Nicholas Colasanto (Coach) had trouble remembering his lines, and would write them all over the set. For season two, episode nineteen, "Coach Buries a Grudge", he wrote his line "It's as if he's still with us now." on the wooden slats by the stairs the cast would use to enter the studio. After Colasanto's death, the cast would touch the slat where he wrote that line every time they entered the set. Sometime later, the set was repainted and Colasanto's writing was painted over. According to Ted Danson, the cast was so angry, that some even threatened to quit.
From the start of the series, writers and producers made it a point to never show anyone leaving the bar drunk to drive home. The series would come to be recognized and cited by anti-drinking and driving groups for depicting and helping promote designated driver programs.
After Nicholas Colasanto (Coach) passed away, a picture of the Native American leader Geronimo was put on the wall of the elevated alcove behind the bar. The picture had hung in Colasanto's dressing room, and he considered it a good luck charm. In the series finale, as Sam closes up the bar, he adjusts the picture in a memorial to the actor.
When Shelley Long (Diane) and Rhea Perlman (Carla) became pregnant in real-life during the third season, only Perlman's pregnancy was written into the script. For most of that season, Long was mostly filmed behind the bar or from the neck up.
John Ratzenberger was the only cast member to attend Nicholas Colasanto's funeral. NBC would not allow the entire cast to take a break from filming to fly to Providence, Rhode Island where Colasanto's funeral was held. So Ratzenberger was sent as a representative for the cast. The cast and crew held a memorial for Colasanto on the set in Los Angeles.
Cliff was originally to be a Police Officer, but producers felt that his being a Mail Man would give him more access to information regarding his trademark "Little Known Facts". Many of Cliff's "Little Known Facts" were ad-libbed by John Ratzenberger, with scripts written simply to cue him in to the lines relating to his facts.
Shelley Long never intended to stay with the show beyond her initial contract. Long had only reluctantly agreed to co-star in the series, as she was more interested in a career as a film actress rather than one for television.
Norm Peterson's oft-mentioned wife, Vera, was never shown. In a Thanksgiving Day episode, she finally appeared, only to have her face covered with a pie meant for Sam (and thrown by Diane) before the audience can see her face.
David Angell (who was a Writer, Story Editor, and Producer for this show) and his wife were killed on September 11, 2001, when the plane that they were on, American Airlines flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles, was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York City. They were returning home to California after attending a family wedding in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Cliff wasn't in the original script. John Ratzenberger auditioned for the part of Norm and wasn't thought suitable. He then asked the writers if they had a "bar know-it-all" and quickly improvised a character. This impressed the producers to the point that they created the part of Cliff Clavin for him.
Jay Thomas was a D.J. at a Los Angeles radio station when he auditioned for the role of hockey star Eddie LeBec. He won the role, and was brought back in several episodes in order to give Carla a story arc; Eddie and Carla eventually were married on the show. However, since he was not a "regular" on the series, he kept working at the radio station. One day he took a call on the air asking him what it was like to work on this show, and Thomas made several unflattering remarks about Rhea Perlman and having to kiss her. Perlman happened to be listening to the show, and a few episodes later, the "Zamboni incident" killed off the Eddie LeBec character. Thomas confronted the cast in the "200th Anniversary Special" episode about the way his character was killed off. This scene is cut from the reruns.
After the death of Nicholas Colasanto, he still remained in the opening credits, and Coach was said to be away on various trips or errands. Coach's death was first mentioned when Woody arrived looking for him at the start of the ensuing season, and was indicated to have happened sometime between the two seasons.
Early episodes did not have the familiar "Cheers was filmed before a live studio audience" announcement spoken by a different cast member at the beginning of each episode. The spoken disclaimer was added in 1983, due to some viewers' complaining that the laugh track was too loud. No laugh track was used on the show. Despite the disclaimer, viewers still complained about the "laugh track".
Cheers was located under and adjacent to a restaurant called Melville's. The Bull and Finch Bar, which served as Cheers model and inspiration, was located under a restaurant called The Hampshire House.
