Follow TV Tropes


Trivia / Cheers

Go To

  • Ability over Appearance: Sam Malone was originally written to be a retired NFL player. But Ted Danson wasn't bulky enough to be a football player, so his character was changed to a retired baseball player instead.
  • Acting for Two: Rhea Perlman appeared in one episode as Carla's sister Annette.
  • Adored by the Network:
    • When Cheers finally went off the air on May 20, 1993, NBC dedicated most of the night to the show's final episode.note  It began at 9:00 with a "pregame" show hosted by NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas, followed by the final 98-minute episode itself. NBC stations, O&Os and affiliates alike, then aired tributes to Cheers during their local newscasts, and the night concluded with a special edition of The Tonight Show broadcast live from the Bull & Finch Pub.
    • Advertisement:
    • The tributes didn't end there. On the following day's Today broadcast, the show dedicated an almost ten-minute segment documenting how loved the show was to people, with Today co-anchor Katie Couric being seen briefly on the Cheers set. The segment began with the show documenting the Tonight Show broadcast with brief comments from the show's cast, in addition to recapping the finale. The show then did an on location report in which NBC News correspondent Roger O'Neil went on location to actual bars across the country, in which staff and patrons of those bars reflected on watching the program from those exact bars. After that, the segment concluded with Couric, now back at NBC News world headquarters in New York, sitting down for an interview with then NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield, speaking from the Bull & Finch, about what shows he was going to use to fill the void, along with a side interview with Jeannie Park, then senior editor for television at Entertainment Weekly, in which she and Couric discussed the phenomenon of how Cheers was able to run for 11 seasons despite having abysmal ratings on its inaugural season.
  • Advertisement:
  • Cast the Runner-Up: John Ratzenberger originally auditioned for Norm. When he failed that, he asked the writers if there was a know-it-all character in the series. Thus, Cliff Clavin was born.
  • The Cast Showoff:
    • In "Mr. Otis Regrets," everyone jokes about Lilith's lack of singing ability when she takes lessons so she can sing to her baby, until the ending, when Lilith sings a beautiful lullaby. In Real Life Bebe Neuwirth was (and is) an excellent stage singer who was famous for playing Velma Kelly in Chicago long before she was cast on Cheers.
    • Shelley Long has quite a beautiful voice, as well—which is used to dramatic effect in Season One's "Father Knows Last" and Season Two's "Coach Buries A Grudge."
  • The Character Died with Him: Nicholas Colasanto/Coach Ernie Pantuso. Frasier later revealed that the same thing happened with Al Rosen/Al.
  • Creator's Favorite Episode:
    • Shelley Long's favourite episode was "Let Me Count the Ways".
    • Rhea Perlman's favourite was "Thanksgiving Orphans".
    • Kelsey Grammer's favourite was "Dinner at Eight-ish".
    • "Coach's Daughter" was a favourite for Nicholas Colasanto, George Wendt and John Ratzenberger.
  • Defictionalization: Jeopardy! eventually did record two weeks’ worth of episodes in Boston in 1998: five regular games note  followed by a Teen Reunion Tournament.
  • The Danza: Woody Harrelson played Woody Boyd. Oddly enough, the character was named Woody before Harrelson got the part.
    • All of the minor barflies, such as Paul (Paul Wilson), Al (Al Rosen), Pete (Peter Schreiner), Alan (Alan Koss), Tim (Tim Cunningham), Steve (Steve Giannelli), Phil (Philip Perlman, Rhea's father), Hugh (Hugh McGuire), Tom (Thomas Babson), Larry (Larry Harpel), Paul (Paul Vaughn) Tony (Tony DiBenedetto), and Mark (Mark Arnott).
    • A few of the recurring characters in the show's early run...including a pre-Night Court Harry Anderson as itinerant Con Man "Harry the Hat".
      • Lampshaded when Woody won the lead in Our Town and remarked that his co-star was named Emily (same as her character), so she wouldn't have to worry about difficult things like responding to a new name.
