Photo Courtesy of NBC
Cheers is a bar in Boston, Massachusetts where people come to forget their problems over a drink with friends in a place – as the theme song says – “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”.
Sam Malone (Ted Danson) – Sam is a former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher once known as “Mayday Malone”. His drinking problem led to him quitting the game, and now he’s the owner and bartender of Cheers. Handsome Sam no longer touches alcohol but he still has one weakness: women. Never one to be tied down to a single girl, Sam chases after blondes and brunettes, rich and poor – until one day a woman walks into his bar and changes his life forever.
Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) – Diane is clever and a little prim, and when we first we meet her she’s waiting in Cheers for her fiancé. It soon becomes clear that he’s not coming back, leaving her with no job, no money and no idea what to do next. Sam takes pity on her and offers her a job as a cocktail waitress. At first she refuses but changes her mind, embarking on a career she feels is beneath her. Sam and Diane’s mutual attraction takes them both by surprise, but they’re very different people and their relationship is never going to be a walk in the park…
Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) – Carla is Sam’s regular cocktail waitress and the opposite of Diane in every way. Wise-cracking, tough and cynical, she’s rude to customers – though no-one, including Sam, would dare confront her about that. A mother of four children with more to come, Carla leads a colorful love life but secretly carries a torch for Sam. Not surprising, then, that from the very beginning she can’t stand Diane Chambers.
Coach Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto) – Coach is Sam’s co-bartender, former baseball coach and friend. A widower who is a little slow and forgetful these days, everyone loves Coach – though sometimes people try to take advantage of his good nature. He is constantly trying to solve the problems of his customers and friends and dotes on his daughter Lisa.
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Norm Peterson (George Wendt) – One of the bar’s regulars, Norm’s entrance is always marked by a welcoming shout of “Norm!” from everyone there. Questions about how he’s doing that day receive various responses, but all end with an immediate request for beer. An accountant by trade, Norm is frequently unemployed and later becomes a house painter/interior designer; but whatever his job, he seems to spend every day sat on the same bar stool, beer in hand. His wife Vera (Bernadette Birkett) is a perpetual source of irritation, but it’s clear how much he loves her.
Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) – Another of the bar’s regulars, postman Cliff is Norm’s closest friend and a man who seems to have an answer for everything. He still lives with his mother and doesn’t have a lot of luck with women, but covers this up with his know-it-all attitude. Smart and kind, if sometimes irritating, Cliff always tries to do what’s right. He’s also Carla’s favorite person in the world to pick on.
Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) – Frasier arrives in later episodes and is at first simply a love interest for Diane. Soon, though, the Harvard-educated psychiatrist has joined the others as a regular at the bar, and despite his sometimes superior manner he somehow manages to fit right in. After Diane leaves him at the altar, Frasier has very few relationships until becoming attracted to fellow doctor Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth).
Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson) – Woody hails from Hanover, Indiana and arrives at Cheers part way through the series. He is there to meet Coach, his pen pal – by which he means that he and Coach once exchanged pens. Sadly, Coach has recently died (the actor, Nicholas Colasanto died in real life of a heart attack) and Carla, Sam and everyone else agree that sweet, slow Woody wouldn’t be safe on the streets of Boston. The solution is simple: they give him Coach’s job, and Woody is soon part of the Cheers family.
Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth) – Lilith also joins the show later in the series, in her case as a love interest for Frasier Crane. A psychiatrist like Frasier, their first date does not go well and they have no contact for months afterwards. Eventually they try again, prompted in part by Diane giving Lilith a mini-makeover. This time they hit it off famously and embark on a long relationship. Attractive, stern and often condescending, Lilith does not at first seem the right choice for Frasier; but beneath the surface they are a perfect match.
Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) – Rebecca first appears a little more than halfway through the series. Sam has sold Cheers to a corporation and she is the bar’s new manager. At first, she seems to be a competent business woman who has it all together, but as time goes on the cracks in this façade begin to appear. She has frequent problems with the rich men she targets in her love life, is sexually frustrated and increasingly insecure. But there’s more to Rebecca than her insecurities: she’s attractive, funny, kind and quirky.
