "Diane" with Kirstie Alley as "Rebecca" on Cheers
02:16
Warren Littlefield on the legacy of Cheers
03:06
Warren Littlefield on NBC's transition from the Tartikoff era to the Littlefield era, which coincided with the end of Cheers and the beginning of Seinfeld
03:09

Ed O'Neill

View Interview
Ed O'Neill on being considered for the role of "Sam Malone" on Cheers
01:54

Don Ohlmeyer

View Interview
Don Ohlmeyer on overseeing Cheers and Seinfeld
01:47
Executive Don Ohlmeyer on the final episode of Cheers
01:52

George Shapiro

View Interview
George Shapiro on Cheers liberating Seinfeld
01:06

Sam Simon

View Interview
Sam Simon on the development of Cheers
01:35
Sam Simon on showrunning Cheers and what made the show work
03:34
Sam Simon on the legacy of Cheers
02:39

Grant Tinker

View Interview
Grant Tinker on Les Charles and Glen Charles - creators of Cheers
01:48

Keenen Ivory Wayans

View Interview
Keenen Ivory Wayans on one of his first gigs on television appearing on the first episode of Cheers  as "Customer #1"; on working with the cast and crew

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