Seldom has a television sitcom opened with such assurance as Cheers. Within the very first episode, the basic setting was firmly established, the characters clearly drawn, and the interrelationships fully defined. Although there would be plenty of "fleshing out" over the next 11 seasons, Cheers knew exactly where it was going from its beginning. Sam Malone (Ted Danson), former star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and a recovering alcoholic, was the owner and main bartender of the nearly-century-old Boston watering hole ...
Seldom has a television sitcom opened with such assurance as Cheers. Within the very first episode, the basic setting was firmly established, the characters clearly drawn, and the interrelationships fully defined. Although there would be plenty of "fleshing out" over the next 11 seasons, Cheers knew exactly where it was going from its beginning. Sam Malone (Ted Danson), former star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and a recovering alcoholic, was the owner and main bartender of the nearly-century-old Boston watering hole Cheers. Assisting Sam behind the counter was Ernie "Coach" Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto), a retired baseball coach and manager with a veritable fountain of colorful anecdotes and sage advice and Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman), acerbic waitress and single mother (she had recently been divorced from the slimy Nick Tortelli, who would not appear on camera until the show's second season). Cheers' regular patrons included Norm Peterson (George Wendt), a perennially underemployed accountant and full-scale worry wart who was forever grousing about his marriage to the never-seen Vera; and, less frequently than Norm during the first season, trivia-spouting, know-it-all postal worker Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger). Other recurring patrons filled in the background, with the notable exception of local scam artist Harry "The Hat" Gittes, played by Harry Anderson as something of a dry run for his starring stint on another sitcom, Night Court. The one square peg in the round hole known as Cheers was Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), an attractive, intellectual graduate student who came into the bar early in the first episode to await the arrival of her boss and fiancÚ, Professor Sumner Sloan (Michael McGuire). Upon realizing that Sloan had jilted her, the now-unemployed Diane, with no discernible practical skills, was forced to accept a job as a Cheers waitress. This delighted Sam, an inveterate womanizer who regarded Diane as a hot prospect, but was greeted with less than enthusiasm by Carla, who never had a good word to say about anyone. Gradually, Sam came to resent the well-meaning but inherently annoying Diane as much as Carla, but viewers knew that this constantly combative couple were secretly attracted to one another -- even if they would not declare that attraction until the very last episode of season One. Although Cheers' audience was relatively small during its first year, this was more symptomatic of the sorry state of NBC's sitcom lineup in 1982 than any lack of quality. Indeed, only two NBC series even made the Top 25 during that season, and neither was a comedy. Nonetheless, those who did tune in Cheers instead of its chief competition, CBS's Simon and Simon, were enthusiastic in their support, and the series was warmly embraced by the TV industry as a whole. Upon completing its freshman season, Cheers walked away with five Emmy awards: Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Directing (James Burrows for the season finale); Outstanding Lead Actress (Long); Outstanding Writing (Glen and Les Charles for the opener); Outstanding Individual Achievement in Graphic Design and Title Sequences (James Castle and Bruce Bryant); and eight total nominations, including one for the series' now-classic theme song ("Where Everybody Knows Your Name," by Judy Hart-Angelo and Gary Portnoy). Hal Erickson, Rovi
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