Photo Courtesy of NBC
|Sam Malone||Ted Danson|
|Diane Chambers||Shelley Long|
|Coach Ernie Pantusso||Nicholas Colasanto|
|Carla Tortelli||Rhea Perlman|
|Norm Peterson||George Wendt|
|Cliff Clavin||John Ratzenberger|
|Frasier Crane||Kelsey Grammer|
|Woody Boyd||Woody Harrelson|
|Lilith Sternin||Bebe Neuwirth|
|Rebecca Howe||Kirstie Alley|
Photo Courtesy of NBC
|Paul Krapence||Paul Willson|
|Kelly Gaines||Jackie Swanson|
|Robin Colcord||Robin Rees|
|John Allen Hill||Keene Curtis|
|Eddie LeBec||Jay Thomas|
|Mr. Walter Gaines||Richard Doyle|
|Esther Clavin||Frances Sternhagen|
|Evan Drake||Tom Skerritt|
|Harry “The Hat” Gittes||Harry Anderson|
|Frederick Crane||Christopher and Kevin Graves|
|Nick Tortelli||Dan Hedaya|
|Loretta Tortelli||Jean Kasem|
|Anthony Tortelli||Timothy Williams|
|Annie Tortelli||Mandy Ingber|
|Father Barry||Eric Christmas|
|Vera Peterson||Bernadette Birkett|
|Dave Richards||Fred Dryer|
|Andy Schroeder||Derek McGrath|
|Margaret O’Keefe||Annie Golden|
|Fire Marshal Dobbins||Robert Machray|
|Customer #1||Jacqueline Cassell|
|Gino Tortelli||Josh Lozoff|
|Professor Sumner Sloan||Michael McGuire|
|Janet Eldridge||Kate Mulgrew|
|Phil Schumacher||David Paymer|
|Walt Twitchell||Raye Birk|
|Ludlow Tortelli||Jarrett Lennon|
|Jesse LeBec||Thomas Tulak|
|Elvis LeBec||Danny Kramer|
|James Burrows||as himself|
Photo Courtesy of NBC
The producers and writers of Cheers made a strict point of never showing anyone leaving the bar drunk and driving home. The series was later cited by anti-drinking and driving groups for assisting with the promotion of designated driver programs.
Ted Danson (Sam Malone) and his third wife, actress Mary Steenburgen, have been married for 22 years. President Clinton and his wife attended their wedding in 1995.
Shelley Long (Diane Chambers) was offered the role of the mother in the movie E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, but had to turn it down because she was already committed to the movie Night Shift with Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton.
Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli) has been married to actor Danny DeVito for 35 years and they have three children together.
Many celebrities performed guest spots on the series. They ranged from former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, to Kevin McHale of the Boston Celtics. Some of the others were Tom Berenger, Arsenio Hall, Emma Thompson, Michael Dukakis, Robert Urich, Alex Trebek, Wade Boggs and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William J. Crowe.
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane) is the first actor in the history of television to have been the recipient of multiple Emmy nominations for performing the same role on three different shows.
George Wendt’s (Norm Peterson) real-life wife, Bernadette Birkett, provided the voice of his character’s wife, Vera.
Despite the popularity of the show, Shelley Long never had any intention of staying on the series longer than her original contract specified. She had taken the role with great reluctance and was more interested in pursuing her film career.
Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith Sternin-Crane) attended the prestigious Juilliard School for two years.
One of the running gags on Cheers was Sam Malone’s vanity about his hair. In reality, Ted Danson had a bald spot and had to wear a hair piece.
John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) was the only member of the Cheers cast to attend Nicholas Colasanto’s (Coach) funeral. NBC would not allow filming to stop for the cast to fly to Providence, Rhode Island, where the funeral was taking place, so Ratzenberger was sent as their representative. The cast and crew did, however, hold a memorial service for Colasanto in Los Angeles, California.
Rhea Perlman is the older sister of Heidi Perlman, who is both a writer and a producer. Perlman’s father, Philip, played the role of Phil, one of the bar’s customers.
Woody Harrelson (Woody Boyd) claims to be a former sex addict. He is also an activist for the legalization of marijuana.
Ted Danson has played the character of Sam Malone in several different series, including Cheers, Frasier, The Jim Henson Hour and The Simpsons.