  • Deleted Role: One character who was cut from the pilot episode was an unpleasant, racist, wheelchair-bound old woman named Mrs. Littlefield, supposedly a regular customer of Cheers, who was intended to be a recurring. Her lines were filmed as part of a rough cut of the pilot. However, the producers decided to cut her out of the episode, as they found she did not mesh with other characters or with the overall tone of the show. Nevertheless, the uncredited actress who played her can still be seen as a background performer in a few scenes. Some sources credit this actress as Elaine Strich, although the unidentified actress looks nothing like Stritch. In answer to a question about the actress, writer/producer Ken Levine has stated on his blog "that was not Elaine Stritch". A copy of the original pilot script which was scanned and uploaded online identifies the actress as Margaret Wheeler - almost certainly this Margaret Wheeler. The producers ultimately decided to eliminate Mrs. Littlefield completely from the show from that point forward, necessitating changes to some yet-to-be-filmed scripts for the first few episodes.
  • Development Gag: Former NFL star Fred Dryer (later of Hunter) was up for the part of Sam Malone and Julia Duffy (later of Newhart) was up for the part of Diane Chambers. Both later guest-starred on the show, Dryer as Sam's crasser, dumber sportscaster friend, Dave Richards, and Duffy as Diane's snootier and more pretentious best friend, Rebecca Prout. In addition, Robert Prosky (later of Hill Street Blues) was up for the role of Coach, and would later make a late run guest appearance as Rebecca's tough as nails father, Captain Franklin E. Howe, USN.
  • Directed by Cast Member: Four episodes by John Ratzenberger and one by George Wendt in later seasons.
  • Edited for Syndication: On Hallmark reruns, the show's opening credits are abridged somewhat (playing the opening piano bars then skipping right into the chorus), language is censored (leaving us with gems like "I'm the luckiest son on Earth."), the end credits are sped up a bit and often shrunken down to make room for commercials. The editing also causes slight skips in the footage, occasionally leading to brief moments of a character's lips not matching their dialogue.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy:
    • When Shelley Long was pregnant during the third season, she was mostly filmed behind the bar or from the neck up.
    • Averted with Rhea Perlman. Whenever Perlman was pregnant, it was worked into the show.
  • Hostility on the Set:
    • There were rumours that Shelley Long didn't get along with her co-stars, which have since been confirmed by most of the show's cast and crew in retrospect. She often kept to herself between takes and was also perceived as seeing herself "above" those with whom she worked on the show. She did get on with Nicholas Colasanto (Coach). His tragic death during the filming of season 3 not only demoralized the cast, but it left her without an ally among them, and this likely contributed to her decision to leave the show after season 5.
    • The timing of Colasanto's death coincided with the introduction of the character of Dr. Frasier Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer. Long was what we would today call a big Sam/Diane shipper, and didn't appreciate the character of Frasier interfering with their romance. Grammer, for his part, claimed that Long tried to have all of his punchlines removed from the script but Long denies this. The writers of the show loved Grammer and what he brought to the role of Frasier, tending to side with him over Long whenever there were any disputes between them. (Grammer stated that he and Long made peace with each other during her guest appearance on Frasier.)
    • One of Long's biggest enemies on set was Rhea Perlman, which no doubt enhanced the antipathy between their characters. When GQ did its retrospective on the series, the interviewer asked Perlman if Long's antics annoyed her: "I can't go there again. I just can't. Life is too short".
    • In the Cheers biography documentary, Ted Danson admitted there was tension between him and Long but "never at a personal level and always at a work level" due to their different modes of working. He also stated that Long was much more like her character than she would like to admit, but also said that her performances often "carried the show."
  • Irony as She Is Cast:
    • Lilith Sternin was initially depicted as a terrible singer, even though before Cheers Bebe Neuwirth was mostly known for her singing roles in Broadway musicals; in 1986 she even won a Tony Award for a production of Sweet Charity (and later won a second Tony for her best-known role of Velma Kelly in Chicago. Later on the writers had Lilith take some singing lessons, and all of a sudden she became a great singer.
    • Although Carla Tortelli and her ex-husband Nick were depicted as devout and practicing Roman Catholics who were Italian, actors Rhea Perlman and Dan Hedaya are actually Ashkenazic Jewish in real life.
  • Life Imitates Art:
    • Jeopardy! uses "pulling a Clavin" to refer to when a contestant whiffs the way Cliff did on an episode.
