Cheers for me is really the premier American sitcom. Nearly every major sitcom since has taken from it in some way or another and it continues to win new fans through reruns and DVD releases.
It has left an incredible legacy through its massive influence on popular culture and also its spin off Frasier which lasted 11 years as well.
I myself did not grow up with Cheers. In fact I was born many years after it had finished its original run. I grew up with Frasier and obviously it was through Frasier that I discovered Cheers.
Cheers may seem somewhat dated for today’s audiences, but by and large I think it can still have a broad appeal, as overall the bar the main characters frequent is almost like a bubble outside of the real world.
I think that’s the key to creating a truly timeless sitcom is to create a whole unique little world for its characters to inhabit. Examples of this course include Craggy Island in Father Ted, the bookshop in Black Books, and the main characters apartments in Friends.
Cheers I think absolutely succeeded in creating its own world and that among other reasons is why it has lasted.
In this article I will be giving my opinions on Cheers, reviewing all of its characters, the 10 best episodes (in my opinion) and ultimately what its legacy is.
Cheers ran for 11 seasons from 1982-93. It was created by James Burrows, Glen and Les Charles. Originally the creators had considered remaking Fawlty Towers, but decided to make their remake its own series about a bar when they realized all of the scenes in their remake took place in the Hotels bar. Among the other influences on Cheers were The Mary Taylor Moore Show and the radio show Duffy’s Tavern.
The show revolved around the bar Cheers which was run by retired baseball player Sam Malone played by Ted Danson. Though Sam had once been a very successful and talented player his career came to an end due to his alcoholism.
He bought the bar Cheers when he was an alcoholic and still holds on to it after he becomes sober for sentimental reasons. His former Coach and close friend, the slow witted but sweet natured Ernie Pantuso played by the late Nicholas Colassanto is a bartender there, whilst Cheers two waitresses are the volatile Carla Tortelli played by Rhea Pearlman and the kind hearted, but pretentious and snobbish Diane Chambers who ends up working at the bar when her fiance jilts her in the pilot episode.
The bar is frequented by lazy slob Norm Peterson played by George Wendt and know nothing know it all Cliff Clavin played by John Ratzenberger. Cliff and Norm are best friends whilst Carla though scornful of everyone, dislikes both Diane and Cliff in particular, with both of them being the recipients of her extreme verbal and at times physical cruelty.
Whilst Sam is portrayed as being a washed up ball player, he is still a hero to the patrons and staff at Cheers (except for Diane) not only for his sports career, but also due to his many sexual conquests which he is fond of boasting about.
The shows first season revolves around the underlying sexual tension between Sam and Diane whilst the second season sees Sam and Diane enter into an awkward romantic relationship with one another. At the end of the second season the two have a bad break up and Diane leaves Cheers and suffers a complete mental breakdown afterwards.
She later falls for her psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane played by Kelsey Grammer and returns to the bar at the start of season 3 along with Frasier in order to help Sam recover from his relapse into alcoholism after his painful break up with Diane. Diane eventually comes back to working at Cheers and Frasier also begins to frequent the bar too due to his relationship with Diane.
Series 3 revolves mostly around the love triangle between Sam, Diane and Frasier. Despite their different personalities and their feud over Diane, Frasier and Sam end up becoming friends, and eventually best friends in later seasons.
Series 3 ends with Diane and Frasier about to get married whilst Sam tries to break it up having realized he is still in love with her.
In season 4 we discover that Sam never managed to make it to their wedding, whilst Diane jilted Frasier at the altar. Frasier later shows up at the bar angry at Sam whom he blames for all his woes. Despite this however he and Sam still remain friends and Frasier continues to frequent the bar eventually becoming one of the gang developing friendships with Norm and Cliff and Carla over their shared hatred of Diane. Diane once again returns to work at Cheers and though she and Sam maintain that they are over one another, the end of series 4 sees Sam propose to Diane. Series 4 also sees Woody Boyd played by Woody Harrelson replace Coach as Cheers bartender. Nicholas Collasanto sadly passed away just before the end of series 3 and thus the character of Coach passes away in between series 3 and 4.
Woody is similarly portrayed as a slow witted, but sweet natured character, though he is much younger than Coach, and where as Coach served as a mentor figure to Sam, Woody is more like a surrogate little brother to Sam and greatly looks up to him.
Season 5 sees Diane at first reject Sam’s proposal only to realize that she was wrong. She then spends the next half a season trying to win him back until he eventually relents (after a court case!) and the two decide to get married.
Series 5 also sees the introduction of Fraiser Crane’s love interest the cold natured, logical psychiatrist Dr Lilith Sternin played by Bebe Neuwirth.
