Cheers is an American sitcom television series that ran on NBC from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993, with a total of 275 half-hour episodes across eleven seasons. The show was produced by Charles/Burrows Productions in association with Paramount Network Television, and was created by the team of James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles. The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialize. The show’s main theme song, co-written and performed by Gary Portnoy, lent its refrain “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” as the show’s catchphrase.
After premiering on September 30, 1982, it was nearly canceled during its first season when it ranked almost last in ratings for its premiere (74th out of 77 shows). Cheers, however, eventually became a highly rated television show in the United States, earning a top-ten rating during eight of its eleven seasons, including one season at number one. The show spent most of its run on NBC’s Thursday night “Must See TV” lineup. Its widely watched series finale was broadcast on May 20, 1993, and the show’s 275 episodes have been successfully syndicated worldwide.
Nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series for all eleven of its seasons on the air, it earned 28 Primetime Emmy Awards from a record of 117 nominations. The character Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) was featured in his eponymous spin-off show, which aired until 2004 and included guest appearances by virtually all of the major and minor Cheers characters.
During its run, Cheers became one of the most popular series of all time and has received critical acclaim from its start to its end. In 1997, the episodes “Thanksgiving Orphans” and “Home Is the Sailor”, aired originally in 1987, were respectively ranked No. 7 and No. 45 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2002, Cheers was ranked No. 18 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the eighth-best-written TV series and TV Guide ranked it No. 11 on their list of the 60 Greatest Shows of All Time.
Before the Cheers pilot “Give Me a Ring Sometime” was completed and aired in 1982, the series originally consisted of four employees in the first script. Neither Norm Peterson nor Cliff Clavin, regular customers of Cheers, were featured; later revisions added them as among the regular characters of the series.
In later years, Woody Boyd replaced Coach, after the beloved character died off-screen in season four (1985–1986), following actor Nicholas Colasanto’s death. Frasier Crane started as a recurring character and became a permanent one. In season six (1987–1988), new character Rebecca Howe was added, having been written into the show after the finale of the previous season (1986–1987). Lilith Sternin started as a one-time character in an episode of season four, “Second Time Around” (1985). After her second season five appearance, she became a recurring character, and was later featured as a permanent one during season ten (1991–92).
The character of Sam Malone was originally intended to be a retired football player and was slated to be played by Fred Dryer, but, after casting Ted Danson, it was decided that a former baseball player (Sam “Mayday” Malone) would be more believable. Dryer, however, would go on to play sportscaster Dave Richards, an old friend of Sam, in three episodes. The character of Cliff Clavin was created for John Ratzenberger after he auditioned for the role of Norm Peterson, which eventually went to George Wendt. While chatting with producers afterward, he asked if they were going to include a “bar know-it-all”, the part which he eventually played. Kirstie Alley joined the cast when Shelley Long left, and Woody Harrelson joined when Nicholas Colasanto died. Danson, Perlman and Wendt were the only actors to appear in every episode of the series; Ratzenberger appears in all but one (and his name wasn’t part of the opening credit montage during the first season).
Before “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”, written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, became the show’s theme song, Cheers‘ producers rejected two of Portnoy’s and Hart Angelo’s songs. The songwriters had collaborated to provide music for Preppies, an unsuccessful Broadway musical. When told they could not appropriate “People Like Us”, Preppies‘ opening song, the pair wrote another song “My Kind of People”, which resembled “People Like Us” and intended to satirize “the lifestyle of old decadent old-money WASPs,” but, to meet producers’ demands, they rewrote the lyrics to be about “likeable losers” in a Boston bar. The show’s producers rejected this song, as well. After they read the script of the series pilot, they created another song “Another Day”. When Portnoy and Hart Angelo heard that NBC had commissioned thirteen episodes, they created an official theme song “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” and rewrote the lyrics. On syndicated airings of Cheers, the theme song was shortened to make room for commercials.
On September 9, 2016, a stage adaptation called, Cheers: Live On Stage, opened at the Shubert Theatre in Boston. Comprising pieces of the original TV series, the play was adapted by Erik Forrest Jackson. It was produced by Troika/Stageworks. The director was Matt Lenz. It starred Grayson Powell as Sam Malone, Jillian Louis as Diane Chambers, Barry Pearl as Ernie ‘Coach’ Pantusso, Sarah Sirotta as Carla Tortelli, Paul Vogt as Norm Peterson, and Buzz Roddy as Cliff Clavin. The production was scheduled to tour through 2017, but was cancelled in 2016.