For eleven seasons, viewers knew that on Thursday nights they could go to a place "where everybody knows your name" - a little Boston bar called Cheers. Produced by the team of James Burrows, Glen Charles and Les Charles, who also created Taxi, Cheers premiered on NBC in 1982. Although narrowly escaping cancellation after the first season, it eventually reached number one in the ratings and won numerous awards.
Ted Danson, as Sam Malone, headed up the ensemble cast. A former Boston Red Sox pitcher, 'Mayday' Malone bought the bar during a bout with alcoholism, then decided to quit drinking and run the bar instead. Sam was tall, good looking, and more than exceptionally skilled at attracting many of the women who came into his bar. What he lacked in intellect, he more than made up for in charm.
Ernie 'Coach' Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto) was a sweet, absent-minded bartender who worked with Sam. A former pro ball coach and manager, he liked to share memories of his good old days, no matter how fuzzy, with his customers. Sadly, in early 1985, Nicholas Colasanto passed away, and therefore Coach did as well.
Woody Harrelson played Woodrow Tiberius 'Woody' Boyd, a naive Indiana farmboy who came to Cheers to meet the man that taught him bartending via a mail-order course - Coach. Of course he arrived too late to meet Coach, but his dream of becoming a big-city bartender came true when Sam hired him. Woody was sweet and big-hearted, but also incredibly gullible, which made him a favorite target of the Cheers gang. He eventually met and married rich daddy's girl Kelly Gaines.
Carla (full name: Carla Maria Victoria Angelina Teresa Apollonia Lozupone Tortelli), played by Rhea Perlman, was a loud, obnoxious, superstitious single mother of six. Carla was a barmaid who was more likely to get tips through threats than courteous service. In the sixth season, Carla married hockey player Eddie, and thus added LeBec to her name and twin boys to her brood. Eddie was then run over by a Zamboni machine, leaving Carla single once again.
Norm Peterson, an accountant, was a bartender's best dream and worst nightmare rolled into one. He was such a regular customer, you could set a clock by him. Each time he arrived, he bellowed out a greeting to the entire bar, and received a shout of "Norm!" in response; everyone definitely knew his name. Every day he sat in the same seat and guzzled down beer after beer. Unfortunately, they all went on his tab, which was the size of a city phone book as evidenced each time Sam lugged it out from behind the bar. Perhaps Norm is best known for what some have dubbed 'Normisms,' responses he gave to questions asked by Sam, Coach, or Woody as he approached his seat at the bar. A sample exchange: Coach: "How's a beer sound, Norm?" Norm: "I dunno. I usually finish them before they get a word in." Norm is also known for his often-mentioned but never-seen wife, Vera.
Clifford Clavin, a mailman who still lived with his domineering mother, was also a regular patron. Cliff was Norm's partner-in-crime for barroom antics. He was also a source for the most useless collection of trivia known to man, much of which he made up as he went along.
Diane Chambers, played by Shelley Long, hesitantly bellied up to the bar in the first episode. A smart, attractive teaching assistant who enjoyed literature and the arts almost as much as she loved talking about them, Diane was out of her element at Cheers. She was brought there by her fianc? and boss who wanted her to wait while he retrieved her engagement ring from his ex-wife. Except, he never came back for her, and Diane found herself in desperate need of a job. Although she had no useful skills, Sam reluctantly hired her as a waitress.
Sam and Diane's relationship began with a lot of barbs flying back and forth over the bar. She lectured him on his lack of intellect and sleazy lifestyle, and he harangued her for being stuffy and a know-it-all. As it turned out, this battle of wills was just foreplay. By the beginning of the second season, Sam and Dianne were a couple. Although it only lasted about a year, Sam and Diane's on-again, off-again relationship became a standard by which all future mismatched TV couples would be judged. They were incredibly passionate about their romance and their fights, the most memorable of which ended up in a slapping, nose-grabbing moment of hilarity.
Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) first appeared at Cheers as Diane's boyfriend following her breakup with Sam. Frasier was a pompous psychiatrist, rivaling even Diane in his sense of self -importance. After Diane left him at the altar in Europe (with help from Sam), Frasier returned to the bar to drown his sorrows in the company of his new best buddies. Even after Diane left the bar for good in the fifth season to write her long-awaited novel, Frasier remained as one of the gang. That same season he met fellow psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth). They eventually married and had a son named Frederick. Then, Lilith, an icy woman by most accounts, had a tremendous moment of passion with another scientist and left Frasier to go live with him in a biosphere. When Cheers went off the air, Kelsey Grammer went on to do the highly successful spin-off Frasier.
After Diane left Cheers, Sam sold the bar to a conglomerate and left to sail around the world. Unfortunately, the boat sank and Sam went back to Cheers looking for a job. He was hired as a bartender by the new manager, Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), who was determined that Cheers would be her chance to climb the corporate ladder. She was also a groupie for wealthy executives--first her boss Evan Drake (Tom Skerritt) then corporate raider Robin Colcord (Roger Rees).
In 1992, Ted Danson said the eleventh season would be his last, and the producers decided not to continue the show without him. The Cheers finale was one of the biggest TV events of all time. It aired on May 20, 1993, as a ninety-six-minute program, followed by a twenty-four-minute retrospective. It even included the return of Shelley Long as Diane. She and Sam ran off to get married, but decided at the last minute not to go through with it. It also featured Woody, no longer so naive, elected to City Council, and Rebecca leaving behind her corporate romances to marry a plumber. After the program aired, the Cheers gang convened at the Bull and Finch Pub in Boston (the real-life bar around which the show was fashioned), and celebrated live on The Tonight Show.