The end of series 5 sees Diane not marry Sam after she gets a deal to publish a book she has writte. Though at first she states she would rather marry Sam, Sam eventually tells her that she should pursue her dream and she leaves the bar for good.
After his finale break up from Diane, Sam sells Cheers and buys a boat that he goes sailing around the world with. His boat sinks and he returns to Cheers where he is eventually able to convince its new manager Rebecca Howe played by Kirsty Alley whom Sam is enamoured with to give him a job as a bartender.
Initially Rebecca is portrayed as a cold, ice woman much like Lilith Sternin, but as time goes on she is shown to be more emotionally unstable and a total screw up. Over the course of her time there she loses the bar’s liquor license gets fired twice, and eventually burns the entire bar to the ground by accident.
Over the course of the next several series all of the characters undergo major changes in their lives. Frasier and Lilith get married and have a son called Frederick, whilst Woody also gets married to an equally slow, but kind hearted millionaire Kelly Gaines whilst Carla also gets married to a former Hockey player Eddie LeBec who is eventually killed in a tragic accident. Sam meanwhile also not only has a rather nasty feud with neighbouring bar Gary’s old Town Tavern, but also with his upstairs neighbour John Hill who takes great delight in tormenting Sam, but also ends up having a relationship of sorts with the widowed Carla.
In the shows final series Rebecca finally manages to find love with a plumber whilst Lilith cheats on Frasier and leaves him. However Lilith eventually returns to him by the end of the shows run though the man who she left Frasier for Dr Pascal goes insane and even threatens Frasier and the gang at Cheers with a gun when she tries to return to Frasier before being arrested.
The final episode sees Diane now a successful award winning writer return to Cheers where she attempts to reconcile her relationship with Sam only for the two of them to realize that they will never be able to make it work.
Initially Cheers was something of a ratings disaster finishing 74th out of 77 places. However its strong critical acclaim as well as its Summer reruns helped the shows ratings improve to the point where it eventually became one of the most popular television series of all time by the end of its run. The final ever episode of Cheers was watched by over 90 million people in the US alone.
Following the end of Cheers a spin off devoted to the character of Frasier Crane began airing in 1993. Frasier as it was known saw the good Doctor divorce from Lilith and move to his home town of Seattle where he becomes a successful Radio Psychiatrist. Frasier would ultimately run for 11 seasons until 2004. Though Frasier was mostly divorced from Cheers many characters from Cheers did still make guest appearances in Frasier.
Lilith Sternin not surprisingly appeared the most, appearing in 12 episodes in total of Frasier and almost an episode per season. Diane Chambers appeared in 4 episodes, whilst Sam Malone and Woody Boyd appeared in an episode each.
Finally Cliff Claven, Carla Tortelli, Norm Peterson and Paul Krapance, a barfly played by Paul Wilson who became a major recurring character in Cheers later years, all appeared in a season 10 episode “Cheerful Goodbyes” set in Boston 10 years after Cheers had finished its run.
In addition to Frasier there was also another short lived spin off centering around Carla’s sleazy ex husband Nick Tortelli title “The Tortelli’s”. Cheers also had a number of crossovers with an another American sitcom called Wings with the characters of Frasier Crane, Lilith Sternin, Cliff Clavin, Norm Peterson and Rebecca Howe all appearing in different episodes of Wings. Finally there was also a Spanish remake of Cheers which was released in 2011 whilst another Irish language remake is currently in the works.
Now obviously this is purely subjective, but still I feel that Cheers in contrast to its spin off Frasier whose quality declined somewhat in its final seasons, actually got better in its later years. Whenever I pop on a Cheers DVD its always the later seasons I go to first and whenever I want to introduce one of my friends to the show then it is the later years I show them.
I suppose Cheers can really be divided into two eras. The Diane Chambers years season 1-5 and the Rebecca Howe years seasons 6-11.
Whilst I am clearly a bigger fan of the Rebecca years, I will admit that I think that the Diane years are probably the ones people remember more. Sam and Diane were really the first Ross and Rachel, Leonard and Penny the big comedic romance, so I think that’s probably why they tended to stick in peoples memory more.
However still when you actually watch the Sam and Diane years back I just don’t think they hold up as well as Rebecca’s time on the show.
To start with I never really bought them as a couple. I know the whole point was meant to be despite their incompatibility they were still in love, but still I think the writers made them seem too incompatible. In this respect I think they were like Niles and Daphne from Frasier another couple I could just never buy, which is similarly why the later years of Frasier were not quite as good as the earlier seasons for me.
Another reason I didn’t like Sam and Diane was because I felt they overshadowed the other characters a bit too much. The Sam and Diane story was so overwhelming that other characters I don’t think really got a chance to breathe as much until after it had ended.
