The sitcom of Cheers started off as a run of the mill sitcom and was quite weak in the ratings for its first year. One week, it was number 72 — dead last in the ratings. That was hardly the case by the end of the 11th season when, on May 20th, 1993 over 80 million Americans, 45% of the population, tuned in to see the series finale.
NBC was reluctantly saying goodbye to one of its most popular shows and made a huge event of the evening. The night started off with episode number 268 entitled “Last Call! A Cheers Celebration.” It was a retrospective of the show as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the last show’s rehearsal. “Last Call” was hosted by NBC’s resident sports aficionado & interviewer extrordinaire, Bob Costas.
One for the Road
The Cheers finale followed, was 93 minutes long and was entitled “One for the Road.” It was written and directed by creators Glen Charles & Les Charles and James Burrows. The show opened with some of the Cheers gang watching a Cable Award show and they see ex-waitress, now writer, Diane Chambers accepting an award for writing a tv mini-series. Sam sends a telegram to his old flame to congratulate her and she calls him. Through the phone call, Sam finds out that Diane is now married with children. Sam lies and tells her that he’s also married with children and invites Diane and her husband to visit them the next time they’re in Boston.
Sam is sure that Diane is lying, until she walks into Cheers the following day to see him and to meet Mrs. Malone. Meanwhile, Rebecca’s boyfriend Don the Plumber (played by Tom Berenger) proposes to Rebecca and, despite her best efforts keeps turning him down. She’s terribly upset and ends up agreeing to play Sam’s wife to fool Diane. Sam and Rebecca have dinner with Diane and her handsome husband, Reed. During the dinner Don arrives and proposes to her again, and this time she manages to say “yes!” They leave the restaurant together, and Sam looks like a fool — until Diane’s husband turns out to be a fake when his boyfriend Kevin appears!
Now alone, Sam and Diane recount their good old times, and in moments of passion, end up back together. Diane asks Sam to move to California with her and he agrees. They say goodbye to their friend at Cheers and the reception isn’t pleasant. Sam gets angry, tells his old friends off and leaves.
At the airport, their flight is delayed and while they wait, they realize that they weren’t meant to be together. They say their goodbyes. Diane returns to California alone and Sam returns to the bar to apologize and discuss the future with his friends.
In past episodes, Woody found out he would soon be a father and was elected to the Boston City Council. Woody pulled some strings and got Norm a great job, which Norm immediately tried to take advantage of. Cliff has gotten a promotion as the result of agreeing to build an addition on his boss’ house. Rebecca married Don the Plumber and immediately regrets it, in typical Rebecca fashion.
And Sam realizes that he can’t leave his one love — Cheers. As the regulars go home, Sam starts closing up the bar. A man in shadows comes to the front door, but Sam doesn’t let him in, saying, “Sorry, we’re closed.” Sam straightens a picture on the wall before heading into the back room. End of series.
NBC continued the night-long celebration with a special Tonight Show telecast that featured a celebration with the most of the cast (Kirstie Alley and Shelly Long were absent) from the Boston-based bar, the “Bull & Finch Pub.” The celebration got a bit out of hand and culminated with everyone awkwardly singing the theme-song and several cast members looking like they’d had a few too many toasts. This show was followed by Later with Bob Costas which featured the first of a two-part interview with the Cheers creators.