Cheers Television Retrospective

This beloved American sitcom began entertaining television audiences on September 30th, 1982. It was centred a family-like relationship between its coworkers. The relaxed, everyday setting of a Boston basement tavern gave audiences the chance to listen in on the small talk, everyday problems and conversations between the staff and their regular clientele. This show was famous for its running gags and even spawned a real-world chain of “Cheers” pubs. It remains a timeless TV classic, hearkening back to an age when everybody knew your name. Join WatchMojo.com as we explore the history of “Cheers.”
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Cheers Television Retrospective


It’s the place where everybody knows your name! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be taking a look at the history of “Cheers.”

This beloved American sitcom began entertaining television audiences on September 30th, 1982. Created by the team of James Burrows and brothers Glen and Les Charles, it made its debut on NBC as part of a lineup that included the network’s hugely successful sitcom, “Taxi.”

Originally, the show’s creators sought to make a series similar to “The Mary Tyler Moore” show, which highlighted the family-like relationships between coworkers. The relaxed, everyday setting of a bar was eventually chosen as the backdrop for this sitcom, and that bar was Boston’s cozy basement tavern “Cheers,” named for the popular toasting phrase. There, audiences got the chance to listen in on the small talk, everyday problems and conversations between the staff and their regular clientele.

Nearly all of the show’s episodes took place in the bar’s main front room, and on rare occasions transitioned to the back poolroom or office. It was even more rare for the action to take place outside the basement.

“Cheers” starred Ted Danson as the bar’s owner Sam Malone, a former player for the Boston Red Sox, as well as a womanizer and recovering alcoholic.

Joining Sam was an eccentric cast of co-workers, like the wisecracking and cynical waitress Carla, played by Rhea Pearlman, aspiring grad student, waitress, and love interest to Sam, Diane Chambers, played by Shelley Long, and former baseball coach turned senile bartender Ernie “Coach” Pantusso, played by Nicholas Colasanto.

Following the death of Colasanto at the end of season three, Woody Harrelson joined the team as the dimwitted assistant bartender Woody Boyd. Kirstie Alley became a member of the “Cheers” staff as manager Rebecca Howe when Shelley Long left before season six.

And, of course, no bar would be complete without its regular patrons: in the case of “Cheers,” these included George Wendt’s semi-unemployed accountant Norm Peterson and his best friend, John Ratzenberger’s know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin. By season three, they were accompanied by Kelsey Grammar’s Dr. Frasier Crane, who later earned a hugely successful spinoff in 1993.

Aside from the main cast, “Cheers” regularly featured recurring guest characters and celebrity appearances. It was also famous for its running gags, which included Sam’s antics with women, Norm’s often discussed but never seen wife Vera, and the group’s enthusiastic greeting of Mr. Peterson every time he entered the bar.

Early episodes of the show were one-offs, but larger story arcs soon developed and plot points spanned multiple episodes, which allowed the characters to grow and mature.

But ironically, even though “Cheers” spent the majority of its run as a major network draw, in those early days it struggled to survive and was ranked so low in the ratings cancellation seemed inevitable. Fortunately, good reviews, word-of-mouth and an all-around mediocre network lineup meant the show was given a second chance.

Its fortunes finally changed when “The Cosby Show” debuted on NBC in 1984 on Thursday nights. As part of that night’s lineup, “Cheers” received a remarkable overnight ratings boost. Eventually, the show cracked the Top 10 and finally hit number one during the 1990-91 season. To top it all off, “Cheers” earned 111 Emmy nominations and 28 wins during its run, as well as 31 Golden Globe nominations and six wins.

The series gained so much popularity it became one of NBC’s longest-running sitcoms ever: it lasted 11 seasons until 1993, during which time Ted Danson became the highest-paid TV actor of his day. “Cheers”’ May 20th, 1993 finale was one of the most-watched show closers in history, when an estimated 80 million people tuned in to say goodbye. It then ran successfully in syndication for years.

This beloved sitcom from the ‘80s and ‘90s has not only spawned a real-world chain of “Cheers” pubs and merchandise, it has also been parodied multiple times by shows like “The Simpsons.” Even its theme song has remained a timeless TV classic, hearkening back to an age when everybody knew your name.

Are you a huge “Cheers” fan? What are your fondest memories from the show? For more television retrospectives, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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