Towards the end of Kirstie Alley's second season on the series, reports began to surface that producers were looking to bringing back Shelley Long, and dropping Alley. Long later clarified, saying while she had been in contact with producers, she was only in discussions with them about possibly making a guest appearance.
Beginning with season nine, cast and crew would annually travel to Boston to film scenes on-location there. While most were filmed outside the "actual" Cheers bar for teaser scenes, some scenes were also filmed at other Boston locations as well.
Sadly, the set used for the bar is no longer available for viewing by the public. In 2006, The Hollywood Entertainment Museum was closed, and the set is now being held in storage. But there are plans in the next couple years to re-open a larger museum where the set will be featured again.
An alternate ending was shot before the studio audience of Shelley Long's final episode to hide the fact that Long was leaving the series. That ending, in which Sam and Diane actually go through with the wedding ceremony and get married, was discarded in favor of the real ending, which was filmed without a studio audience, in which Sam and Diane stop the ceremony before they are married.
Frasier was only intended to be a temporary character for the story arc, in which he first appeared. Lillith was only meant to appear in one episode before she became a regular, and likewise Kelly was only supposed to be in one episode before becoming a semi-regular on the series.
The show's theme song "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" was released as a single in 1983, and became a moderate hit. There was some belief that Woody Harrelson was the song's singer, and was cast on the show as a result. That was not the case, as Harrelson wasn't involved with the show until being cast. The song was performed by its songwriter Gary Portnoy. A 2011 Rolling Stone reader's poll ranked the song at number one on their list of Greatest TV Theme Songs Ever.
Fred Dryer was a finalist for the role of Sam, a former professional athlete (originally, Sam was an ex-NFL player, but this was changed to Sam being a former MLB pitcher to match Ted Danson's thin physique). Dryer had played thirteen seasons in the NFL, but Danson was a non-athlete. When Dryer later made guest appearances as Sam's friend Dave Richards, James Burrows suggested that Danson watch how Dryer carried himself for tips on how Sam would move and behave.
Lucille Ball was a fan of the series, and met with the producers about possibly playing Diane's mother. But she backed out, because she felt that viewers would not accept her as a character that was different than her "Lucy" characters.
The series was shot on film unlike most sitcoms during this time which were shot on tape. Because the series was low-rated at first, NBC was losing money on it. Paramount considered switching to tape, due to its lower cost. A test scene was shot on tape, but the producers hated how it looked.
Originally, the character of Rebecca Howe was written as a frigid, no nonsense ice queen, and this was how she was portrayed in her early episodes, and fans did not warm to her character. Meanwhile, Kirstie Alley had actually become quite popular with the cast. It was not until the episode where Rebecca gets drunk and confesses her feeling about her boss to Sam Malone that audiences finally responded to the character. The writers, seeing this, re-wrote the character as neurotic and zany, and she remained that way for the rest of the show.
Kelsey Grammer's alcoholism became a problem during the final season. Co-stars noticed that he was oddly difficult to work with and would often be nearly catatonic between takes. After several intervention attempts, Grammer finally got help. He would ultimately not make a full recovery until the early seasons of Frasier (1993).
The fact that Woody Harrelson shared the same first name as his character was a total coincidence. The character was named Woody before any actor had auditioned for it. According to Harrelson, he had never seen the show, and was not interested in doing television, but auditioned at the suggestion of a friend.
When the need came to create a new character to replace Coach, following the death of Nicholas Colasanto, producers determined that the new character shouldn't be a replica version. Producers saw the success that Family Ties (1982) was having with Michael J. Fox, and felt a youthful character would mesh well with that resulting in developing Woody. At first Coach's permanent absence was to be explained by his moving out of town. However, it was felt Coach was too loyal to his friends and job at Cheers, so it was decided to explain that he passed away off-screen from nonspecific causes.
According to Kelsey Grammer in his autobiography, he and Shelley Long did not get along. Long did not like the addition of the character of Frasier who upset the romance between Diane and Sam. Grammer claimed that Long tried to have all of his punchlines removed from the script, but Long denies this. Grammer stated that he and Long made peace with each other during her guest appearance on Frasier (1993).
