NBC’s hit sitcom Cheers was the feel-good sitcom that made us laugh all the way through the start of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. However, it was not all laughs all the time for the cast and crew. Here are the top behind the scenes secrets that producers didn’t want the public to know!
Shelley Long became a household name when she starred in Cheers as the neurotic Diane Chambers. Chambers was created as the love interest for Sam Malone, played by Ted Danson, and the romantic tension between the two characters lasted for many seasons. What many people do not know is that Shelley Long really did not want to do the show and reluctantly signed the contract. Shelley Long was way more interested in starting a film career rather than a television career at the time, but it definitely paid off. The role of Diane Chambers has come to be Shelley Long’s most famous role!
The Show Was Almost Canceled During Its First Season
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Fans might be surprised to learn that Cheers had a difficult first season, with terrible ratings. Its pilot episode came in 77th place (out of 100 shows). In fact, ratings were so bad that the show was almost canceled after its first season!
Luckily, then-president of NBC, Brandon Tartikoff, stepped in and saved Cheers. He made the right call, as the show continued for 10 more seasons and had one of the most-watched finales in television history, with 84 million viewers. And subsequent reruns of the first season did much better than that original airing had.
So Many Hair Problems
The show had a running gag with Ted Danson’s character Sam Malone and his hair vanity. The show poked a lot of fun at Sam Malone constantly being concerned with the state of his lovely locks. The bartender was known for a lush head of hair which drove the ladies wild! What you may not know is that in real life, Ted Danson was not so lucky in the hair department. In fact, during the filming of the show, Danson actually had a noticeable bald spot at the back of his head. It was so prominent that Ted Danson actually wore a hairpiece while filming the show to cover it up!
Ted Danson Now
Ted Danson, now a 70-year-old, looks fantastic! Though he’s best known as Sam Malone, Danson has continued working in television, with a starring role as Dr. John Becker on the CBS sitcom Becker, a recurring role in Curb Your Enthusiasm, and regular roles in Damages, Bored to Death, Fargo, and The Good Place. Danson has also embraced environmental activism. In the 1980s, Danson helped found the American Oceans Campaign, which merged with Oceana in 2001. Danson is now a board member at Oceana. He also published a book with Michael D’Orso in 201 titled Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them. He is married to accomplished actress Mary Steenburgen.
Sam Signs Off
Ted Danson played the character of Sam Malone, bar owner of Cheers and main star of the show. When Ted Danson decided to leave the show, the show was still very popular and television executives wanted to continue to air the series without Ted Danson’s character. The plan was to have Woody Harrelson’s character of Woody Boyd to take over the bar and continue with him in the starring role. However, Woody Harrelson refused to do the show without Ted Danson (so did producers) and the series ended as a result. Sam Milone was the heart of the show and would be hard to continue without him. Harrelson had already served as a replacement on the show once. He was added in the fourth season after Nicholas Colasanto, who played Coach, passed away.
Loud and Live!
Cheers was a hilarious sitcom that always had the audience members both at home and on set laughing loudly. The funny thing is that people at home thought the laughs heard off screen were the result of a laugh track added to the show episodes in post-production. However, this was not the case. The laughs heard during these episodes were real life audience members’ laughs. The laughs got so loud that in 1983, the show had to add an announcement before each episode that said, “Cheers was filmed before a live studio audience.” The show has definitely withstood the test of time, and it is still just as funny as ever!
Kirstie Alley was hired to fill the female lead romantic role after Shelley Long left the show. Kirstie Alley played the character of Rebecca Howe, the smart but unlucky in love and life lady who would eventually catch Sam Milone’s eye. Shelley Long’s character left big shoes to fill and after Alley’s second season on the show, producers had some doubts. It was rumored that producers were in contact with Shelley Long to come back to the show and fire Kirstie Alley. Fortunately for Kristie Alley, Long clarified saying that she was in talks to do a guest appearance only.
Rhea Perlman Now
Rhea Perlman may be best known for her role as Carla Tortelli on Cheers, but she’s continued to work in the industry since the popular sitcom wrapped. She starred in the 1996 sitcom Pearl as the title character, and starred in the 1996 film Matilda alongside her husband Danny DeVito. Though Perlman and DeVito separated in 2012, they made amends in 2013 and now reside in their Beverly Hills home together. Since 2015, Perlman has starred in a recurring role on The Mindy Project as Danny’s Annette Castellano. She’s also expanded her career to writing. Perlman has authored six successful illustrated children’s books in the Otto Undercover series.
