CHEERS was the peak of nighttime TV; premiering in 1982 and hilarious to the end in 1993. The weakest episode of CHEERS is still funnier than probably EVERY episode many other TV comedies!
Into an obscure Boston bar one morning walks an uppity, sassy, snobby (yet attractive and even sexy!) recent grad school graduate Diane Chambers (played memorably by Emmy winner Shelley Long). Dumped by her fiancé, Diane meets the owner-bartender, former Red Sox relief pitcher Sam "Mayday" Malone (played during the show's entire run to sublime perfection by the great Emmy-winning Ted Danson). Sam enlists Diane as one of his waitresses. A wannabe writer, Diane decides to work at Cheers until she finds her footing.
Sam Malone, is one of the top TV characters, simultaneously a ladie's man and a guy's guy! Danson brought a personable, EVERYMAN quality to the role that drew the viewer in each week. Danson won a couple of Emmys, but should have won at least 2 or 3 more! Together, Danson and Long's Sam and Diane form the greatest TV pairing of all time. Trading barbs, stares, glances, lustful looks, and quick-witted exchanges every week, these 2 were a joy to watch! Long left after the 5th season, though, but the show went on w/o her!
They brought in Kirstie Alley as Rebecca Howe, the anti-Diane in a lot of ways. While Diane was overqualified, Rebecca was underqualified. Initially, Rebecca was a shakily written character that the show's writers didn't seem to know what to do with, but thankfully the rest of the cast more than made up for the void left by Diane. Then by Season 9, Rebecca came into her own as kind of a daffy, loser-ish character, which worked greatly to her advantage! I think initially, Rebecca was to be a replacement for Diane as Sam's girlfriend, but the show thankfully never really went that route as Sam-Rebecca just didn't have the Sam-Diane romantic chemistry-magic. I like to think of Rebecca as an "accepted outsider" that fit in nicely with the group.
The true gem of CHEERS was the best ensemble in TV history. The supporting cast was pure GOLD! And heeeer'es the lineup!
The leadoff hitter! The late, great Nicolas Colasanto played the dimwitted Coach (Sam's bartender and former pitching coach) initially the first 3 years before sadly passing away. Colasanto was hilarious with brilliant comic timing, maybe the best of all the actors on the show; during the rest of the show's run, they would showcase Colasanto's passing with subtle hints and in the last episode, Sam's adjusting of the picture was a tip o' the hat the Mr. Colasanto.
Next up!...Norm!...or as Diane would say, "Norman". With a folksy, sarcastic approach, Norm Peterson, played by the wonderful George Wendt, Norm was the smart-alecky guy at the end of the bar who EVERYONE knew! A permanent fixture on the corner stool of the bar, Norm would amass a bar tab for the ages!
Batting 3rd is Carla! The mean-spirited, lusty baby-machine waitress played with gusto by Rhea Perlman! Carla hated everybody, but especially Diane! No one escaped Cheers without facing the wrath of Carla Tortelli!
Cleanup hitter is one Dr. Frasier Crane! Initially brought on as a short-term character in Season 3 as Diane's fiancé after she and Sam split up at the end of Season 2, Frasier (played hilariously Emmy winner Kelsey Grammar) quickly became a key part of the CHEERS ensemble after Diane dumped him at the end of Season 3. Frasier was the resident psychiatrist, spouting off Freudian epithets and trying to analyze the nutty occupants of Cheers! Of course, he went on to star on the CHEERS spin off FRASIER, which ran almost as long as CHEERS itself.
Frasier's wife (and comic foil!) and fellow psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Sternin Crane (brilliantly played by Emmy-winner Bebe Neuwirth), the Yin to Frasier's Yang! Lilith was the ultimate ice queen and, if you ask her, a better analyst than Frasier!
Our next batter is Woody Boyd! After Coach died, Woody (played hilariously by Woody Harrelson) was brought in as a young bartender that Coach trained. Woody was Coach's replacement in the dimwit department. Not as perfect as Coach (but close!), Woody was an important part of the CHEERS lineup!
Now, for the unsung, under-appreciated Most Valuable Player!...Cliff Claven! Played to perfection by the unique John Ratzenberger, ole Cliffy was an uber-annoying Mama's boy who got on everyone's nerve spouting off useless facts and inciting riots from time to time! Cliff was the character that made the absolute most comedy out of the absolute least material!
Also there were a host of memorable recurring characters: Nick Tortelli (Carla's sleazy ex-husband played by great film character actor Dan Hedaya), billionaire Robin Colcord (Rebecca's beau for a couple seasons played with panache and aplomb by British actor Roger Rees), the wacky heiress Kelly (Woody's equally wacky girlfriend and eventual wife played by Jackie Swanson), Paul Krapence (Norm and Cliff's lackey played wonderfully by Paul Wilson), Phil (played by Rhea Perlman's dad Philip Perlman), codger Al who sat diametrically opposite to Norm's side of the bar(played by the late Al Rosen), lovable Ma Claven (perfectly portrayed by the great Frances Sternhagen), scheming grifter Harry the Hat (played by the wacky Harry Anderson, who starred on the wonderful TV show NIGHT COURT during most of CHEERS run).
The CHEERS characters were all so well-defined and realized that they still to this day seem like real people that you knew. I mean, you can literally watch the series premiere in 1982 and the series finale in 1993 (for which Shelley Long returned to resume her role of Diane) and see that this show never lost it's charm, humor, or appeal. Oh, yeah, and EVERYTHING in between was great, too!...Cheers!
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