Cheers was the precursor for the more popular show Frasier and ran through for 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993.
The production values were far simpler and the key cast initially focussed only on 4 central characters in a Boston-based bar. Its success and popularity spawned incremental characters and story arcs developed that spanned across seasons.
Ted Danson was a huge star during Cheers and Frasier was a fringe character, he first appeared only in the 3rd season and became a main character 5th season onwards.
His guest appearance on Frasier was an average episode – a lot of the back references to Cheers wouldn’t be picked well by the audience if they hadn’t seen the Cheers series. And the dynamics had changed as well – Frasier was after all the central character now and Ted’s character lacks the sheen in this show.
Cheers built a lot of success in its initial season by playing off on the frisson between Ted Danson and Shelley Long. Ted plays the character of Sam Malone – an ex-Baseball player who now owns the bar, Cheers. Shelley essays the role of Diane Chambers, a classy lady who is in graduate school and works as a cocktail waitress due to her financial constraints.
Coach Ernie, is a father figure who guides Ted and mediates between the warring couple. In particular Diane looks up to him as a kindly old man who is a bit forgetful and slow at the uptake. Coach gets involved in comical situations but he comes across as a warm character.
Carla is the final member of the central cast. She is the veteran cocktail waitress and a single mother of brood of kids. She is a standard stereotype of a foul-mouthed attendant who is brutally cynical but respected since she is tough as nails. She obviously sees Diane as an upstart and is antagonistic towards her. The thing of interest is that Diane too is no pushover and is capable of waging her battles with her. Sam is often found to be playing the role of a mediator between the two.
In the initial episodes a constant gag was the entry line for a regular visitor, Norm Peterson. Typically everyone would hail ‘Norm’ as he entered the bar and made his way to his favourite chair to order his glass of beer. He would be asked by someone on how life is treating him and he would come back with his trademark sardonic response.
Cheers built up its reputation and characters as it went along, Frasier was introduced as Diane’s boyfriend when she was having tiffs with Sam. Eventually she left the show and we had Kirstie (Rebecca Howe) step in as a Manager of the Bar. Frasier too got married to Lilith and they began a spin-off of episodes involving their marriage. Coach passes away after a few initial seasons and is replaced by a far younger character from the Country – a typical dumb but good-hearted character named Woody.
Overall the Cheers storyline is positive and truly reflects the ambience of the bar. It is the refuge of the tired and lonesome at the end of a tough day – looking for succour and relaxation. It spawned off many spin offs but Frasier really took off and replaced the originally popular sitcom with the familiar refrain, ‘Where everybody knows your name’.