Double Baby Blessings
Shelley Long, who played Diane Chambers, and Rhea Perlman, who played Carla Tortelli, both became pregnant in real life while filming the 1984/1985 season of Cheers. Producers decided to write Rhea Perlman’s pregnancy into the show’s storyline. Producers decided not write Shelley Long’s pregnancy into her character’s storyline as it did not fit with the character’s persona. Also, producers thought two pregnancy stories in one season would be too much for the show to handle. Instead, they used a popular film technique to disguise pregnancies in television shows: Shelley Long was filmed behind the bar or from the neck up for most of the season.
The television show Cheers was originally created as taking place in a hotel. The original scripts were written with this premise in mind. However, after producers of the show realized that the majority of the scenes took place in the hotel bar, they decided to change the show premise. The show was changed from a sitcom about a hotel to a sitcom about a bar and television history was made. Because of the change from hotel to bar, many of the original hotel characters created had to be dropped in favor of the now famous Cheers cast. We can’t imagine how different this show would’ve looked!
Shelley Vs. Kelsey
Kelsey Grammer played the character of Doctor Frasier Crane in the television show Cheers as well as the spin-off series Frasier. In Kelsey Grammer’s tell all book, he revealed that he and Shelley Long did not get along during his entire time on the show. Shelley Long was upset about Kelsey Grammer’s character Frasier being made a regular on the show and would always try to get his funny lines cut from the script. It was not until many years later when Shelley Long guest starred on Frasier that the two actors made amends. Grammer wasn’t the only actor on set who had issues with Shelley Long.
No Love for Long
The show Cheers is known for the close-knit characters on screen. This closeness was continued on in real life when the cameras were not rolling as the cast of Cheers were all close friends. This included all the regular actors in the show except for Shelley Long. Shelley Long was liked by none of the other actors in the show. Long was known to spend her time by herself when there were breaks in filming on set while the rest of the cast and crew hung out and had fun. Shelley Long said that she felt that she was better than the other cast members and refused to associate with them.
Shelley Long Now
Since her role as Diane Chambers on Cheers and Frasier, Shelley Long, now 67 years old, has continued to act. In 1990, Long starred in the ABC miniseries Voices Within: The Lives of Truddi Chase; in this show, Long portrayed nearly 20 different personalities and received critical praise. She starred in a number of television movies and romantic comedies and played Carol Brady in the 1995 film The Brady Bunch Movie. Long eventually returned to television, with roles on Strong Medicine, Boston Legal, 8 Simple Rules, and more. Younger viewers might recognize her for her recurring role as DeDe Pritchett, the ex-wife of Jay Pritchett, on the ABC sitcom Modern Family.
No Contract for Kirstie
When Kirstie Alley was hired as the replacement for Shelley Long, playing the character of Rebecca Howe, Alley refused to sign the typical contract that all the other Cheers cast members had signed. The typical contract lasted five years, but Alley decided against this. Instead, Kirstie Alley would only sign a one-year contract. This enabled her to negotiate a better contract with more money each year if the producers of the show wanted her character to continue on in the series. Many people would chastise the actress for this, but she is now a very rich woman. That’s just good business!
Alley Lasted Longer Than Long
Kirstie Alley’s character of Rebecca Howe on Cheers had a rocky start. Alley was brought in to replace the ever popular character of Diane Chambers, played by Shelley Long after Long left the show. After Rebecca first started to appear on the show, audience members did not like the character. Because of this, the show’s producers were in talks to find a replacement for Kirstie Alley and kick her character to the curb. However, the audience soon warmed up to Rebecca and she became one of the most beloved characters on the show. She even lasted one season longer than Shelley Long’s character.
Bye Bye to Bebe
Bebe Neuwirth played Doctor Frasier Crane’s ice-cold wife Lilith on the television show Cheers. Lilith was a fan favorite right from the start. However, Neuwirth decided to leave the show in its last season to start a career on Broadway, a longtime dream of hers. The move paid off with Tony Award-winning roles in Chicago and Sweet Charity. The character of Lilith was removed from the show through a storyline of her cheating on Frasier with a coworker and then leaving him to work in an Eco Pod. Lilith did return for one more appearance to make amends with Frasier, but she was never shown on camera again.
