Dead last in the ratings and nearly canceled after its first year, ‘Cheers‘ went on to become one of the most successful sitcoms in history.
Let’s revisit the happy half-hour at the bar where everybody knows your name to find out what the regulars have been up to since Sam’s joint was shuttered 15 years ago.
Sam Malone (1982-1993)
Then: Former Red Sox pitcher, recovering alcoholic and unrepentant ladies man Sam Malone was rarely Sam Alone as bartender/owner of the Cheers pub. Whether he was romancing Diane or indulging in one-night stands, his banter with the barflies was as nonstop as his love life.
Now: Post-’Cheers,’ Danson dated Whoopi Goldberg and caused an uproar by donning blackface for a Friar’s Club roast. Since marrying Mary Steenburgen in 1995, he’s starred in ‘Becker,’ supported eco-causes and dabbled in home-brewed scotch (Danson’s Best).
Diane Chambers (1982-1987)
Then: Haughty hottie Diane was stranded at Cheers by her fiancÃ© in the series pilot and stayed to play barmaid for five seasons. An academic fish out of water amid the tanked bar patrons, she enjoyed a volatile relationship with Sam, which led to marriage proposals … but no wedding.
Now: Shelley left ‘Cheers’ for movie stardom that never quite happened (‘The Money Pit,’ ‘Troop Beverly Hills’), but stayed in the game by playing Carol Brady in ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ and appearing in scads of episodic TV, including several eps of the ‘Cheers’ spin-off ‘Frasier.’
Rebecca Howe (1987-1993)
Then: Neurotic businesswoman Rebecca became Sam’s foil and femme fatale after Diane left. She didn’t just turn up the heat — she burned Cheers down at one point. And though she swooned over rich men, she flushed her ambitions of wealth by marrying a plumber (Tom Berenger) in the series finale.
Now: Kirstie hit it big with ‘Veronica’s Closet’; and after her Showtime comedy ‘Fat Actress,’ she cagily parlayed her weight problem into a gig with Jenny Craig. Dropped by Jenny in 2008, Alley’s exploring her own diet business. An active Scientologist, she ranks as Operating Thetan Level 7.
Carla Tortelli-LeBec (1982-1993)
Then: This sharp-tongued barmaid had a harsh word for everyone: “If you can’t say anything nice, say it about Diane.” Appearing in all 273 episodes (along with Sam and Norm), Perlman’s Carla had eight kids, two ex-husbands, and one TV-requisite heart of gold.
Now: Perlman’s ‘The Tortellis’ was the first ‘Cheers’ spin-off but lasted only 13 episodes, sparking protests for perpetuating Italian-American stereotypes. These days, Perlman’s busy with stage and screen work; she authored the Otto Undercover children’s book series and is married to Danny DeVito.
Woody Boyd (1985-1993)
Then: Stepping in to fill the “adorable dumb guy” role after Coach died, assistant bartender and full-time straight man Woody was the butt of many jokes, most of them based on his relentlessly good-hearted idiocy.
Now: After years of playing dumb, Woody made a lot of smart career moves, starring in hit movies like ‘White Men Can’t Jump,’ ‘Indecent Proposal’ and ‘Kingpin.’ Nominated for an Oscar in ‘The People Versus Larry Flynt,’ Harrelson also champions environmental causes and the legalization of marijuana.
Norm Peterson (1982-1993)
Then: Ultimate regular Norm (or “NOOORM!”) was a beer-drinking machine who joked constantly with bar staff and his snide-kick, Cliff. A six-time Emmy nominee and a very Norm-like six-time loser, Wendt appeared in every ‘Cheers’ episode.
Now: Wendt’s career has mostly amounted to appearances as Norm on series like ‘St. Elsewhere,’ ‘Wings,’ ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Frasier.’ In 1993, Wendt and John “Cliff” Ratzenberger sued (and settled with) Paramount for using their likenesses on robot characters at a chain of ‘Cheers’-themed bars.
Cliff Clavin (1982-1993)
Then: After auditioning unsuccessfully for the part of Norm, Ratzenberger convinced producers that Cheers needed a know-nothing know-it-all. So they created mama’s boy mailman Cliff to wax erroneous on topics like how the first Thanksgiving involved ancient Egyptians and space aliens.
Now: Since ‘Cheers,’ Ratzenberger has had a full dance card, including lasting six weeks on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ His voice is featured in all of Pixar’s movies (‘Toy Story,’ ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘Cars,’ etc.), and he hosts the Travel Channel series ‘John Ratzenberger’s Made in America.’