According to the sign outside the bar, Cheers was established in 1895. But in the episode where Rebecca wants to have a 100th anniversary party for Cheers, Sam says that when he bought the bar, he made up the date.
Ted Danson's character "Sam Malone" is a recovering alcoholic. A known practice for people in recovery, is to always be drinking something non-alcoholic, especially around alcohol to help with the desire to want to drink. Sam Malone is almost always drinking a bottle of water or coffee in every scene.
Aside from Frasier (1993), this show only spun off one other series, The Tortellis (1987). The series focused on Carla's ex-husband Nick, and aired for thirteen episodes in the winter and spring of 1987. After its cancellation, the show's characters Nick, Loretta, Anthony, and Annie returned to their recurring status on this show. While Wings (1990) was created and produced by this show's writers, and characters crossed over between the two shows, it was considered more of a companion show, and in no way a spin-off of this show.
Cheers is the only sitcom in the history of television to place both in first and last place in the ratings during its run. It placed seventy-seventh in the ratings, last place, on the first night it aired, and it was in first place in the ratings for the ninth season.
While there were initial concerns, Shelley Long's departure is largely credited with helping rejuvenate the series. Writers were able to evolve the show to a more ensemble series about a bar, which provided for a better variety of stories than the large focus on Sam and Diane. In addition, Rebecca came to be more popular than Diane among many viewers and critics, while cast members found Kirstie Alley better to get along and work with than Long.
One special episode was filmed, but never aired on television, called "Uncle Sam Malone", in which the gang tries to convince Diane that U.S. Savings Bonds are a good investment. This is a special episode produced for the U.S. Treasury to be used during savings bonds drives. It was written by Ralph Phillips and directed by James Burrows.
In early 1990, Postmaster General of the United States Anthony Frank was filmed for a cameo scene. His scene was to be used as a teaser, in which he awarded a Post Department Medal to Cliff, and subsequently made Cliff type comments about Bronze. The scene wound up not being aired on the series for unknown reasons.
Much of the show's success was attributed to the real-life close knit nature of the regular cast members. One exception, however, was reported to be Shelley Long, who by many accounts would always keep to herself during any down time on the set. In a case of life imitating art, Long was also said to be perceived as seeing herself "above" those with whom she worked on the show.
After the series ended, Rebecca was the only regular character not to appear on Frasier (1993). Kirstie Alley explained that she refused to appear on the show as Psychiatry conflicted with her beliefs in Scientology.
More performers (seventeen) received Emmy nominations as lead, supporting or guest actors and actresses on this show, than did for any other series, until ER (1994), which received Emmy nominations for thirty-one different actors and actresses (as of 2009, its last season).
In November 1990, a Cheers To Boston celebration was held in that city in celebration of the show's 200th episode. A celebration featuring cast members was held at the actual Cheers bar. Cast members and show producers were also honored in a parade, followed by a public ceremony and rally outside Boston's City Hall.
The part of Carla was at one point offered to singer-songwriter Janis Ian. Ian declined, as she would effectively have to take seven years out of her musical career to fill the acting contract. Ironically, the following year Ian was dropped by her label after the commercial failure of the album she had declined Cheers to write; it would be seven years before she recorded or toured significantly again.
Kirstie Alley refused to sign a typical five-year contract when she replaced Shelley Long. Alley felt that she was a rising film star, and would only agree to a one-year contract. When the producers wanted to renew her contract the next season, Alley was able to negotiate a large pay raise.
According to his 2009 autobiography, George Wendt's originally scripted role was George, who was supposed to appear as Diane Chambers' first customer at the end, and consisted of only one word: "Beer!" Later, the writers expanded and then revised Wendt's role into Norm Peterson. Contrary to popular belief that he auditioned for Norm Peterson, John Ratzenberger auditioned for the role of George, as well, before the role was revised into Norm. When the one-line role was taken, John Ratzenberger suggested to the producers that a know-it-all be available. Consequently, Cliff Clavin was created.
