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Where everybody knows your name... REWIND Proof telly isn't as good as it was Cheers (C4, 1982-1).

A COSY little bar in downtown Boston made the perfect location for the smash-hit comedy of the eighties and early nineties.

The Cheers bar was owned by Sam Malone, a shameless lothario with a heart of gold, whose claim to fame was his former career as a relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

The bar's staff and regulars brought in viewers by their millions, making Cheers a hit in Britain as well as America.

Early episodes generally followed Sam's antics with his various women, following a variety of romantic comedy cliches to get out of whatever relationship troubles he was in.

Most centred around the romance between Sam and the intellectual waitress Diane Chambers (Shelley Long).

In later episodes the focus shifted to Sam's new relationship with neurotic corporate climber Rebecca (Kirstie Alley). Both relationships featured multi-episode "will they or won't they" sexual tension that drew viewers in. The character of Sam was originally intended to be a retired football player, but after casting Ted Danson it was decided that a former baseball star would be more believable.

Bar regular Cliff Clavin was a character created for John Ratzenberger after he auditioned for Cheers. While chatting with producers afterwards, he asked if they were going to include a bar know-it-all, the part which he eventually played.

His bar-propping buddy Norm Peterson was portrayed by George Wendt. He entered the show as an accountant, though later became unemployed and eventually a house-painter.

Ironically, even when unemployed, Norm was the bar's best customer and numerous jokes were made about the enormousness of his tab at Cheers.

Kirstie Alley joined the cast when Shelley Long left, and Woody Harrelson joined as country bumpkin Woody when Nicholas Colasanto, who played Coach, died.

Psychiatrist Frasier Crane was originally supposed to be a small disliked character who only existed to further Diane and Sam's relationship, but Kelsey Grammer's acting turned what were supposed to be unfunny lines into comedy the audience enjoyed and he was kept on.

The concept for Cheers was the end result of a long consideration process. The original idea was a group of workers who interacted like a family, hoping to be similar to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Producers James Burrows, Glen Charles and Les Charles wanted to make an American version of the British Fawlty Towers, which centered around a hotel or a bar.

The Bull & Finch Pub in Boston was originally chosen as Cheers from a phone book.

When Glen Charles asked the owner to shoot initial exterior and interior shots the owner agreed, charging EUR1. He has since gone on to make millions, licensing the pub's image and selling a variety of Cheers memorabilia.

Most episodes were shot before a live studio audience and took place in the front room of the bar, only occasionally stepping into the rear pool room or the bar's office.

The show's theme song was written by Judy Hart Angelo and Gary Portnoy, and performed by Portnoy with its famous refrain, "where everybody knows your name", that also became the show's tagline.

A number of notable guest stars graced the set of the Boston bar.

Musician Harry Connick Junior appeared in an episode as Woody's cousin and John Cleese won an Emmy for his guest appearance as Dr. Simon Finch-Royce in a fifth season episode, Simon Says. Senator John Kerry and then-Governor Michael Dukakis also made cameo appearances.

Some of the Cheers cast brought their characters into other television shows, either in a guest appearance or in a new spin-off.

The most successful spin-off was Frasier, which followed Frasier Crane after moving back to Seattle, where he lived with his family and hosted a call-in radio show.

Sam, Diane, and Woody all appeared on Frasier, and his ex-wife Lilith remained a constant supporting character throughout. Woody Harrelson has also had a successful career following Cheers, including appearances in a number of notable films that have established him as a box-office draw. He earned an Academy Award nomination in 1997 for The People vs. Larry Flynt.

Ted Danson starred in the successful sitcom Becker as well as an unsuccessful sitcom Ink, and made a cameo appearance in the Steven Spielberg epic Saving Private Ryan, while Kirstie Alley went on to star in her own hit sitcom Veronica's Closet.


CHEERS: Ted Danson and Shelley Long as Sam and Diane
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Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 24, 2008
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