Drink Up! 'Cheers' Celebrates 30 Years
By DAVID WEINER
September 27, 2012
Can you believe it's been 30 years since Cheers premiered on TV? The beloved Boston-based sitcom about a neighborhood bar "where everybody knows your name" and its motley crew of colorful barflies premiered September 30, 1982 on NBC, and the new issue of GQ caught up with the stars and creators to dig up a few secrets about the TV classic, from the worst day of Ted Danson's life to how John Ratzenberger saved his blown Cliffie audition.
Ted Danson on playing hooky with Woody Harrelson, George Wendt, and John Ratzenberger: "I'll tell you about the worst day of my life. Shelley [Long] and Rhea [Perlman] were carrying that week's episode, and the guys were just, 'Let's play hooky.' We’d never done anything wrong before. John had a boat, so we met at Marina del Rey at 8 a.m. We all called in sick, and [Cheers co-creator and director James Burrows] caught on and was so pissed. Woody and I were already stoned, and Woody said, 'You want to try some mushrooms?' I'd never had them, so I'm handed this bag and I took a fistful. On our way to Catalina, we hit the tail end of a hurricane, and even people who were sober were getting sick. Woody and I thought we were going to die for three hours. I sat next to George, and every 60 seconds or so he'd poke me and go, 'Breathe.' [gasp] And I'd come back to life."
John Ratzenberger on his audition to become Cliff: "I did a horrible job. As I was leaving, the casting director says, 'Thank you, John,' and my eight-by-ten was already in a wastebasket. But the writer part of me turned around and said, 'Do you have a bar know-it-all? Because in the bars in my neighborhood where my father hung out, there was always a bar know-it-all.' Glen said, 'What are you talking about?' I just launched into an improvisation of what [became Cliff]."
Shelley Long on keeping the on-screen relationship with Diane and Sam interesting: "Our audience was so tuned in to every move, because the flirting between Sam and Diane during the first season was totally outrageous. There was talk about 'Would it be right to advance the relationship, or could that condemn the relationship?' I put my two cents in—big surprise—and said, 'In a real relationship, you take two steps forward, one step back. So just because we take two steps forward and get all the benefit from that doesn't mean we can't go back or to the side.' Ultimately, that's what worked."
Dan Shannon (a writer for Cheers and now executive producer on Modern Family) on Kelsey Grammer's partying and how it affected him on set: "[Kelsey] would ooze into the studio, his life all out of sorts. Jimmy [Burrows] would say 'Action,' and he would snap into Frasier and expound in this very erudite dialogue and be pitch-perfect. And Jimmy would yell 'Cut!' and he would ooze back into Kelsey -- glazed-over eyes, half asleep, going through whatever he was going through. It was the most amazing transformation I’ve ever seen."
For more, check out the Cheers Oral History in GQ.