Cheers Cast, Creators Discuss Classic Sitcom, Honor Kirstie Alley
Cheers creators and stars Ted Danson, John Ratzenberger & George Wendt reflected on the NBC sitcom, honored the late Kirstie Alley, and more.
It's been 30 years since the doors closed on the beloved bar in Boston known as Cheers. The NBC sitcom, which has won 28 Emmys, ran for 11 seasons from 1982-1993, which was part of the Brandon Tartikoff era, which many regard as a golden age during the network's history. The bulk of the cast and creators reunited at the ATX TV Festival in Austin, Texas. Hosted by Variety, the participants included creators James Burrows, Les Charles, and Glen Charles and stars Ted Danson (Sam Malone), George Wendt (Norm Peterson), and John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) as they discussed the legacy of the series and how it impacted their careers.
Cheers Creators & Cast Reflect on NBC Sticom
Other original cast members included Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli); Shelley Long (Diane Chambers), who left at the end of season five; and Nicholas Colasanto (Ernie 'Coach Pantusso), who passed during the show's run after season three. The late Kirstie Alley (Rebecca Howe) joined the series in season six; Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Fraser Crane) joined the cast in season three, Woody Harrelson (Woody Boyd) joined the cast following Colasanto's passing in season four, and Bebe Neuwirth (Dr. Lilith Sternin) joined the cast in season four. The series follows Sam, a former baseball player who runs the bar called Cheers with co-workers Carla, Diane, and Coach, with frequent patrons that include Norm and Mailman Cliff.
"Teddy and Shelly auditioned together, and they had a chemistry that only makes writing better," Burrows said of casting Danson and Long. Diane was Sam's love interest for five seasons before things shifted to Rebecca with Long's departure. Danson complimented Long's talent. "I don't think we'd seen a character like that since Lucille Ball. I do believe I was on 'Cheers' because of Shelley because Shelley was a knockout." Burrows also spoke of the difference in contemporary sitcoms and the lack of the multi-cam. "I've attended the funeral for a sitcom many times," Burrows said. "Somehow, it springs out of the coffin, but I'm not sure now. I don't know what's going on."
Among other subjects discussed was when Harrelson was cast as Woody and Alley's emergence as Rebecca. "She's not here. It's very strange," Danson said, getting emotional remembering Alley, who passed in December. "She came in like a ball of fire… She was making her entrance into the table read, and she put on a Shelly Long blonde wig. We're like, 'OK, you'll do great.'" Ratzenberger recalled what he and Wendt would get Alley a shotgun on her first day on set, "We wrote on the card, 'You're gonna have to shoot your way out.'"
Since Cheers, NBC spawned a spinoff in Fraser which starred Grammer that also featured guest appearances from the original cast, and Paramount+ is developing a legacy sequel. For more, including how it was Danson's decision to end Cheers, how Burrows felt the sitcom ranks among his shows, and the special pilot script reading from other actors, you can check out the piece here. Cheers is available to stream on Hulu and Paramount+.