Fun on Frasier
All of the regular cast members of the television show Cheers made guest appearances on the popular spin-off sitcom Frasier. All characters except for Kirstie Alley, that is. Alley is way into Scientology and refused to go on the show because Frasier’s occupation is a psychiatrist. Scientology is notorious for its hate of anything related to psychology. Kirstie Alley’s religious beliefs have become an area of contempt for her fans and for coworkers as the religion has led her to turn down many great roles as well as speak out against antidepressants. That’s not all Kristie Alley has been up to since the show ended.
Kristie Alley Now
In addition to becoming one of the most public faces of Scientology, Alley has appeared on Dancing with the Stars. She was partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and Alley finished second place in the competition behind Hines Ward. Alley has also fought a public battle with weight loss, and became the spokeswoman for Jenny Craig from 2004 to 2007, losing 75 pounds. After parting with Jenny Craig, she regained more than she lost for a total of 83 pounds. She then returned as a Jenny Craig spokesperson for the Organic Liaison product line. In 2016, she joined the Fox horror-comedy Scream Queens for the role of Ingrid Hoffel.
Thanks to Long for Leaving
The producers of Cheers were afraid that Shelley Long’s departure from the show and the character of Diane Chambers would mean the end of the sitcom. However, Long’s leaving had the opposite effect and is considered the reason why the show became rejuvenated and more popular! The series was able to focus on the other characters instead of Sam and Diane’s romance, which was becoming boring. The series was also able to bring in new characters like Rebecca Howe, who became more popular than Diane and was on the show longer! Considering how the other Cheers cast members felt about her, they probably weren’t too broken up about her departure.
For a long time, it was rumored that the show’s producers wanted to develop the storyline of Rebecca and Sam having a baby. It was then rumored that it was canceled because Kirstie Alley then had a miscarriage in real life. This, it turns out, is not true at all. Kirstie Alley was not pregnant at the time and the reason producers never developed this storyline was because they felt is would go nowhere and also because the popular sitcom Murphy Brown had the same storyline going on during that time and producers did not want to confuse the audience.
In the season finale and Diane Chamber’s last episode, Diane and Sam are getting married. Or so the audience thought! The producers of the show wanted to keep Shelley Long’s departure from the show a secret until the episode aired on television, so to fool the live studio audience, a different ending was filmed. In the version of the ending where the audience was present, Sam and Diane get married. The audience was then removed from the studio and the real ending was filmed where Diane Chambers exits the wedding and never marries Sam. Instead, she leaves him to write a book and Sam is left single.
Funeral for Only One
Nicholas Colasanto played the beloved character “Coach” on Cheers for years. From all accounts, the cast and crew adored him. However, when Nicholas Colasanto died in 1985, the cast of Cheers was prohibited from attending the funeral by NBC executives. Instead, NBC sent just one cast member to the funeral, John Ratzenberger, as a representative. NBC wouldn’t give the cast a break from filming the hit series in Los Angeles to fly to Providence, Rhode Island, where the funeral took place. Time is money and apparently NBC wasn’t willing to lose either for a funeral. That just seems completely cruel!
Grammer Gets Grounded
Kelsey Grammer has had a long-time struggle with alcoholism and it has also long affected his career. Grammer’s drinking problem got so out of hand during the filming of Cheers that cast members barely recognized him! Grammer would become irate for no reason and pass out in between takes. This led to many many interventions while he was starring on the sitcom, but none of these attempts worked. It wasn’t until he starred in Frasier that the actor went to rehab and became sober after more interventions from cast members of the spin-off show were made. Unfortunately, as of 2016, it seems Grammer has relapsed and his friends and family are worried about his health again.
The Cheers Murder Connection
Child actress Judith Barsi guest starred in the season 4 episode called “Relief Bartender.” The episode did well in the ratings, as did most episodes during the 4th season, and Judith Barsi acted well beyond her young years and by this time had an impressive acting resume, having acted in over 25 film and television roles. Judith Barsi did voice acting for the animated film All Dogs Go To Heaven in 1989 and guest spots on other popular television shows like Growing Pains. However, tragedy struck the young child actor 2 years after her appearance on Cheers, when her father killed her and then himself.
From Last to First
Cheers is the only sitcom in history to have the honor of holding both the number one and last spot in the ratings during its run. When the show first aired, it took the very last spot in the ratings! This led to many talks of canceling the soon to be popular sitcom. The show’s producers convinced executives to give it a chance and the show went on to become one of the most famous and popular shows in television history. The show would reach number one in the ratings many times over, making that first-season low a thing of the past!