In "Cheers: An Episode Guide" author Dennis Bjorkland talks about the genesis of the show: Writing team Glen Charles and Les Charles and Director James Burrows worked together on the ratings challenged, but critically acclaimed show Taxi (1978). The three of them decided Taxi (1978) was too dark and depressing, which is why it was turning off viewers. After three years, and before the show was cancelled by ABC, the three abandoned the show, and decided they would put together a workplace comedy similar in quality to Taxi (1978), but with a more upbeat tone, so as to attract more viewers. Hence, this show was born. It's no mistake the show has an upbeat theme song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name", bearing a strong contrast to Taxi (1978)'s depressing instrumental opening, and it's no mistake this show takes place in a bar, where everyone wants to be, as opposed to a taxi company, which feels like purgatory. Tweaking their own show formula worked for the Charles brothers: this show eventually became a ratings smash, while still raking in lots of Emmys like Taxi (1978) did.
The photos in the opening credits were taken from archives of photos from the 1940s, and then treated to look older. The newspaper headline "We Win!" refers to the Boston Braves winning the 1948 National League championship. In the final photo, three men in a black and white photo are colorized, and the credit for the three Creators, Glen Charles and Les Charles, and James Burrows is shown. Two of the men in the photo are brothers like the Charles brothers.
The silhouetted photo of Sam "Mayday" Malone, his nickname during his baseball career, in his baseball days that hangs in the bar, is actually a photo of Jim Lonborg, a Boston Red Sox pitcher in the 1960s and early 1970s. Lonborg wore #16 for the Red Sox. In one episode, Sam's jersey is shown with #16 on it.
Bebe Neuwirth left the series during the final season to do Broadway stage work in order to find a more satisfactory career path. This resulted in the storyline which saw Frasier and Lilith's separation after her affair with a male colleague and moving into an experimental Eco Pod. Neuwirth returned for a final appearance, in which Lilith returned and reconciled with Frasier, and was portrayed off-screen for the duration of the series. Neuwirth would later reprise her role on episodes of Frasier (1993).
When this show left the air in 1993, among network-aired shows, it was the last Paramount-produced series from the company's "Blue Mountain" era to end its run. The Blue Mountain was seen on the first five seasons of this show, but on recent reruns and DVD releases, all seasons, including the "Blue Mountain" seasons, have either the 1995 Paramount logo, or in the case of seasons nine through eleven, the CBS Television Distribution logo, plastered over the original end logo.
The address of "Cheers" is 112½ Beacon Street. If that fractional address were real, it would be in the middle of a row of brownstone townhouses. Beacon Street runs from the center of Boston about ten miles to I-95 at Newton Lower Falls.
A digitally remastered set of episodes was recently donated to the Museum of Television and Radio by Creator James Burrows on behalf of Paramount Pictures in the summer of 2001. Paramount began circulating the digitally remastered episodes in syndication in the fall of 2001, and on Nick at Nite on October 7, 2001.
In Germany, Cheers premiered in 1985 as "Prost, Helmut" ("Cheers, Helmut") on ZDF. The storylines and character names were completely changed, also the dubbing was completely inaccurate. From 1995-1996 RTL showed all episodes with an accurate translation.
John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) was originally hired for seven episodes during the 1982-1983 season. Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane) was hired for the same number of episodes during the 1984-1985 season.
Paramount was so convinced in the potential of the series, the producers were promised that if the show was canceled by NBC, new episodes would be shot for first run syndication in a early version of Paramount's network UPN. This proved unnecessary.
Diane was originally to be a Businesswoman or Executive, but evolved into a pretentious "scholar vs. intellect to play off Sam's "Dumb Jock" persona. Producers successfully revisited the Businesswoman contrast when developing Rebecca.
In episodes where scenes are set in the pool room at the rear of the bar, a poster for the "Boston Barleyhoppers" can sometimes be seen. The Barleyhoppers were a running club that met at the actual "Bull & Finch" pub in Boston.
