Want to go to a place where everybody knows your name? Well, from 1982 to 1993, "Cheers" was precisely that place.
For 275 episodes, the crew of Sam, Diane, Cliff, Norm, Woody, Carla, Coach, Rebecca and others made us laugh from the inside of a Boston bar (in real life the exterior shots were of a real Beantown pub, the Bull & Finch) — and we miss them still.
Starting July 15, "Cheers" will begin streaming on NBC's new service Peacock — so pull up a bar stool, tap out a frosty mug and enjoy with us 10 of the greatest moments from this truly terrific sitcom. We promise not to even ask for ID.
The Pilot: "Give Me a Ring Sometime" (Sept. 30, 1982)
Few series are lucky enough to have such a spot-on first episode, one that in 24 minutes takes us through a wide range of characters' quirks, the Sam-Diane sparks and the talky, fast-moving tone of the show. Bonus: the fiery discussion of what the "sweatiest movie ever made" is.
The original "Cheers" script didn't include a Norm Peterson — and both George Wendt (who went on to play Norm) and John Ratzenberger (who went on to play Cliff Clavin) actually auditioned for the same part, a character named "George."
Wendt landed the role and instantly made hay out of very few words — like his request for "Beer!" Eventually, there was a running gag of him entering the bar, where he was so well known the customers would immediately shout "Norm!"
If "Norm!" solidified one kind of barfly, Cliff Clavin was another classic trope: The know-it-all. The character idea was Ratzenberger's idea, and he became known for firing off random "facts" during nearly every episode. This all culminated in Cliff's becoming a contestant on "Jeopardy!" and the episode "What Is … Cliff Clavin?" (Jan. 18, 1990) — which included the famous game show set and host Alex Trebek.
Classic Holiday Episode: "Thanksgiving Orphans" (Nov. 26, 1986)
Many of the "Cheers" regulars aren't able to land Thanksgiving plans (or at the last minute their plans fall through) so the cast ends up at Carla's for a potluck that turns into a hilarious turkey. Norm actually brings an enormous raw turkey ("Birdzilla") and Diane insists dinner must wait until the bird is ready. That does not go well, and pretty soon the food is flying.
Knowing Woody Harrelson as we do today — he's starred in films like "Natural Born Killers" and "The Hunger Games" — it's a revelation to see him in his breakout role as Woody Boyd, aspiring actor and former Indiana farm kid. Woody began appearing on Sept. 26, 1985 at the start of the series' fourth season, showing up in the bar with wide-eyed wonder. Woody is good-hearted but a bit dim … yet oddly insightful when the moment matters. One of our favorite episodes of his is "Veggie Boyd" (Nov. 22, 1990), in which he gets a line in a TV commercial for a new health drink ("I like it!") — and then really has to turn on his acting skills, because it tastes awful.
Will They/Won't They? Sam and Diane's Forever On/Off Love Affair
Over the show's first five seasons they flirted and insulted each other, sleeping together and breaking up repeatedly. Each of the first four seasons ended with a cliffhanger about them — and with the fifth-season finale "I Do, Adieu" (May 7, 1987) they're finally set to set things in stone ... when Diane puts an end to the whole question. Even if you know this relationship isn't destined to succeed, it's still hilarious to watch them refuse to give up.
The Wedding Episode: "An Old-Fashioned Wedding" (May 14, 1992)
Nope, the nuptials weren't for Sam and Diane, but rather for Woody and Kelly, who have to deal with crazed dogs, a minister who's been tippling, a missing chef and a dead body hidden in a dumbwaiter. The episode was a two-parter in which everything went wrong in exactly the funniest of possible ways, and show creators (Glen Charles, Les Charles and James Burrows) have said their inspiration was the British sitcom classic "Fawlty Towers."
The Replacement: "Home is the Sailor" (September 24, 1987)
When your show is heavily focused on the chemistry between two of its leads and one leaves, well, that's a conundrum. Fortunately, Kirstie Alley came on board at the start of season six, taking over where Shelley Long left off — kind of. As the manager sent by the bar's corporate franchise owner, Rebecca immediately has jurisdiction over the whole place, but she's neurotic and always dating the wrong men.
Over the years, she and Sam parry in a very different way than he did with Diane — they're not really interested in dating (though they do try to have a child in season ten) and their real love (and real child) becomes the bar, which they end up trading off managerial duties on. It's a deft move that not every show — or every pair of actors — could pull off, but this series does.
The Spinoff: Frasier Crane
"Cheers" was so successful at creating great characters and finding terrific actors to inhabit them that they ended up with "Frasier," which ran from 1993 to 2004, nearly matching "Cheers" for number of episodes (264 to 275). Frasier Crane, an overeducated psychiatrist began showing up in season three ("Rebound, Part 1" on Sept. 27, 1984) to help Sam overcome falling off the wagon and breaking up with Diane. Frasier went on to be Diane's fiance in season three, then dated, married and split from Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth). When Crane popped up for "Frasier" in 1993, he'd relocated from Boston to Seattle and hosted a call-in talk radio show … but cast from his "Cheers" past were never far behind.
The Series Finale: "One for the Road" (May 20, 1993)
Ending an ensemble show like "Cheers" meant finding room for every one of our favorites to say goodbye in their own way — and that included the return of Diane. The Sam-Diane will they/won't they was by that point a dead and buried subject, and yet we wondered … would they ride off into the sunset together? Turns out: Nope.
Instead, the show spent the rest of the three episodes showing us Woody and Norm heading into politics, Cliff getting a post office promotion, Rebecca getting hitched. At the end, Sam returned to the bar to close up for one last time. A man knocked on the door (played by the show creators' agent Bob Broder), and Sam told him, "Sorry, we're closed." Perfection.
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