Behind The Scenes Secrets From The Set Of 'Cheers'
There are few sitcoms more beloved than Cheers. The show's behind-the-scenes secrets reveal a fascinating world that lent to the funny, timely episodes. During its original run, bits and pieces of the offscreen drama behind Cheers made it into the press - namely, Shelley Long's clashes with other cast members and producers - but the drama doesn't negate the outright magic and undeniable chemistry this group of people created.
Cheers premiered on NBC on September 30, 1982, and ran for 11 seasons. It chronicled the professional and personal lives of a Boston bar's staff and a few select patrons. Despite the often-wacky hijinks in which the characters got involved, there was always a core of reality and authenticity running throughout the series. Show writers visited real bars and incorporated some of the dialogue they overhead into the show. But Cheers couldn't have had the legacy it has today without its characters and cast: Sam and Diane, Frasier and Lilith, Cliff and Norm, Rebecca and Woody and Carla.
The Show Almost Didn't Survive Season 1
While Cheers was always a critical darling, audiences took a while to warm up to it. In fact, it almost didn't live to see a second season. The show's low ratings prompted NBC to consider cancellation. Out of the 77 shows on the air that season, Cheers's first episode ranked an abysmal 74th.
By the end of its run, and still today, it's considered by many to be the greatest sitcom of all time.
Viewers Found The Laugh Track Annoying - But There Was No Laugh Track
If you've been an astute Cheers fan from the beginning, you may remember that the first few episodes didn't include the preshow disclaimer, "Cheers was filmed before a live studio audience." It was filmed before a live studio audience, but that disclaimer had to be added to later shows because home viewers thought the laughs were canned.
"Viewers didn’t believe the laughs were earned… although they were," show writer Ken Levine remembered.
The Show Fired Jay Thomas For Saying It Was "Brutal" To Kiss Rhea Pearlman
The late Jay Thomas played the recurring character of Eddie LeBec, Carla's husband. Thomas also hosted a radio show at the same time he was on Cheers, and when someone called in and asked him about what it was like working on the celebrated sitcom, Thomas replied, "It’s brutal. I have to kiss Rhea Perlman." One of the listeners that day was none other than Rhea Pearlman.
When Cheers returned the following season, Eddie LeBec was no more. The show revealed he had been killed offscreen in a run-in with a Zamboni, and Carla found out he was a bigamist with another grieving widow in tow.
There's A "Crack" Running Right Down The Middle Of The Bar
Over the years, sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed a pronounced line bisecting the bar; seen from the studio audience's perspective, this crack is front and center (in the image here, it's behind Coach and to the left). Viewers may not have known, however, that the "crack" serves a purpose.
"It’s on a hinge and actually the right half can swing around," according to producer Ken Levine, "allowing room for the right wall to swing back revealing Sam’s office." It's one of many subtle and practical touches from production designer Richard Sylbert, who designed the bar so that patrons entered on the left because most television audiences read from left to right.
Season 6 Was Meant To End With An HIV Scare For Sam
Cheers didn't shy away from broaching the subject of HIV. At a time when HIV and AIDS were ravaging large swaths of the world population, Cheers planned an episode in which the always-promiscuous Sam fears he may have contracted the virus from a former girlfriend.
The plotline was intended to be the Season 6 cliffhanger, but co-creator Les Charles felt the episode was too serious and needed rewriting. Then, television writers went on strike, and they abandoned the whole premise.
Katharine Hepburn And Spencer Tracy Inspired Sam And Diane
The romance between Sam and Diane was one of the sparks that kept Cheers going in the first several seasons. Writer-director James Burrows originally viewed the characters as a sort of modern-day Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. "She is uptown, he is downtown," Burrows said.
But, as time went on, he admitted that Sam and Diane forged their own path and strayed from the Hepburn-Tracy mold. "Our initial concept was to... [have] that marvelous mixture of romance and antagonism of two people in a competitive situation," he later said. "We got away from that in the Sam-Diane scenes."