William Devane was one of the finalists to play the role of Sam Malone and according to James Burrows, it was a difficult to turn him down because he was just “so good”. Soon afterwards, Devane started working on the nighttime soap, Knots Landing, where he played sometime scoundrel Greg Sumner for the next decade.
Kelsey Grammer’s autobiography, So Far, was published in 1995.
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Shelley Long left the series after her contract was up despite much controversy. In the Cheers documentary, Danson admitted to tension between the two but claimed it related to their different styles of working and was “never at a personal level”. He also said that, while Long was much more like the character of Diane than she wanted to admit, her performances often “carried the show”. Long later said in interviews that it didn’t occur to her there was any risk that her departure would “sabotage a show” and was certain that the rest of the cast could continue without her.
Kirstie Alley (Rebecca Howe) has been married twice and has two adopted children with her first husband, actor Parker Stevenson.
Bebe Neuwirth has appeared on Broadway numerous times and won many awards, including twice winning a Tony Award.
George Wendt’s maternal grandfather, Tom Howard, was a photographer for the Washington Bureau of P & A Photographs and took one of the most famous news photographs in history: of Ruth Snyder, a murderess who was executed at Sing Sing Prison in 1928. To get the picture, Howard modified his miniature plate camera with a long shudder release and strapped it to his left ankle before going into the witness room. The next morning the photo appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News, along with the headline: DEAD! The camera is now at the Smithsonian Institute.
Cheers was almost cancelled during its first season, due to dismal ratings for its premiere episode. Fortunately, the situation quickly improved and the show achieved a top-ten rating for eight of its eleven seasons, including one season in the number one spot.
The spin-off series Frasier was also popular and was on the air until 2004. The two series meant that Kelsey Grammer played the same character (Frasier Crane) for twenty years on prime-time television, a record for an American actor shared by only one man, James Arness, who played Marshall Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke.
Woody Harrelson is close friends with actor Michael J. Fox.
Cheers ended only because Ted Danson decided to leave the show. NBC wanted it to continue with Woody taking over the bar, but Harrelson (who played Woody on the show) refused to do the show without Danson.
Two Cheers episodes made the 1997 TV Guide list of “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time”. They were “Thanksgiving Orphans” and “Home is the Sailor”, and ranked at #7 and #45 respectively.
On February 12, 1985, near the end of season three, Nicholas Colasanto died from a heart attack while at home. He had been diagnosed with a heart condition during the mid-70’s, but it had worsened in the months before his death. Not long before the fatal attack he was hospitalized because of water in his lungs, and though he recovered he was not cleared to return to work. Despite this, he did go to the set to watch a few episodes being filmed. Perlman said, “He wanted to be there so badly. He didn’t want to be sick. He couldn’t breathe well; it was hard; he was laboring all the time.”
In ten of her eleven years playing Carla Tortelli, Rhea Perlman was nominated for an Emmy award for her performance. She won four times.
In 1981, Kirstie Alley’s mother was killed in a car accident caused by a driver under the influence of alcohol.
In 1996, Kelsey Grammer spent a period in the Betty Ford clinic for problems with substance abuse.
Both John Ratzenberger and George Wendt went to the Supreme Court in 2000 to get control of their Cheers characters (Cliff and Norm). The characters were in commercial demand for Cheers-like airport bars, and both actors argued that they had created the characters and did not want them to be exploited.
Cheers was created by Glen Charles, Les Charles and James Burrows. After deciding on a bar as the setting they had to pick its location, plumping for Boston after several other options were considered and discarded. The model for Cheers was the Bull & Finch Pub, which they picked from a phonebook. Glen Charles then got the agreement of the Bull’s owner, Tom Kershaw, to shoot some interior and exterior photographs. Though Kershaw charged them only one dollar for the shots, he has since made millions from everything from selling Cheers memorabilia to licensing the pub’s image. By 1997, the Bull & Finch Pub had become one of America’s most successful food and beverage outlets. Shelley Long visited the bar without knowing its history and said that it resembled the bar in the script. Today, it draws more than a million visitors a year and has been re-named Cheers Beacon Hill.
Bebe Neuwirth had a total hip replacement in May 2006.
Photo Courtesy of NBC
George Wendt has played the same character (Norm Peterson) in six different television shows, one of only four actors to have done so. The six shows were Cheers, Frasier, The Tortellis, St. Elsewhere, The Simpsons and Wings.