Also I found the Sam and Diane storyline to be quite tedious at times too. It did have its moments, but overall it got very repetitive. They liked each other but didn’t admit it, then they were together, then they were apart and liked each other but didn’t admit it, then they were together and then apart and liked each other but didn’t admit it. That was basically the show for 5 seasons.
I also didn’t enjoy the lady and the tramp dynamic Sam and Diane had either.
The series I liked the best out of the Sam and the Diane years was actually the finale one series 5. I felt that this was actually the only time Sam and Diane seemed to work. It might have been because the writers knew that they were coming to an end of the story due to Shelly Long’s leaving the series so rather than simply try and prolong it like they had done for series 1-4 here they actually rounded it off. I also think in series 5 they make Diane more fun too, by making her go more crazy. In the first 4 series Diane is portrayed as the voice of reason and the sophisticated one with her mental health problems being taken seriously. However in series 5 Diane’s neurosis get out of control as seen in the episode “Simon Says” where she drives John Cleese’s character to a mental breakdown and thus she actually becomes more hilarious.
In all fairness to Diane however its not just because of the whole Sam and Diane story that series 1-5 are weaker, but also because I feel that these years overall are more overtly sentimental and somewhat dated.
The reason the earlier Cheers are more dated is because I feel they tended to touch on more topical issues than the later years did. For instance the episode “Boys in the Bar” though groundbreaking at the time might seem somewhat dated by todays standards. Its not that its homophobic its the very opposite, but its just the idea of the main characters being portrayed as homophobic to get the point it makes across about how homophobia can sadly spring up in many situations even among normally decent people might seem a little bit odd in say a modern sitcom like “The Big Bang Theory”. Imagine watching Leonard and Howard not want a gay man to work with them to show how homophobia can exist in a workplace. Like I said it would seem a little bit off, it was actually a very risky episode to do way back in 1982, but nowadays I don’t think anyone would really have the guts to do a story like that that casts their main characters who are normally decent people in such a negative light.
There is also more focus on Sam’s career as a baseball player too, which again helps to date it, and also make it I feel somewhat more inaccessible overseas too.
Finally these earlier years are far too mushy in a lot of places for my liking. I must admit I do not like it when sitcoms get too mushy. It may be because I am British and our sitcoms tend to be the very opposite of sentimental. The likes of Bottom, Black Books and Fawlty Towers could not be more cold and unfeeling. That’s really the difference between British and American sitcoms is that British sitcoms do tend to feature more horrible characters, whilst the characters in American sitcoms tend to be more likable. Normally I don’t mind it except when it gets a bit too mushy which I feel the first few seasons of Cheers did too often.
Of course again don’t think this means I dislike the earlier years, but I do think Cheers vastly improves from season 6 on in quite a number of big ways.
To start with Rebecca is a much better character than Diane and a much better foil for Sam Malone. The thing about Sam is I think he needs someone to really put him in his place. He is the big cocky womanizer who never stops going on about how irresistable he is so its always fun watching someone, particularly a woman take him down a peg or two. Diane never really did that. She insulted him frequently yes, but ultimately she always gave into his macho charm and often the point was her hostility towards him was simply masking her attraction and even love for him.
Rebecca however never fell for his charm at all. Instead she always put him in his place and often humiliated him in front of the rest of the gang. Among the most hilarious examples of this include the season 6 episode “Kiss Off” where Rebecca tricks Sam and Woody into kissing one another and “Sisterly Love” where she makes Sam believe she has killed her sister. I think Rebecca really caused Ted Danson to up his performance. He had always of course been excellent in the role of Sam, but opposite Rebecca I think he was able to bring a more physical aspect to his performance and show us a more humorously pathetic side to Sam Malone. During the Diane years Sam was a more romantic character. As I said he and Diane had a real Lady and the Tramp thing going on. During the Rebecca years however his obsession with her was not romantic, it was just shallow and we saw him resort to cheap tricks to try and win Rebecca over, which almost always blew up in his face and left him at various points kissing Woody, crying at the thought of Rebeca murdering her sister or chained up in a lift with his trousers pulled down in front of people.
Also Rebecca’s story arc was more interesting to me. It was quite fun watching this powerful ice woman degenerate into a complete train wreck by the end of the shows run. Rebecca changed a lot more over the course of her time on the show than Diane did. Its hard to imagine the Rebecca we see at the start whom everyone, even Carla is intimidated by as being the same person as the desperate mess who screams like a petulant child at her father in series 11. With Diane however in her first appearance she is a pretentious snob who clearly has a thing for Sam and in her finale appearance she is a pretentious snob who clearly has a thing for Sam.
