Shelley Lee Long (born August 23, 1949) is an American television and movie actress. She is most famous and well-known for her five-year (1982-1987) portrayal of the academic-turned-waitress Diane Chambers of Cheers. She also starred in various films—typically romantic comedies—both before (Night Shift, Losin' It) and during (Irreconcilable Differences, The Money Pit, Hello Again) her time on the show, before she ultimately left the cast in 1987 to focus both on a film career and raising her daughter. Her most well-known work post-Cheers includes Outrageous Fortune (in which she co-starred with Bette Midler), Troop Beverly Hills, and The Brady Bunch Movie.
As a rule, particularly in The '80s, she's known for playing a Nice Girl, usually spoiled but nice or otherwise naive in the ways of the world (often a Wide-Eyed Idealist), who can be expected to end up finding herself out of her league, but nonetheless has or eventually finds the pluck to overcome the obstacles in her Character Arc. (Think Jimmy Stewart crossed with Audrey Hepburn, into a pretty and highly feminine blue-eyed blonde girl...)
In 1993, she returned to television by guest-starring as Diane in the Cheers finale. Following this, she starred in a high-rated but short-lived (due to problems with Long's health) series Good Advice, in which she played a marriage counselor with an office next to that of a divorce lawyer. She currently has a recurring role as a jealous Cloud Cuckoolander ex-wife in Modern Family.
Tropes relating to her career:
- I Am Not Spock: For a while post-Cheers, her roles seemed limited to Expies of Diane Chambers, or at least plucky, eccentric heroines of romantic comedies. The TV-movies Voices Within and A Message From Holly helped her out of that, a bit.
- Ms. Fanservice: Even as late as 2000, in Dr. T And The Women. Directors sure seemed to love emphasizing her legs, in particular. Often seems to play an Innocent Fanservice Girl, especially in Night Shift and The Money Pit. Hello Again also shows her as a "reluctant" type.
- Playing Against Type:
- In Irreconcilable Differences, which co-starred Drew Barrymore. As a rule, it's almost a given that Shelley's roles consist of sweethearted heroines in romantic comedies or generally lighthearted and heartwarming fair. This film seems to start off as such a romantic comedy...and then becomes a Black Comedy dealing with the dark side of the effects of stardom...and the tragic effects that spousal conflict can have on children (Shelley's the mother, Drew's the daughter). The film was Oscar Bait through and through—and both Shelley and Drew received nominations.
- In Caveman, where she plays...a cavewoman.
- In the ABC miniseries Voices Within: The Lives Of Truddi Chase, she plays the title character—a real-life woman with over 90 multiple personalities brought on by a dark, traumatic childhood.
- An episode of Diagnosis: Murder guest-starred her as an Above Good and Evil crime novelist who kills her agent—both because he's giving her a hard time over her writer's block...and in order to give herself some inspiration, as she watches Dick Van Dyke and company try and solve her perfect crime.
- She guest-starred on an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch...as a wicked (yet lovely) witch living on top of a giant beanstalk. And she's BRUNETTE!
- What Could Have Been: Good Advice was said to have been on the road to becoming a big sitcom success—and would have heralded Shelley's return to stardom after a series of minor movie hits at best, flops at worst. Sadly, problems with her health ultimately led to the show being cancelled long before its time.
- According to Shelley herself, had the staff of Cheers agreed to have Sam and Diane marry by the end of Season 5, it probably would've convinced her to stay with the show.
- Shelley was actually offered the role of Elliot's mother in ET The Extraterrestrial. Unfortunately, she had to turn it down as she had already signed on to do Night Shift, and there would be scheduling conflicts.
- She was also considered for prominent roles in Working Girl, Jumpin' Jack Flash (for Whoopi Goldberg's role, if you can believe it!) and My Stepmother Is an Alien.