Ever wanted to go to a bar where everybody knows your name? Me neither. Bars are for drinking in, not socializing. Or maybe I just have a serious drinking problem? Anyway, this week we’re looking at Cheers, one of NBC’s longest and most successful sitcoms.
Original Run: 1982-1993
No. of Episodes: 275
Premise: Cheers is set at a neighborhood sports bar by the same name, run by ex-baseball player and aging lothario Sam Malone. The show originally relied heavily on his relationship with Diane Chambers, an intellectual with delusions of grandeur. Other characters, including career waitress Carla Tortelli, barflies Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin, psychiatrists Frasier Crane and Lilith Sternin, bartenders Ernie Pantusso and Woody Boyd, and business woman Rebecca Howe helped round out the cast.
Cheers was originally envisioned as a comedy about a comedy set in a bar. The show strayed away from conventional family centered storylines in favor of more contemporary and adult themes. The dialogue felt a lot more natural and characters acted like real people. The show was one or two steps away from the type of modern mockumetaries that rule TV today, in terms of both acting and writing. An interesting tidbit about Cheers is that its first season came almost dead last in the ratings. But NBC being NBC, Cheers’ critical acclaim garnered it a second season. That second season eventually snowballed into 11 seasons and a spin-off that also lasted 11 seasons. That’s 22 years of continuity.
Cheers can be divided into two parts. The first five seasons revolved around the relationship between Sam Malone and Diane Chambers. Sam played a womanizing Romeo with bedroom eyes and wickedly good hair. Diane played the role of the outspoken women’s liberal with dreams of artistic and mental fulfillment. Obviously these two were not a good fit, but neither of their egos allowed them to admit it. San and Diane are one of the most famous couples in Television history, and yeah, their back and forth was fun to watch at first. Ted Danson (Sam) and Shelley Long (Diane) had really good chemistry together. But personally, I did not like Diane. She was condescending, yet at the same time high maintenance. How does that work?
The second half, or last six seasons, replaced Diane Chambers with Rebecca Howe after Shelley Long left the show. Rebecca was a much more powerful character, who was very honest with her wants and desires. She may have been a gold digger, but at least she was up front about it. The second half of Cheers saw Ted Danson stretch his comedic bones. During the first five seasons, Sam was the straight man to Diane’s snobbish persona. With her gone, Sam evolved into a more playful and easy going character. The second half of Cheers also used the character of Frasier (Kelsey Grammar) significantly more. His “smart kid who hangs around with the cool kids” character helped balance the intellectual and class dynamics after Diane left, and was a personal highlight for me.
Cheers is a really good show. It’s well written, the characters are memorable, and the jokes are funny. Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammar, Kirstie Alley, and John Ratzenberger (Pixar’s lucky charm) each got their start on Cheers. There’s no way you can watch Cheers without falling in love with at least one of the characters. It really does make you wish there was a bar where everybody knows your name.