'Cheers' 30th anniversary: What you never knew about the show
The new issue of GQ has a fascinating oral history of the 1982-93 NBC series, with key cast members and producers sharing never-before-told stories. “Cheers” fans should definitely sit down and read the whole piece, but we’ve collected the best tidbits here, so pull up a barstool and find out what you never knew about the bar where everybody knows your name.
- It was more than just acting ability that landed Shelley Long the role of Diane. She was up against a few other actresses, including “Newhart’s” Julia Duffy, for the part, but a near-wardrobe malfunction may have sparked some instant chemistry with future co-star Ted Danson (Sam). “Before the audition, I grabbed the dress I'd been planning to wear, only to realize that the waistband had been stretched to double its normal size,” Long recalls. “When I met Ted, I realized too late that it was so blousy that I was giving him quite the view. I think it got us off to a really great start.” Danson, for his part, remembers it differently: “I was too terrified to notice she had breasts.”
- “Cheers” made its first of several smooth casting transitions in 1985 when a 24-year-old Woody Harrelson came in to play farm boy Woody Boyd, replacing beloved co-star Nicholas Colasanto (Coach), who had died of a heart attack. And the “young whippersnapper” impressed his male co-stars right away with his athletic prowess. “Offstage, it was [all] testosterone,” Danson says. “The guys used to play basketball right before the show. We took [Woody] out to give him a lesson, and he kicked our a--es. All right, we'll arm-wrestle. I still have, like, tendinitis in my elbow. He was just wiping the floor with me. Woody cleaned everybody's clock in everything. Then we got less physical and went to chess, and he whipped our a--es at chess.”
- By contrast, Kelsey Grammer felt less than welcome when he joined the cast as pompous psychiatrist Frasier Crane. Frasier was brought in to be a wedge between Sam and Diane, but Long didn’t like the idea... at least that’s how Grammer remembers it. “Shelley's efforts to get me off the show were relentless,” Grammer wrote in his 1996 autobiography. “I learned after read-throughs she would insist the writers took out every laugh I had.” But Long disputes that entirely, and the two co-stars have since made peace. Grammer now says, “Who knows? Maybe it was all my problem! I don't know. Maybe none of that was really true.” (Hmmm… sounds like someone needs to sit down with a good therapist.)
- Cracks started to show in the rest of the cast’s working relationship with Long during what would be her final season. “Cheers” director Thomas Lofaro remembers, “Shelley believed that she was the new Lucille Ball, and she would spend hours after the run-through talking with the writers about her character, just talking it to death.” To this day, co-star Rhea Perlman (Carla) doesn’t want to talk about what led to Long’s departure (“I don’t think it’s worth it, at this point in life”), but Danson admits, “I had trouble hanging around [Long] until we stood onstage together, and then I was in heaven.”