NBC dedicated an entire night to the Cheers series finale. Following on from the season finale of Seinfeld, viewers were treated to a “pregame” show hosted by Bill Costas, the finale, tributes to the show during local newscasts, and finally a Tonight Show broadcast from the Bull & Finch Pub. It was the most watched television show that year and ranked eleventh all time in entertainment programming.
Ted Danson also had a lead character role on the series Becker.
GQ magazine held an online contest in 2013 to find the best TV comedy of all time. The winner was Cheers.
Woody Harrelson has been married twice and has three daughters.
Kirstie Alley is best friends with actor John Travolta and is also a very close friend of Oprah Winfrey.
Actress and comedienne Lucille Ball was a big fan of the show and met with the producers about the possibility of playing Diane Chambers’ mother. In the end, however, she changed her mind, feeling that viewers would not accept her playing a character that was so unlike her “Lucy” persona.
Three of the main cast members appeared in every episode of the shows eleven seasons. The three were Ted Danson, George Wendt and Rhea Perlman.
Tragically, many of Kelsey Grammer’s friends or relatives have been killed in shocking ways. His father was shot and killed while in the Virgin Islands. His sister, Karen, was kidnapped, raped and killed by spree killer, Freddie Glenn. His twin half-brothers died in a scuba/shark accident and a friend of his for forty years, hotel heir Ben Novack, Jr., was killed by his wife. He was also a close friend of David Angell, who worked on both Cheers and Frasier and was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Shelley Long has been in films and guest starred on many different television series including Strong Medicine, 8 Simple Rules and Boston Legal.
Rhea Perlman is close friends with actress Lucy Liu.
John Ratzenberger helped to construct the stage for the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969.
Bebe Neuwirth raises money to help stray cats and dogs.
Cheers was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series for all eleven of its seasons, winning in 1983, 1984, 1989 and 1991. It also won the Golden Globe for “Best TV-Series-Comedy/Musical” in 1991. In 2006, the show was presented with the “Legend Award”, with many of the cast members attending the ceremony.
George Wendt appeared on The Colbert Report in 2009, the day before the announcement of which city would host the Summer Olympics in 2016. As their way of supporting Chicago, Illinois, Wendt and Colbert comically insulted the other three cities in the running, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, while drinking Chicago’s favorite Old Style beer.
Nicholas Colasantao was a decorated veteran of World War II. He received the World War II Victory Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.
In May 2000, Kirstie Alley purchased the former home of Lisa Marie Presley for $1.5 million.
Jay Thomas, who played the recurring character of Eddie LeBec (Carla’s hockey playing husband), was a DJ when he got the job on Cheers. Because his character was not a regular, he kept his job at the radio station. One day he received a call asking him what it was like to work on Cheers. In reply he made several insulting remarks about actress Rhea Perlman and having to kiss her. As fate would have it, Perlman happened to be listening that day, and a few episodes later Eddie LeBec was killed in a Zamboni accident.
When Kirstie Alley discovered she was pregnant during the tenth season, the writers decided to develop a storyline where she and Sam had a child together. Sadly, Alley had a miscarriage and they dropped the idea.
Kelsey Grammer has expressed interest in running for political office.
During season three, both Shelley Long and Rhea Perlman became pregnant. Perlman’s pregnancy was written into the show but Long’s was not.
David Angell, who worked on Cheers as a story editor, producer and writer, was killed along with his wife in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. They were on American Airlines flight 11 from Boston, Massachusetts to Los Angeles, California. Their plane was one of the four hijacked that day and was one of two flown into the World Trade Center in New York City.
John Ratzenberger is the only member of the Cheers cast to have lived in Boston at one time.
While Ted Danson was married to his second wife, Casey Coates, they had a daughter, Kate, on Christmas Eve 1979. During the delivery, Coates suffered a stroke and Danson spent the next several years helping her to recuperate. They later had a second daughter, Alexis, whom they adopted. They divorced in 1993 after Danson had an affair with Whoopi Goldberg. The divorce was reported to have cost Danson around $30 million and was one of Hollywood’s costliest to date.
