Cheers, an ensemble comedy set in a small neighborhood pub in Boston, followed in the comic tradition of predecessors The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H and Taxi, where the differences between a bunch of idiosyncratic characters were played for laughs each week. Conceived and produced by Glen Charles, James Burrows and Les Charles -- whod also been at the helm of Taxi and The Mary Tyler Moore Show -- Cheers was critically acclaimed when it premiered on Sept. 30, 1982, but was almost canned in its first season due to abysmally low ratings. Viewers soon came around, thanks to the clever storylines and the flawless performance of the stellar cast. In 1984 Cheers joined ratings giants The Cosby Show and Family Ties on NBCs powerhouse Thursday night lineup.
Early on, Cheers was hailed for the hilarious dialogue traded between bar owner Sam Malone, a former Red Sox relief pitcher and recovering alcoholic with an eye for the ladies; snobby intellectual waitress Diane Chambers, who took a job at the pub after being ditched there by her still-married fiance; waitress Carla Tortelli, a barb-tongued divorcee with a penchant for hockey players and torturing Diane; bar regulars Norm Peterson, a paunchy everyman who prefers his nightly sojourn at the bar over life at home with his oft-mentioned but never seen wife Vera, and talkative postal worker Cliff Clavin, a shameless mamas boy and veritable font of knowledge thats more trivial than useful. Ernie "Coach" Pantusso was the sweet, simple bartender (and unwitting straight man) who did his best to keep up with the banter while serving up drinks. The action took place almost entirely in the front room and office space of Cheers, and the running gag of the series was Norms nightly arrival, announced with the hearty battle cry NORM! from the other patrons as he made his way to his appointed seat at the end of the bar. For five seasons the primary story on Cheers centered on the will they or wont they? tension generated by the romance between odd couple Sam and Diane. Viewers eagerly tuned in each week to see if their awkward courtship would ever work out; they got their answer at the end of season five, when Diane left Cheers for good.
Throughout its 11-season run the cast remained virtually unchanged, with only three significant additions -- Dr. Frasier Crane became a regular in season three; dim-witted Woody Boyd became the new bartender after Coach unexpectedly passed away (as did actor Nicholas Colasanto) in season four; and flakey Rebecca Howe became the new manager of Cheers and Sams new female foil, in season five when the bar was turned over to a new corporate owner. Notable supporting cast members included Frasiers flinty, uptight wife, Lilith Sternin-Crane and Nick Tortelli, Carlas sleazy, deadbeat ex-husband.
When the finale aired May 20, 1993, Cheers had become the network's longest running series, garnering 117 Emmy nominations and winning 26. The series spawned two spin-offs, the short-lived The Tortellis (canceled after 13 episodes) and Frasier (which went on to have its own successful long run as an NBC Thursday night staple).