    • In real life, Shelley Long, just like her character Diane Chambers, never quite managed to fit in with the rest of the Cast.
  • Method Acting: Ted Danson went to bar tending school to prepare and actually properly prepared drinks as they were ordered. He eventually abandoned this practice when he realized that he was being shot from the chest up and that his skills weren't actually being shown to the home audience.
  • Missing Episode: 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 (who was a sitcom writer but never wrote a "real" episode of Cheers) and directed by James Burrows, and was about half the length of a normal episode. It had a standard Cold Open followed by the theme song, but the rest of the episode was basically a ten-minute ad for savings bonds (and the payroll savings plan for small business owners like Sam - or the potential viewer).note 
  • Network to the Rescue: The show was an utter bomb in its first year, having the worst Neilsen ratings of the year. Fortunately, NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff refused to cancel it, and put it in a prime slot right after The Cosby Show and Family Ties, and it soon became the #1 sitcom in America, even beating its lead-ins. Ironically, Tartikoff would later serve as chairman of Paramount, which produced both Cheers and Family Ties.
  • The Other Darrin: Two different actors alternated playing Gary in the various "Bar Wars" episodes.
  • Playing Gertrude: Frances Sternhagen, who played Cliff's mother, is only seventeen years older than John Ratzenberger.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • Kelsey Grammer's daughter Spencer had an uncredited role in "One Hugs, the Other Doesn't."
    • Phil the barfly was played by Phil Perlman, Rhea Perlman's father. In addition, Rhea's sister, Heide Perlman, was a frequent writer.
    • Vera Petersen is Bernadette Birkett, George Wendt's wife. Birkett was actually seen in one episode, playing Cliff's date.
  • Recycled Script:
    • Not only is the storyline of the Season 11 episode "Norm's Big Audit" virtually identical to that of the Wings episode "Hell Hath No Fury Like a Police Woman Scorned," but the same actress who played the hard-nosed, lovesick policewoman in Wings was hired to play the hard-nosed, lovesick IRS auditor in this series.
    • The "main male character's older brother who is better at everything" was used for Cheers as well. Many sitcoms used virtually the same script, including Three's Company.
    • Diane borrows money from Sam in one episode, and proceeds to spend it on apparently frivolous items before paying Sam back. This is a very common sitcom plot, used again in Frasier and many other shows.
    • In Season 7, a newspaper mistakenly runs Rebecca's obituary. Being mistaken for dead is another common sitcom plot, and happened to Frasier on an episode of that series several years later.
  • Star-Making Role: True for almost the whole cast, except for Kirstie Alley who got her big break a few years earlier with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and arguably Bebe Neuwirth with her stage experience. Most dramatically true for Woody Harrelson, who went on to a very successful film career.
  • Technology Marches On:
    • In the Season 3 finale everyone at the bar is impressed by Sam's new answering machine. In Season 4 Sam is jealous when Diane's boyfriend has a car phone.
    • In "Where Nobody Knows Your Name" Frasier mentions the bar TV's "sixteen wonderful cable channels",
    • Rebecca's "very expensive calculator" in "My Son, the Father".
    • In "Norm and Cliff's Excellent Adventure", Woody buys Rebecca "a portable, solar-powered phone".
    • In "Those Lips, Those Ice" Frasier needs a briefcase to carry around his "portable cellular telephone".
    • The computer in Sam's office in Season 7.
  • Throw It In!:
  • Troubled Production: The series had its share of issues over the years, including poor ratings early on, Shelley Long often not getting along with the rest of the cast, the illness and death of Nicholas Colasanto during the third season, and recurring actor Jay Thomas being fired and having a bridge dropped on his character after insulting screen wife Rhea Perlman in a radio interview, but all things told it was a pretty non-troubled production until the final season (season 11) rolled around.
    • After the end of season 10, the long-serving showrunner team of Cheri Eichen, Bill Steinkellner and Phoef Sutton departed, leaving the far less experienced duo of Tom Anderson and Dan O'Shannon to take over. Running out of ideas, writers started focusing a lot more on the flaws of the characters in order to create comedic tension, along with recycling a script from sister show Wings wholesale.