Nicholas Colasanto had difficulty remembering his lines and would write them in many places all over the set. On one occasion, for the episode “Coach Bears a Grudge” he wrote, “It’s as if he’s still with us now” on the wooden slats to the right of the front door. After his death, the cast would touch the slats every time they entered the set. At some point, the set was repainted and Colasanto’s words were painted over. According to Ted Danson, the cast was so angry that some of them threatened to quit.
Bebe Neuwirth has played all three of the main female roles in the Broadway Revival of Chicago.
Shelley Long has been married and divorced twice. She has one child, a daughter named Juliana.
Woody Harrelson’s father, Charles Harrelson, was convicted of killing Federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. in 1979. He was sentenced to two life sentences and later died during his incarceration at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility. His father also claimed to be one of the “hobos” who was first taken away from “the grassy knoll” immediately after the shooting of President John F. Kennedy.
Cheers received more Emmy nominations for lead, supporting or guest actor/actresses than any show until ER.
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Although the series Wings was created and produced by writers from Cheers and there were occasional cross-overs of characters between the two series, Wings was not a spin-off of Cheers. Cheers did, however, produce two spin-off series, Frasier and The Tortellis.
Rhea Perlman and her husband Danny DeVito separated late in 2012 but reconciled in March 2013.
Kirstie Alley gave The Church of Scientology $5 million.
Woody Harrelson and his character, Woody Boyd, shared some striking similarities. As well as having the same first name – despite the character having been named before any actor had auditioned for the role – Boyd was from Hanover, Indiana, where Harrelson attended college in real-life.
Ted Danson was ranked #2 in TV Guide’s list of the “Top 25 Television Stars”.
Nicholas Colasanto suffered from alcoholism for more than twenty years but became sober in 1976, as well as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Kelsey Grammer suffered a mild heart attack in May 2008.
Harrelson played for Soccer Aid 2010 in support of UNICEF UK. The match was broadcast live and, after fellow teammate Gordon Ramsay was injured, Harrelson was sent in to take the final penalty in the penalty shootout. Although unsure at first as to where the kick had to be taken from, Harrelson scored the winning goal for “The Rest of the World” team and in doing so, beat England for the first time since the tournament started.
George Wendt has appeared on Broadway several times.
Cheers came in at #18 on TV Guide’s list of “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time” in 2002. Additionally, in 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the eighth best written television series ever.
Shelley Long didn’t want the hot set lights to damage her hair while working on the set, so she wore a wig.
Kirstie Alley’s sitcom Kirstie aired in 2013 and reunited her with former co-star, Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli).
George Wendt and Shelley Long both guest-starred in an episode of popular television series M*A*S*H.
Bebe Neuwirth is quoted as saying, “If you have to ask how to be sexy after 40, you probably can’t do it.”
Ted Danson is a keen environmentalist and in 2011 wrote his first book, Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do To Save Them with journalist Michael D’Orso.
John Ratzenberger has had a role of some kind in every film ever made by Pixar.
Nicholas Colasanto was a fluent Italian speaker.
Three couples were shortlisted for the parts of Sam and Diane. The first was Fred Dryer and Julia Duffy, the second, William Devane and Lisa Eichorn and the last, of course, was Ted Danson and Shelley Long. Danson and Long were chosen because they had the best chemistry of the three.
Rhea Perlman is the author of the very popular children’s book series Otto Undercover.
Shelley Long was hospitalized in November 2004 after an overdose of painkillers, spending one week in the hospital before her eventual release.
George Wendt attended Notre Dame University when he was younger, but dropped out before graduating. He is, however, an avid Notre Dame Football fan.
Kirstie Alley competed on the hit show “Dancing with the Stars” in 2011.
In Kelsey Grammer’s autobiography, he says that he and co-star Shelley Long did not get along. Apparently, Long thought that the addition of the Frasier character upset the romance between Sam and Diane. Grammer also claimed that she tried to have his punchlines removed from scripts, although Long has denied this. According to Grammer, they made their peace when Long appeared on Frasier.
Nicholas Colasanto had a portrait of Geronimo hung in his dressing room as a good luck charm. After his death, the portrait was hung on a wall in the Cheers bar. At the end of the series finale, Sam walks over to the portrait and straightens it in memory of Colasanto.
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