One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, Cheers ran for 11 seasons and 269 episodes. It was a cornerstone of NBC’s legendary Thursday night lineup. But, how did this show of barroom banter all end?
Open for Business
Cheers debuted on September 1, 1982. The show centered on former Red Sox pitcher/recovering alcoholic Sam Malone (Ted Danson) as he ran a Boston neighborhood bar by the name of Cheers. Sam was assisted by his dimwitted bartender Ernie “Coach” Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto) and the acidicaly sarcastic Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman).
In the first episode, intelligent and attractive Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) arrived in the bar and was jilted by her fiancee. As a result she finds herself in need of a job and starts working at the bar. As the series progressed, Sam and Diane developed one of television’s most well-known on-again/off-again romances.
Other fun characters at the bar included know-it-all postman Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), bar staple and lazy accountant Norm Peterson (George Wendt), intellectual psychologist Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) and his eventual wife deadpan Dr. Lilith Sternan Crane (Bebe Nieuwirth).
Changes at the Bar
In 1985, Nicholas Colasanto passed away unexpectedly so the Coach character was replaced by the equally dimwitted Woody Boyd, played by a then unknown Woody Harrellson. Woody Harrellson’s personality & background was said to have matched what the creators had in mind perfectly.
After five seasons of Cheers, Diane left the bar to write a book. Actress Shelley Long wanted to leave the show to pursue other projects. Ted Danson’s Sam sold the bar to a corporation to buy a boat and sail around the world. Unfortunately for Sam, the boat sank and he returned to bartending at Cheers, this time as an employee. Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) was the bar’s new and very ambitious manager. Over time, Sam and Rebecca share a tumultuous relationship.