    • Near the middle of the season, Ted Danson announced that it would be his final year. The writers approached Woody Harrelson to take over as the lead actor, but he declined unless Danson stayed on. Other actors were also starting to grow bored of their roles and wanted out of the series, too, forcing the writers to hustle their resources together to write in an ending that made sense. As the season came to a close, many characters were given closure that seemed to come almost out of nowhere. Lillith's actress, Bebe Neuwirth, also left the show mid-season to return to the theatre, and made few appearances afterwards.
    • The final episode was set to be filmed and Long was brought back. The writers had a minor feud over whether to allow Diane and Sam to be together. Shoots took so long that Long had to go back to her other commitments, and the episode's closing scene in the bar was filmed without her. The scene was also done in secret without a studio audience, meaning a laugh track had to be added after the fact. The final episode proved to be one of the most watched and remembered series finales in television history.
    • Then there's the matter of Kelsey Grammer's substance abuse, which took a spike in this 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.
    • Speaking of Grammer — the writers often gave him the unfunniest lines to read, and he would often make them funny through pure force of personality.
  • Unfinished Episode: A cliffhanger was planned for the sixth season wherein Sam discovers a former girlfriend is HIV positive, thus putting Sam himself at risk. The episode was never filmed, due to the writers' strike.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The show is soaked in '80s (and very early '90s) style and culture.
    • In the pilot, Diane predicts that her (ex-)fiance Sumner Sloan will be on the cover of Saturday Review someday - unlikely, considering that it ceased publication that very year (1982).
    • The first season is set against the backdrop of the early 1980s recession - Norm, an accountant, spends most of the season unemployed. On the other hand, Cliff, a postal worker, enjoys the kind of job security that could only come in the days before the union-busting of The ’80s and The '90s, followed by the rise of the internet as an existential threat to the very idea of postal service.
    • Many of the politician and pro athlete guest stars quite firmly date the episode in which they make their appearance:
      • Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, made a cameo in a first-season episode (a writer later joked that he was the biggest star the low-rated show could attract at the time), firmly setting it before he retired in 1987. (Fun fact: Cheers - or rather, the Bull and Finch - was actually physically located within his constituency, making him one of the more plausible celebrity guests.)
      • Gary Hart's cameo in the fourth season finale (which aired on May 8th, 1986) really stands out here. When starstruck Diane meets him, she exclaims that he "could have been President" (a reference to his second-place finish in the 1984 Democratic primaries). Then she remarks that he "could still be President", and indeed he was considered a front-runner for the 1988 nomination... until the Donna Rice scandal broke out just over a year after the episode aired. (Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who also appeared on Cheers, won the nomination instead.)
    • Cliff's appearance on Jeopardy! is firmly dated to when it was shot (late 1989) and aired (January 1990) due to the set design (even at the time, the set was frequently renovated between seasons), the musical cues (the synth-heavy intro was dumped and a mix emphasizing the percussion debuted in 1991), the sound design (most of the "classic" sound effects have now been replaced), and Alex's appearance (the mustache is still present, and his hair is salt-and-pepper, not to mention thicker and wavier than it is today).
    • Diane's return for the series finale is predicated on the gang at the bar seeing her winning a CableACE award and Sam taking the opportunity to invite her back to Boston to reminisce. The joke is that Diane leaving the bar to realize her potential as a writer had her go no further than slumming it writing for cable television. In the quarter-century since then, cable television has come to produce some of the most acclaimed and popular shows on the air, to the point that the CableACE awards don't even exist anymore because they were deemed superfluous, since cable shows now win Emmys with much greater regularity than network shows. (A network show has not won Outstanding Drama Series at the Emmy Awards since 2006.)
  • What Could Have Been:
    • The show was originally planned to take place in a hotel. When they realised the bulk of the show was going to be set in the hotel bar, they dropped the hotel and stayed with the bar.
    • Behold Gary Portnoy's rejected theme song demos.
    • Sam was originally written as a retired football player, and many auditionees for the role were former football players (see Fred Dryer and Ed O'Neill, below); he was rewritten as a retired baseball player because it better suited Danson's wiry frame.
    • Diane was initially conceived as a sassy, career-driven businesswoman; if this sounds familiar, it's because the Charles Brothers recycled the concept when they introduced Rebecca.