Frasier Crane (1984-1993)
Then: Freudian fussbudget Frasier joined the ‘Cheers’ party two years late, but stayed to the bittersweet end with his smart putdowns and snooty ‘tude. Left at the altar by Diane, the Harvard shrink married fellow intellectual Lilith before dumping her on the way to his own hit sitcom in Seattle.
Now: As Frasier, Grammer enjoyed a 20-year run on ‘Cheers’ and ‘Frasier’; he also won an Emmy as Sideshow Bob on ‘The Simpsons.’ And despite early personal traumas, including the murders of his father and sister, Grammer continues to succeed, bouncing back with the 2007 sitcom ‘Back to You.’
Lilith Stermin (1986-1993)
Then: Uptight Frasier met his match in psychiatrist Lilith, whose ice-queen exterior housed a smoldering sensuality. The combustible pair married and had a child, but split when she ran off to live in an eco-pod with a colleague.
Now: After the bar closed, Neuwirth, already a theater veteran, lit up the Great White Way as Velma Kelly in ‘Chicago,’ winning her second Tony. Between film and stage roles she also earned her third Emmy by reprising Lilith on ‘Frasier.’
Ernie ‘Coach’ Pantusso (1982-1985)
Then: Though he’d been Sam’s Red Sox mentor, the dim-bulb barman said he got the name because he liked flying coach.
Now: Colasanto’s unexpected death at 61 was a cruel blow. ‘Cheers’ kept Coach alive for a time with outtakes, and honored him by hanging his prized Geronimo portrait on set.
Then: Boston Bruins hockey goalie Eddie scored with Carla and married her after she got pregnant. But Thomas was written off the show for insulting Rhea Perlman’s looks on his radio talk show. Oops! The writers banished Eddie to a traveling ice show, where he was killed by a Zamboni machine.
Now: After getting iced by ‘Cheers’ scribes, Thomas played radio talker Jerry Gold on ‘Murphy Brown.’ And he continued the shock jock routine in real life, currently hosting a show on Sirius. When he’s not broadcasting or acting, Thomas sells real estate in Santa Barbara, California.
Then: A sleazebag deadbeat dad, Carla’s ex-hubby was an easy mark for putdowns in the pub. Nick married bombshell Loretta in Season 2 to irk Carla, but his exes ultimately bonded over his odious personality.
Now: The longtime character actor made a go of the ill-fated ‘Cheers’ spinoff ‘The Tortellis,’ returning to film to play Alicia Silversone’s dad in ‘Clueless’ and Richard Nixon in ‘Dick.’ Among his dozens of stage and screen roles was a touching turn on ‘Monk’ as Adrian’s long-lost dad.
Then: The second wife of Carla’s ex-husband Nick, ditzy aspiring singer Loretta described herself as a “taller, blonder, less-Mormon Marie Osmond.” She went from being Carla’s rival to her ally against Nick when she “realized that Carla and I are both women.”
Now: Jean is the spouse of influential rock radio legend Casey Kasem. Despite a series of small movie and TV roles, she’s been more successful in business, creating Little Liberty Cribs, a unique line of round and heart-shaped baby beds (for which she holds 11 patents).
Then: Billionaire blowhard Robin wooed and wowed Rebecca, who was smitten by his cash — until Sam caught Robin conspiring to swindle the corporation that owned Cheers and frame Rebecca for it. Robin got busted, went on the lam and was later left at the altar by Rebecca.
Now: Having appeared in a wide range of stage and screen roles, he’s probably best known stateside as eccentric British diplomat Lord John Marbury on ‘The West Wing.’ He also popped recently up on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ as Cristina Yang’s ex-paramour, Dr. Colin Marlow.
Harry the Hat
Then: Drawing upon Anderson’s real-life background as a street magician and his popular magic-comedy act, Harry the Hat thrived on the gullible marks at Cheers. He used his wiles to win bar bets from the regulars, but also helped Coach get back money he’d lost to one of Harry’s “associates.”
Now: Harry’s career did anything but disappear when he starred on the hit ‘Night Court’ and later on ‘Dave’s World.’ In 2000 Harry and his wife moved to New Orleans, opening a nightclub where Harry often performed; after Hurricane Katrina, they closed their club and moved to North Carolina.
Then: Woody took naive, rich girl Kelly to a monster truck pull on their first date, which put them on the bumpy road to matrimony. At their chaotic wedding, the minister died and tumbled onto the wedding cake. They lived hilariously ever after.
Now: A Prince pal who appeared in the singer’s ‘Raspberry Beret’ video (and for whom he wrote ‘Palomino Pleasure Ride’), Swanson didn’t have much to cheer about career-wise after she left the bar — just a few scant guest shots on shows like ‘NYPD Blue’ and ‘Cold Case.’ Call it the ‘Cheers’ hangover.
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