Robert Prosky was considered for the role of Coach. Prosky eventually made a guest appearance late in the series playing Rebecca's father. Prosky made a guest appearance on the show's spin-off Frasier (1993) as a different character.
Stories that the Sam and Rebecca baby arc being scrapped, due to Kirstie Alley's having a miscarriage, are not true as she was not even pregnant at the time. Producers dropped the story, as it was felt to be going nowhere and not meeting to anyone's satisfaction. In addition, at the same time, the television series Murphy Brown was in the midst of an increasingly popular pregnancy arc, and this show's producers wanted to avoid potential comparisons. It was also at the same time when Katey Segal's miscarriage resulted in the abrupt termination of a pregnancy arc on Married with Children (1987), which may have lead to confusion with this show's failed storyline.
Ted Danson, George Wendt, and Kirstie Alley are the only cast members whose names never lost their places in the opening credits when a new cast member was added. Ted was always first, Kirstie was always second, and George was always last.
The series was originally to have been set in Barstow, California, and Sam Malone was to originally to have been a retired football player. When Ted Danson was hired for the role, his character was rewritten to be a retired baseball player for the Boston Red Sox to match Danson's body type.
Norm Peterson is the only main character whose mother or father was never seen or at least spoken to off-camera. Diane, Carla, Cliff, Frasier, and Lilith's mothers have all made appearances in the series, as well as Cliff and Rebecca's fathers. Sam and Woody spoke to their parents on the telephone. Given Coach's fairly old age, it can be assumed that both of his parents have passed on.
Elaine Stritch appeared in the original pilot of the show, playing Mrs. Littlefield, a sharp-tongued Boston Brahmin, who was confined to a wheelchair. However, the pilot ran too long and her part was cut out before broadcast. Stritch's character was named after Warren Littlefield, NBC's then President of the Entertainment division.
During the run of the series, George Wendt played off his role of Norm in a series of television ads for Meister Brau beer. Similarly at the same time, Kelsey Grammar played off Frasier's therapist image in television ads for Snapper Lawnmowers.
Of the many vintage images that appear in the opening credits, the photo shown with Kirstie Alley's name is the only image that does not depict a place where alcoholic beverages are being served or consumed. The image (which is the cropped left half of a larger photo) is of a store clerk at a pharmacy in Springfield, Massachusetts. The cropped-out right half of the photo shows a female patron sitting at the counter of the store's soda fountain and a male clerk ready to dispense a soda from behind the counter. The photo was taken circa 1895 by one of the Howes Brothers, three professional photographers who specialized in recording images of daily life and work in Western Massachusetts from about 1880 to 1910.
Rebecca's world map that occupied the wall by her office for her first three seasons on the show is a reproduction of a 1670 map ("Magna Carta Mundi") by the Dutch mapmaker and engraver Nicolaes Visscher I (1618-1679).
George "Spanky" McFarland, of The Little Rascals, appears in season eleven, episode twenty-one, "Woody Gets an Election", as himself. Although when asked by super fan Cliff Clavin, he denies being Spanky, he confirms his identity to Norm, who completely understands.
Many prominent guest roles were played by actors or actresses who were better known for performing in Broadway or other stage roles. In addition, recurring or semi-regular cast members Frances Sternhagen, Roger Rees, and Keene Curtis were primarily stage actors as well.
John Lithgow was originally approached to play Frasier, but he flatly turned down the producers as he had no interest in being a regular on a television series at the time. This would change later, as he became the star of 3rd Rock From the Sun (1996).
Kate Mulgrew and Annie Gilden both played love interests to Sam Malone and Cliff Clavin (respectively). The two guest stars (who were on two different seasons, and never met) are now co-stars (playing best friends) on Orange Is the New Black (2013) as "Red" and "Norma".
In Cheers: The Belles of St. Clete's (1985), Carla and her friends from grade school are hanging out in the bar. Even though Carla and one of her friends are pregnant, they are drinking beer, despite the fact that fetal alcohol syndrome was discovered in 1973.
The series was filmed during the height of the three camera sitcom with an audience set-up. Back in the eighties, all sitcoms were filmed this way. The first to break from this norm was The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (1987). Now no sitcoms are filmed before an audience, they are few and far between, and shows like this one seem like a relic from the past.
The image in "Cheers" opening credits that appears when Kirstie Alley's name is on the screen, was taken circa 1895 in Springfield, Massachusetts by the Howe brothers, known for their imagery of American workers. Kirstie Alley's character's name is Rebecca Howe.
The producers claim that they did not use a laugh track. In fact, at the beginning of every episode one of the cast members announces that "Cheers was filmed before a live studio audience." They also have stated in various interviews that in Cheers: I Do, Adieu (1987) a fake ending was filmed where Sam and Diane got married, so the audience would be fooled, and the real ending wouldn't be leaked out to the press and the general public. Then they claim the audience was cleared out at this point, and the real ending was filmed, where Diane bolts from the alter at the last second to go write her book (at Sam's bidding). The problem with all of this, is that when you watch the episode, there is clearly laughter during the wedding scene. Since the producers have already said that this scene was filmed without an audience, that means some sort of laugh track or prerecorded laughs must have been used.
Intellectual opposites Frasier Crane and Woody Boyd are played by actors whose real-life names are symbolic of their characters: Kelsey Grammer (the most articulate grammar) and Woody Harrelson (brain made of wood).
The Chester Heights, Pennsylvania-based professional wrestling promotion Liberty All-Star Wrestling has a Norm Peterson-inspired character called Norm the Barfly, who is billed from Boston, Massachusetts. He teams with the Maverick, a "The Lone Ranger"-inspired character who, as a single, is billed from "Frontierland", as TV Gen, who are billed from "TV Land".
Cheers fans and television critics generally speaking like to say that Cheers (1982) was the first sitcom which employed multi episode story arcs and plots which continued throughout the season. Prior to that, all sitcoms, and most episodic television for that matter, were a series of standalone episodes. Actually, the first sitcom which did this was Soap (1977). People tend to forget that because it was a sitcom and a soap opera. But Cheers popularized the trend, and most sitcoms and television shows in every genre follow that format now in part because of this show.
Though every main actor and actress on the show received either an Emmy nomination or an Emmy win throughout the show's run, Ted Danson was the only person to be nominated for an acting Emmy for all eleven seasons.
Recurring barfly actor Al Rosen was sounded out about possible elevation to main cast status in-between seasons six and seven, but he turned it down on the grounds that his health wouldn't permit it. Rosen ultimately died of cancer a couple of months after season eight finished filming.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Cliff Clavin, whose motor mouth unintentionally provokes trouble, is ironically the only series regular who was never in a physical altercation. Sam Malone kissed his best friend on the lips as part of a "Let's pretend to be lovers" charade aimed at Rebecca, that didn't include kissing, which prompted Sam's friend to punch him in the face. Off-camera, Lilith Stern-Crane's road rage sailor mouth while Sam was teaching her how to drive, prompted a fight between him and a motorist. Also off-camera, Frasier Crane was involved in a sports event scuffle while in attendance at a hockey game. Woody Boyd was involved in a "domino effect" bar fight that ensued at Cheers. Off-camera, his wife Kelly Gaines' then-boyfriend punched Woody in the face. Norm Peterson got into a "match" at Cheers with his high school wrestling buddy who tried to make a pass at Vera after finding out that she and Norm were separated. Cliff Clavin came close twice: when a bar patron who was fed up with Cliff's know-it-all banter, wanted to step outside with him, and when Cliff said something disrespectful to Frasier about his wife, Lilith.
The opening credits during season eleven changed. In episode seven, Bebe Newirth's Lillith Stern-Crane has an affair, and goes off to live with her boyfriend and colleague in an EcoPod. In episodes eight through fifteen, her name is no longer listed as part of the cast. But, surprise! Her name appears in episode sixteen, as Lillith comes home.