    • The draft pilot script included only one patron, a barfly named George, whose only scripted line was his order of "Beer!". Both George Wendt and John Ratzenberger auditioned for "George"; Ratzenberger, after having been rejected, pitched the role of Cliff for himself (see Throw It In!) and Wendt was cast as George, who was radically rewritten into Norm. Another bar patron who appeared in the pilot but was cut was an irascible elderly woman (in a wheelchair, even though Cheers doesn't have wheelchair access) named "Mrs. Littlefield".note  The character can be seen in several scenes in the pilot, but all her lines were cut because she was found not to gel with the other characters or the general tone of the series, and she was never seen again.
    • At one point during the show's development, producers considered setting it in Chicago.
    • John Cleese was to return as his Emmy-winning character Dr. Simon Finch-Royce in the episode "The Visiting Lecher", but Cleese inexplicably bowed out and John McMartin took over the part as another of Frasier's doctor friends.
    • Joel Hodgson revealed in an interview that he auditioned for the role of Woody Boyd.
    • The network originally wanted to have Woody take over the bar after Ted Danson announced he was leaving after season 11. However, Woody Harrelson refused to do the show without Danson and so it was decided to simply end the series.
    • Julia Duffy was the first choice for the role of Diane. Wendie Malick also auditioned for the part. Fred Dryer auditioned for the part of Sam. John Lithgow was considered for the role of Frasier. Robert Prosky was considered for the role of Coach.
    • Originally, Danny DeVito was the casting favorite for Nick. But then his movie career took off, and rendered him unavailable. It would have been a Casting Gag since Rhea Perlman played is on-again, off-again girlfriend in Taxi.
    • The finale for Season 6 would have teased the idea that Sam had possibly contracted AIDS from a former lover. The episode made it as far as rehearsals before it was pulled, since it was becoming clear there was no way for the subject pushed the show really far into Dude, Not Funny! territory (The episode would have aired in 1988, when the number of AIDS-related deaths was quite high).
    • 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.
    • Lucille Ball was a fan of the series and met with the producers about possibly playing Diane's mother, Mrs. Helen Chambers. But she backed out because she felt that viewers would not accept her as a character that was different then her "Lucy" characters. Instead, Diane's mother ended up being played by Glynis Johns.
    • Ed O'Neill auditioned for Sam Malone.
    • John Lithgow was the first choice to play Frasier Crane. However, Lithgow refused the role due to the fact that he wanted to concentrate on his film career.
    • Sharon Stone and Creator/Kim Cattrall are among the actresses that auditioned for Rebecca Howe.
    • David Alan Grier auditioned for a proposed African-American character that never came to fruition.
    • Timothy Treadwell of Grizzly Man fame originally auditioned to play Sam, but lost to Danson.
    • Al Rosen was considered for elevation to the main cast around Season 7, but turned the offer down for health reasons. Rosen ultimately died of cancer just before filming of Season 9 got underway.
    • Three endings were written for the Season 5 finale: Sam and Diane don't get married (which was used), Sam and Diane do get married, and a mysterious third ending which the production refused to divulge. The alternate ending where Sam and Diane successfully get hitched was actually shot before the live studio audience (to throw them off; it wasn't publicly known at the time that Shelley Long would be leaving the show), and this ending has since been broadcast (on retrospective specials about Cheers, never as part of an episode of Cheers itself).
  • The Wiki Rule: The Cheers Wiki.
  • You Look Familiar:
    • Paul Willson first appears in first-season episode "Someone Single, Someone Blue" as a character named Glen. In second-season episode "Little Sister Don't Cha" he plays a character named Tom. Then, in fourth-season episode "Fools and Their Money" he appears as Paul Krapence, the character he plays for 53 episodes, becoming a semi-regular in the show's later years.
    • Interseries example with Frasier. John Mahoney and Peri Gilpin both guest-star on "Cheers" as different characters. "Kim", Frasier's one night stand in his own show, was played by the same actress as "Candi", who was a one night stand... for Frasier, in a Cheers episode that aired 15 years before. The first few minutes of conversation the two have is nearly identical as well.
    • Averted with Bernadette Birkett, who appears in one episode ("Fairy Tales Can Come True") as Cliff's date, and then four times without ever showing her face as Vera Petersen.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: