May 20, 1993: Cheers finale airs

Cheers, one of the highest rated sitcoms throughout the ’80s, aired its final episode this day in 1993. The show started in 1982, and lasted 11 seasons. It was almost canceled after the first season due to low ratings. But the show went on to become a top 10 hit in 8 of its 11 seasons. It was part of NBC’s “Must See TV” Thursday night lineup. The show was set in a Boston bar (influenced by the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston) owned by retired baseball player, Sam “Mayday” Malone, played by Ted Danson. There was a great cast of characters that backed him up:

Coach – Coach Ernie Pantusso was played by Nicholas Colasanto. Coach was the bartender and former coach of Sam Malone. Coach was a bit slow and forgetful, but lovable. Who can forget “Albania, Albania. You border on the Adriatic”:

After Nicholas died in real life, he was replaced by:
Woody – Woody Boyd was played by Woody Harrelson. In the first episode of the fourth season, Woody Boyd comes to Cheers in search of Coach, explaining that they were pen pals (exchanging pens rather than letters). Sam is forced to explain that Coach died some months ago. Boyd replaces Coach, who had sponsored him in a correspondence course in bartending. He had a lot of the same character traits as Coach.

Diane Chambers – Played by Shelley Long. In the first epeisode, her fiancé leaves her waiting at the bar while he goes back to recover his wedding ring from his ex-wife. When he never returns, she realizes she’s been jilted and takes a job waitressing at Cheers to try to rebuild her life. Diane was a pretentious snob, and was the exact opposite of Sam. But, as they say, opposites attract:

After she left the show, she was replaced by:

Rebecca Howe – Played by Kirstie Alley. Rebecca Howe entered Cheers as the manager assigned by the bar’s new corporate owner. She started off as a tough, no-nonsense corporate type. As the series went on, she became more neurotic and clumsy. Rebecca constantly throws herself at the feet of rich men, first Evan Drake and then Robin Colcord, but she eventually sleeps with Sam when the two of them decide to conceive a child together. In the penultimate episode, Rebecca meets a plumber named Don Santry (played by Tom Berenger), whom she marries in the series finale.

Carla Tortelli – Played by Rhea Perlman. Carla grew up in the Federal Hill section of Providence, RI. Her father’s name was “Benito” and her mother’s maiden name was “Mussolini”. By the time the show ended, she was the mother of eight children: Anthony, Serafina, Gino, Anne Marie, Lucinda (all fathered by Nick Tortelli), Ludlow (with Dr. Bennett Ludlow), and twins Elvis and Jesse (fathered by Eddie Lebec). Carla was known for being both feisty and also highly superstitious.

Cliff Clavin – Played by John Ratzenberger. Cliff was a know-it-all mailman. He annoyed everybody by acting as if he knew everything about everything.

Norm! Peterson – Played by George Wendt. He was a regular customer with his own seat at the bar. He was also best friends with Cliff. He also had a wife Vera, who was never seen by the audience. This is the closest we came (at the 4:40 mark):

Everytime Norm walked into the bar, everybody shouted “Norm!” Then whoever was bartending would ask Norm a question, and he would come up with a funny remark. Here are some quotes:

“How’s a beer sound, Norm?”
“I dunno. I usually finish them before they get a word in.”

“What’s shaking, Norm?”
“All four cheeks and a couple of chins.”

“What would you say to a nice beer, Normie?”
“Going Down?”

What would you say to a beer, Normie?”
“Daddy wuvs you.”

“What’d you like, Normie?”
“A reason to live. Give me another beer.”

“What’ll you have, Normie?”
“Well, I’m in a gambling mood Sammy. I’ll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap.”
“Looks like beer, Norm.”
“Call me Mister Lucky.”

(Coming in from the rain)
“Evening everybody.”
Everybody: “Norm!”
“Still pouring, Norm?”
“That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”

“Whaddya say, Norm?”
“Well, I never met a beer I didn’t drink.”

“Hey Norm, how’s the world been treating you?”
“Like a baby treats a diaper.”

“Can I pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?”
“A little early isn’t it, Woody?”
“For a beer?”
“No, for stupid questions

The theme song is #1 on my list of top sitcom theme songs.

NBC dedicated a whole night to the final episode of Cheers, following the one-hour season finale of Seinfeld (which was its lead-in). The show began with a “pregame” show hosted by Bob Costas, followed by the final 98-minute episode itself. NBC affiliates then aired tributes to Cheers during their local newscasts, and the night concluded with a special Tonight Show broadcast live from the Bull & Finch Pub.

In the last scene of the show, after telling a late arriving customer that the bar was closed, Sam walks to the back of the bar. On his way, he pauses to straighten a framed photograph of Geronimo. This picture belonged to Nicholas Colasanto and was hung in the bar after his death in his honor.

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