During the Rebecca years the other characters at the bar I think were also given more to do as well. Rebecca’s storyline didn’t smother the rest of the cast like the Sam and Diane story line did. For instance in Rebecca’s time we saw Frasier get married, have a son, saw his marriage with Lilith break down and him ultimately have to face Lilith’s ex who pulled a gun on him. Woody meanwhile we saw get married, become an actor and eventually enter into politics. Carla we saw get married and then have to deal with her husbands death and enter into a twisted relationship with John Hill. Even with Cliff we saw more of his mother Ma Clavin, who proved to be a wonderful character and his home life too. There were also more minor characters introduced during these years too. Paul a barfly became a major supporting character in the later seasons and proved to be a brilliant foil for Norm and Cliff. Woody’s love interest Kelly Gaines and her family as well as Henri, the rude French man who regularly tries to steal Kelly away from Woody, also became regular supporting characters too and were responsible for some of the most hilarious moments in the shows history, such as Henri’s attempts to marry Kelly. Just listening to Henri say “I am going to steal your girlfriend” in his Inspector Clueso voice is enough to make me chuckle in itself. Rebecca’s love interest Robin Colcort also became a prominent supporting character and had many great moments too such as his chess match with Sam or his tricking the bar into turning on each other in his finale appearance. Then there was John Hill who is one of my all time favorite characters and was just the perfect nemesis for Sam. Watching him drive Sam insane is absolute comedy gold and is another example of Ted Danson’s performance really benefiting from being able to interact with other characters besides Diane. Much like with Henri all John Hill has to do is say Sam in such an obnoxious fashion to make me laugh every single time. Gary Sam’s other nemesis though introduced during the Diane years was given more to do in the last 6 years. Similarly Lilith and Eddie Carla’s husband and Ma Clavin though all introduced during Diane’s time also became more prominent in the Rebecca years too.
The reason they were able to introduce these supporting characters or give previous supporting characters more screen time during the Rebecca years was simply because they didn’t have to make everything focus around this big love story. Thus the stories and the characters were considerably more varied in season 6-11.
The Rebecca years I feel were also far less mushy. The storylines were generally wilder and more surreal during Rebecca’s time and finally they also didn’t try and touch on topical issues as much. The Rebecca years took place in their own crazy world where anything could happen and as a result they are the years of the show that I don’t think have really dated at all and are certainly more accessible to modern audiences.
Thus if I were to rate my favorite seasons I would say it would probably go like this.
Season 11 is probably my favorite as I think it contains the greatest episodes, as well as one of my all time favorite story arcs with the Lilith and Frasier breaking up storyline.
Season 10 would be my second favorite season as again I think it simply has a very strong number of episodes and an excellent mix of supporting characters too. There are plenty of good Lilith and Frasier episodes this year too, who were always my favorite Cheers couple.
Season 6 would be next up as I really feel this is when the show came into its own. That’s not to say the first 5 years were bad, but this is really when I think the show finally found its identity, not as a show simply about an incompatible couple, but a whole bar full of very different people.
Season 7 is next up as I think this is when the Rebecca character really becomes the insane klutz we all know and love. The final episode which sees her go insane and have to be carried out whilst screaming at a lecherous colleague of Frasiers is one of my all time favorite Cheers moments.
Season 8 I think is a great series as its really when we see a lot of interesting changes in a lot of the main characters lives such as Frasier’s son being born.
Season 9 meanwhile was again a good solid season with plenty of stand out episodes and again much like 10 and 11 it benefits from a good mix of characters.
Season 5 is the best of the Diane years in my opinion. There are still a few tedious Sam and Diane episodes, but it feels almost like a prototype of the Rebecca years as more characters are beginning to get more air time. There are some absolute classics this year such as “Simon Says” and “Dinner at Eightish”, and Diane is a much more humorous character this year, with her negative qualities really being played up like never before.
Season 1, though this is the series that is most of its time. It still nevertheless is probably the season of the Sam and the Diane years that gives everyone a lot to do. Even though it is still very Sam and Diane heavy it does give other characters chance to shine too and Coach is a very likable character and a great foil to Sam. Less intelligent than him, but also somewhat older and wiser too.
Season 4 though not the strongest series does still have a few notable high points such as the introduction of Lilith and also seeing Frasier go from the unlikable, pompous snob from season 3 to the likable pompous snob in season 4 and all seasons of Cheers and Frasier from that point on is quite interesting.
Season 2 a fairly mediocre season. This is when the balled of Sam and Diane really started to become tedious and even at places quite creepy. There are some good episodes here and there, but this is not that great a season for me overall.
Season 3 the worst season of Cheers in my opinion, this season has the highest number of poor episodes for me. Also the main characters seem a bit too unlikable this year. Sam seems like a bit of a creep, Diane seems selfish, Frasier seems condescending and arrogant, but not in a funny way like he later would. Also the atmosphere at the bar seems a lot less friendly too. Perhaps this is because of the behind the scenes tragedy of Nicholas Collasanto’s illness and eventual death. Finally this series is when the show I think was at its most soap operaish Whatever the case this is the only season of Cheers 11 year run that I actually largely dislike, though even it has its moments.
Top 10 Episodes
10/ Abnormal Psychology
This was not Lilith’s first appearance in the show, but it was the beginning of her relationship with Frasier. I found Lilith and Frasier to be not only the best couple in Cheers, but among the best couple’s in sitcom history. The two characters are just perfect for each other and both Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth have excellent chemistry. The highlight is definitely the final moment where Frasier find himself captivated by Liliths beauty so much he goes into a huge speech about how he is going to kiss her for 10 minutes only for Lilith to kiss him first.
9/ How to Win Friends and Electrocute People
My fave Cliff centric episode. This episode is great as to start with you think it is going to be quite a sad episode when Cliff learns from Frasier how disliked he is by the rest of the Cheers gang. However they turn it on its head wonderfully by giving us a gut burstingly funny scene of Cliff trying to improve his personality through electroshock treatment. Every time he says something obnoxious his therapist shocks him, which as you can imagine is quite often. The other thing I like about this episode is that it addresses how badly the other main characters treat Cliff. I often felt that the Cheers gang were a little too hard on Cliff. All except for Diane and Frasier and Sam. Okay he is annoying but he is never nasty so whilst it was funny at times it could feel a little bit much the way they all came down on him, so it was good that they addressed that here and had the gang actually feel bad for treating him so poorly.
8/ Daddy’s Little Middle Aged Girl
One of my favorite Rebecca going crazy episodes. I love the moment when we see her scream at her father and run into his office. Rebecca’s father is also one of my favorite guest stars. At first he seems like a totally unsympathetic character. A bullying, controlling father who wants to control his daughters life and still treats her like a 5 year old. However by the end of the episode when we find out his real motives and see how Rebecca is leeching off of him and bleeding him dry, the dynamic completely changes and we end up feeling sorry for him instead. Kirstie Alley is absolutely brilliant throughout this episode and gives one of the best performances of her career.
7/ Pick A Con Any Con
Now one of the reasons I love this episode is because its very Harry the Hat centric. I love Harry the Hat and I think its a real shame that he wasn’t featured in more episodes. Though I am glad that the episodes he was featured in where always great. The great thing about Harry was you were never sure whose side he was on. He was a lying, cheating, self serving, two faced con man, but ultimately in spite of that he would always come through for the Cheers gang and its surprisingly heartwarming watching him help Coach. It might not be the funniest episode of Cheers, but it has a great story nonetheless.
6/ Thanksgiving Orphans
One of the most celebrated episodes of Cheers, its really not hard to see why. This episode is quite unique among the earlier seasons in that it features the whole gang outside of Cheers for the most of it. Its great watching them all hang out together like a large dysfunctional family. There are plenty of great little moments like Frasier getting angry at people moving the tv away from him, Carla sealing Diane out of her house, but the real highlight is the big food fight at the end. The best moment is when Diane tries to be the voice of reason and stop everyone from fighting only for Sam to pelt her with food in the middle of her speech. This episode is also notable for being the only time we come close to seeing Vera whose face is concealed with a pie thrown by Diane that was meant for Sam.
5/ Bad Neighbor Sam
John Hill’s first ever appearance. Now I am a big fan of John Hill. I always loved the way he was just a complete dick. There was no reason for him to be, he just was it was as simple as that. Watching him mess with Sam in this episode is just an absolute riot, but the best moment is at the end when Sam goes completely insane and rather pathetically tries to destroy Hills mat only to fail miserably. Ted Danson has always been great at doing anger and that’s why this episode and all of the Hill vs Sam episodes are such a joy for me as few people can get under Sam’s skin the way Hill does.
4/ Bar Wars 5 The Final Judgement
Obviously I wanted to have a Bar Wars episode in this list. I thought about including the final Bar Wars story which sees Harry the Hat finally get Gary. However I think this is the best episode by far simply because the prank Gary pulls on Sam is legendary. Its such a brilliant twist the way that Gary is able to get the Cheers gang themselves to turn on Sam. Even though you know its a set up throughout all of it when Gary appears at the end you still can’t help but burst out laughing.
3/ A Fine French Whine
I always loved Henri. Him the sleazy, lying, two faced conman opposite the sweet, unsuspecting, slow witted Kelly was just a match made in comedic heaven.
I love the way this episode doesn’t even attempt to make Henri even remotely sympathetic or likable such as his going on about how he has no desire to ever get a job or admitting to Kelly that his plan was to trick her into marrying him, have his way with her, and then divorce her so that he could steal her money.
Whats even more hilarious is the way Kelly instantly forgives him for all of this at the same time. She is so sweet she just can’t find it in herself to hate anyone.
2/ The Bar Manager, The Shrink, His Wife and Her Lover
Lilith and Frasier episodes are always a delight, but this one is my definite favorite. Its got a brilliant story and so many laugh out loud moments. I love watching Liliths crazed ex Dr Pascal hold the whole Cheers gang up with a gun and their various ways of trying to get out of it. Its one of these things I just never get tired of watching. Cliff’s suggestion of soiling his pants and crying, or Rebecca’s of seducing Pascal and John Hills unbelievable disdain for Rebecca’s idea are all just priceless.
I think my favorite moment might be when John Hill just completely blunders into the hostage situation without knowing it.
The final scene where Lilith and Frasier reconcile is both humorous and strangely touching as well. Of course we all know due to the spin off Frasier that the two’s reconciliation ultimately did not last long, but still when watching Cheers on its own its a fitting ending to their turbulent romance.
1/ Simon Says
Yes I know its ironic considering my preference for the Rebecca years that I would rate a Diane episode as my favorite. And even more ironic that its actually the Sam and Diane aspect of it that makes it a favorite of mine.
John Cleese guest stars in this episode and its really his show stealing performance that makes this such a classic. Cleese plays brilliantly off of everyone. He and Frasier’s friendship is brilliant the way it seems so genuine at first, but then we see how they really hate each other and Simon actually enjoys cheating him out of money and boasts about it to his wife. However credit where credit is due, its Shelly Long that plays the best off of him as Diane drives him insane culminating in his classic Basil Fawltyesque outburst at the end.
I would have loved to have seen John Cleese’s character show up in Frasier. As he was Frasiers friend there would have been a reason for him to show up. Maybe he could have helped Maris and Niles. We could have also had them both finally learn how much they truly hate each other.
The shows main character, Sam is also I would say the best character in the series. Ted Danson carried the series. He was able to make Sam seem like an intensely likable character, yet at the same time he was also able to make him seem like someone who you don’t mind seeing humiliated by Gary, Rebecca or Diane.
Sam is cocky, but not in a nasty, horrible way. You can’t help but be won over by his cockiness, but because he is so full of himself its always so funny to watch him get taken down a peg or two.
Sam is really the linchpin that holds the whole show together because he is so likable he can get on with anyone. He can be friendly with the pompous intellectual Frasier Crane, the simpleton Cliff Clavin, the nasty piece of work Carla, the lazy lay about Norm Peterson and the emotional train wreck Rebecca Howe. If it weren’t for Sammy I don’t think you’d believe as a viewer that all of these vastly different characters could hang out with each other.
He’s the person that can bring all of them together as a tight little group. The show just simply could not work without Sam.
Though Danson has gone on to enjoy a very successful career since I think Sam Malone will always be the role that Danson will be remembered for.
Kelsey Grammer really made the character of Frasier into what he was. Originally Frasier was supposed to be that guy who nobody liked, whose soul purpose was to get in the way of Sam and Diane’s love story and then be dumped after a few episodes.
However Grammer made him into so much more. He always managed to get a laugh even when given the flattest lines and proved to have excellent chemistry with the rest of the cast, Ted Danson in particular.
Thus Frasier not only went on to become a regular on Cheers, but consequently the star of his own spin off series that lasted as long as Cheers.
In hindsight its easy to say how special the character of Frasier is, but at the time I am not sure that many people would have named him as the one to star in his own series.
However when you watch Cheers its obvious that Frasier even in Cheers is capable of carrying a series on his own. His episodes with Lilith often feel like a different show to the rest of Cheers already. There are whole episodes where Frasier can go without the rest of the gang and just hang around with Lilith and when those two are together you don’t even notice that none of the others are around.
Now I have mixed feelings towards the character of Diane. Shelly Longs performance was always excellent. She could cope with the both the serious (which she was often called on to do more than any other cast member even Danson) and the comedic moments too.
However I do think that Diane’s relationship with Sam did overshadow the earlier years a bit too much.
However there is no denying that the Sam and Diane relationship was incredibly influential not just on other series, but in the overall direction of Cheers and Frasier too.
The makers of Cheers and Frasier loved the dynamic they had with Sam and Diane of uptight, more refined, snobby character with a taste for the finer things playing opposite a more uncouth, regular Joe and they would try and replicate it many times. Frasier and Lilith with the rest of the gang are this and yes even Martin and Frasier are this. Obviously there is no romantic angle in the Martin and Frasier relationship, but the same idea of the pompous intellectual and the person with the more simple tastes being forced to be together (in this case live together) and finding it difficult because of their different personalities has shades of Sam and Diane.
I think Diane’s biggest strength as an individual character is the fact that she is so kind and loyal. A lot of the time she serves not only as the voice of reason, but the moral compass of the gang such as in “The Boys in the Bar” or “Cliffies Rockie Moment” where Diane is the only one who stands up for Cliff when a bully is trying to intimidate him.
However having said that I feel Diane was at her best in series 5 when they actually made the character more unlikable. This series contains some of her funniest moments such as her driving Cleese’s character mad or her disasterous attempts at being a dancer or her butchering the movie they made to convince Woody’s parents to let him stay in Boston.
Overall whilst Diane is not my favorite character in the series I don’t deny that the show probably wouldn’t have been the success with viewers it was in the earlier years without her and her relationship with Sam or begrudge her her incredibly important place in television history.
One of my favorite characters Rebecca probably makes me laugh more than anyone else in the series. There are just so many moments where her character has a complete break down that should actually be upsetting as often you are watching a persons entire life just collapse, but instead makes you laugh. Among my favorite moments are when she breaks down at her father, gets drunk at her engagement party and pronounces it champlaigne, gets hysterical at being the only one not winning at a machine, or when she bemoans about how she is too stupid to live.
One moment that I think sums her up well is when the bar is cheering and she comes in and doesn’t know what is going on and she tells them that if they don’t tell her what is going on she is going to cry. That to me just sums up how fragile and damaged she becomes.
I think Rebecca was arguably the most well developed character across the 11 series as she was the only one who really changed. When we first see her she is like Lilith a cold, powerful strong woman. However where as Lilith keeps her cooly, intellectual persona not only throughout Cheers but all of Frasier too, Rebecca by the end of series 6 just becomes a mere shell of her former self and Alley is able to make the tragic story of this woman having a complete mental breakdown seem hilarious to the viewers, largely through her natural talent as a physical comedienne.
Cliffie is one of my favorite characters. I often felt you are not sure of what to make of his character. At times he seems like a complete moron such as during his attempts to become a stand up comedian which ends in unmitigated disaster. At other times he seems like a total lunatic such as when he believes that Adolf Hitler is living in his building. And there are even times it feels like (to me at least) that he is actually aware that all of his ridiculous little known facts are nonsense such as when Frasier corrects him about knuckle cracking and he demonstrates complete awareness that his theory about it was nonsense. This suggest he is just making all of his insane theories up for a laugh and winding the rest of the bar up, making him the ultimate troll. All of this of course helps to make him one of the best characters in the show.
The only thing I don’t like about Cliff is how horrible the other characters are to him. At times it can actually feel a little bit sad seeing Cliff constantly be made to feel left out and made fun of by everyone. Cliff often does not deserve the vile treatment he gets, in fact Cliff is often actually quite nice such as when Paul feels left out and Cliff buys him both a cake and a pizza to make him feel welcome in Cheers. Thus it can feel a little bit sad to see such a nice man be mistreated so horribly.
Cheers most loyal customer (despite never paying for his drinks). Norm is probably the character of Cheers that has entered into popular culture the most even more so than Frasier. Everyone knows Norm and the way everyone shouts NORM every time he enters the bar.
Norm always came across as a very likable character because he was definitely the most down to earth and easy going member of the gang. He didn’t have Sam’s extreme vanity, Carla’s bitterness, Frasier, Diane or Lilith’s pomposity, Woody and Coach’s simple nature or Cliff’s insanity!
Often he would be the straight man to many of the other characters OTT nature.
One of the most famous aspects of Norm’s personality was his relationship with his never seen wife Vera. Though Norm often made many remarks at poor Vera’s expense when it truly mattered he came through for her such as the wonderful moment where he threatened to make John Hill a pretzel unless he apologized for being mean to her.
Coach Ernie Pantuso
Coach who sadly only appeared in three seasons due to Nicholas Collasanto’s passing was one of the shows most likable characters. Much like Sam he was friends with everyone in the bar due to his sweet, kind and caring nature.
The episode that I think really demonstrates what a wonderful character he is is the second episode of the entire series “Coach’s Daughter” where we see him persuade his daughter not to marry her awful fiance just to settle.
His relationship with Sam was very well balanced as though Sam was obviously more intelligent, Coach was still older and in some ways still wiser than Sam. Also the fact that they had a history with one another during Sam’s baseball days further helped to add to their closeness.
Coach’s replacement Woody was initially just a young Coach. In one episode the man who had owned Cheers before Sam believes when he first meets Woody that Woody is Coach’s son. However as time went on I felt that they made Woody into so much more.
The fact that he was younger allowed them to take his relationship with Sam in a totally different direction. Where as Sam had looked on Coach as being a mentor in some ways, with Woody it was the reverse and Woody was more like a younger brother to Sam. Some episodes even saw Sam become jealous of the much younger Woody.
Woody I think really came into his own when the character of Kelly was introduced. Woody and Kelly centric episodes are always really good because they are such a sweet couple who often wander completely unaware into absolute disaster or fall victim to a cruel manipulative third party such as Kelly’s own father or Henri.
Dr Lilith Sternin
Frasiers one true love (in Cheers at least). Lilith much like Frasier himself was a character who was completely made by the actor who played her. Originally just intended to be a one time bad date of Frasiers, Newirth made such an impression and had such a great rapport with Grammer that they would have been mad not to bring her back.
Lilith is actually my favorite female character in the series. Its brilliant the way she is just so cold, logical and emotionless and the few times we see her emotions emerge its always so awkward and just plain weird. Such as her sobbing when Frasier leaves her or her laughing at Cliff’s bad jokes.
I think her friendship with Cliff is often not mentioned enough in reviews and retrospectives of Cheers. I loved the way that she and Cliff ended up getting along because she was the only person in the bar, nay the entire planet earth who found his awful jokes amusing.
Lilith despite her robotic personality had an incredible sex appeal. This was one of the great ironies of her character despite her completely repressed and emotionless nature she had an incredible libido and sex life.
The character of Lilith would go on to appear as a major recurring character on Frasier which would see her and Frasiers relationship develop further.
Oh dear here we come to my least favorite character in Cheers. In fact Carla is the only character I dislike from Cheers. Now in all fairness I think that Rhea Pearlman was excellent in the role, but the problem was how Carla was written.
She was portrayed as a totally unsympathetic, nasty piece of work with virtually no redeeming features. She would be better in a British sitcom with other unsympathetic characters, but in an American sitcom alongside characters like Frasier and Coach she seems horribly out of place.
Her treatment of Cliff just made her seem like a nasty school bully that you hoped someone would put in their place. The moment where Lilith humiliates her in season 11 and threatens to smash her teeth in if she ever makes fun of her again is one of my all time favorite moments in anything. I do like the way like all bullies Carla doesn’t say anything back to Lilith the first person who finally stands up to her.
I think Carla can be okay when she plays off of the right characters. Her and Frasier actually were often quite a good pair together. Often with Frasier she seemed like less of a bully as he could hold his own more than Cliff. Also Frasier being the man of science was quite a good match for the highly superstitious Carla. One of my favorite episodes is “Airport 5” where Frasier helps Carla overcome her fear of flying. I always loved the moment where as the plane is taking off Frasier tells Carla if she wants she can hold on to him and Carla grabs onto his face.
Carla should have been in more episodes with Frasier.
Cheers is possibly the most influential American sitcom of all time. Its influence can be seen in a number of both American and British sitcoms.
I think in many ways Cheers was the template for the many successful American sitcoms that followed it. The Sam and Diane romance, the two characters who switch between being friends and lovers constantly often to the annoyance and amusement of their friends has been replicated many times to the point where it has almost become a staple of American sitcoms.
Ross and Rachel, JD and Elliot and most recently Penny and Leonard. It should be noted that the creators of many successful series such as Scrubs and The Big Bang Theory have cited Cheers as a huge influence as have many prominent British writers such as Graham Linehan the creator of Father Ted and The IT Crowd.
There are other aspects of Cheers that have popped up in other sitcoms throughout the years however.
For instance Gary, the rival to the main character who is always engaged in petty feuds with the main character has become a staple of sitcoms both British and American since, such as Father Dick Byrne from Father Ted, Will Wheaton from “The Big Bang Theory” and even Kam Winston from Cheers own spin off “Frasier”.
However where I think Cheers biggest influence can be found is the fact that it really laid down what American sitcoms where meant to be. More sentimental and emotional at times even bordering on soap opera style comedies. As I said before that is often the big difference between American and British sitcoms. British sitcoms are often darker and revolves around more unsympathetic characters where as American sticoms such as Friends and Scrubs and The Big Bang Theory revolve around more sympathetic characters and are generally more feelgood. I think it was Cheers that was the one that established that about American sitcoms.
There were a number of other big American sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Married With Children which actually tended to follow the British template more of revolving around more unsympathetic characters like the Bundy’s and George Costanze, but ultimately as good as those two series were it was Cheers that the likes of Friends, Scrubs, and The Big Bang Theory would follow on from, as they kept that same sentimental aspect with more likable characters.