'Cheers' Reunion: Ted Danson Praises Shelley Long For Show's Success
"You really put us on the map," Danson told Long at the "Cheers" 30th Anniversary Reunion Dinner, according to "Entertainment Tonight." "And this is not my opinion. This is everybody's. We hadn't seen a character like Diane Chambers for years. You really put 'Cheers' on the map with your astounding performance."
I agree. In male dominated television, the "Diane Chambers" character was strong, confident and witty.
She had her flaws, but she put "Sam Malone" in his place, each and every single time.
Cheers holds a special place in my heart. It's probably my favorite sitcom ever, along with Seinfeld, and Shelley Long had everything to do with it.
Ted Danson told the truth.
To be honest, the best actors on Cheers were Shelley Long, Kelsey Grammer, Rhea Perlman (hence all the Emmy wins), and Kirstie Alley.
Kirstie was unique because she portrayed a smart, beautiful professional woman, who was a complete and utter failure. And she did it to PERFECTION.
Rhea is so shy and reserved in person, but her "Carla" was so fuckin' nasty and mean!
And Shelley was just the perfect Diane. She became the butt of all jokes in her final season, but she will always be iconic in that role.
And Kelsey was just ... head and shoulders above the rest of the male cast members.
They just don't make shows like "Cheers," anymore.
Shelley Long was the heart and soul of "Cheers." While the entire show and cast of characters were great, Shelley stands out among them all even if Kirstie Alley was fabulous too albeit different and wonderful. Shelley's portrayal of Diane Chambers is most memorable. Nice of Ted Danson to acknowledge and recognize Long.
I also liked Bebe Neuwirth. She created one damn funny character in Lilith.
I know DL has recently discussed Cheers and its 30th anniversary, but it really was a landmark show--one television's best ever. And Shelley Long was largely responsible for its success and why Cheers was so special.
They don't even have opening theme songs on TV shows anymore. The "Cheers" theme of "Everybody Knows Your Name" and the opening theme of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" all add to what made these shows so memorable and all-time favorites.
If Long was responsible for the shows success, then why did it last for another 7 years after she left?
[quote] then why did it last for another 7 years after she left?
Because it was on the same night as The Cosby Show.
Rhea Perlman won all those awards cause she's a Jewess... Jews run Hollywood, ya know
Why are they all so willing to do press for this show all of a sudden? Were they promised a cut of the DVD sales?
R5, Long got the ball rolling and while she left, the show's premise had been set up very strongly by then.
And let's not forget that it became a slightly altered show. The producers changed and the sometimes serious tones were replaced more and more by slapstick and the show became an ensemble rather than players supporting Sam and Diane.
I wasn't able to watch the show regularly until Sam bought the bar back. I hated Evan Drake, hated Rebecca at first, hated how the show had changed...
Rhea Perlman and Shelly Long can't stand one another. Anytime they show up to these reunions, they don't even exchange hellos.
Ted Danson is good within his range, but he's just Sam in everything he does. Now he's Sam on CSI.
I think the Diane years were the best, but the storyline with her had run its course. The reboot did invigorate new life into the show for a couple of years. That being said, it went on too long and the last two years were pretty bad.
It is currently on ME TV and they are in the Kirstie Alley years. It is prior to the show taking a down turn, but the characters are already starting to get more one dimensional and stupid and nasty. By the end the characters were all pathetic and treated each other pretty poorly that you started to think, whey would anyone spend evening after evening here.
The timing also got worse in the final seasons.
The scene when Lilith reveals she'd been having an affair (which was a horrible enough character-killer; if Neuwirth was going to leave, they should have just not had her appear onscreen) is so clunkily directed and, even worse, played for laughs that it was weightless.
And burning the bar down only so it could be rebuilt exactly as it was was another pointless story.
I did like Woody's farce of a wedding, however.
[quote]Rhea Perlman and Shelly Long can't stand one another.
I remember reading a long time ago that the friction between Shelley and Rhea had more to do with makeup and hair and clothes. Rhea could roll out of bed and report to the set and be ready to go where Shelley was always concerned about looking right as Diane. As a result the shoots took longer because Shelley was always looking to have her hair and makeup freshened up.
I was not a big fan of Woody. When Nicholas Colasanto died, he took a lot of the heart from the show. The episode with coach and his daughter remains one of my favorites.
I did not know that Danson was wearing a hairpiece for the entire run of the show. I was sure all of that was his natural hair and even got into an argument with a friend who insisted he was wearing a "toup."
[quote] Shelley was always looking to have her hair and makeup freshened up.
It was actually more than that. Anytime there was a costume change, Shelly demanded her hair and make-up be re-done, from scratch.
Meaning there would be 90 minutes between scenes just for a simple costume change.
It forced the writers to crank out scripts with no costume changes, so that irked a few people/
Long really carried the first season when the show was struggling ratings wise. She is just flat out hysterical in the first few episodes. I love the episode where she is entered in the Miss Boston Barmaid contest and plans to make an elaborate feminist speech denouncing pagents, but then gets caught up in the excitement of winning a trip to Bermuda.
The first episode I ever saw was when Andy Andy tried to strangle her while they were performing "Othello."
"I love it- a Desdemona that fights back!"
I thought the years with the orginal cast (pre-Fraser) were the best. And yes, Diane was the best character that made the show.
That episode with coach's daughter really is one of the very highest points of the series.
When Coach tells Miss Dipesto that she looks just like her mother and Miss Dipesto struggles to find a way to explain how that makes her feels, she says, "And mom was...never comfortable with her beauty," well that just makes me cry. So incredibly well-written, revealing, and brave.
R17, that is perhaps my favorite episode as well. Shelley Long was fantastic in that.
The first time we met Andy Andy was one of the best Diane episodes. The sight of Diane coming back to the bar after their date with her hair all fucked up from riding on the back of Andy Andy's motorcycle is memorable.
Diane: "Excuse me while I go and scrape the bugs off of my teeth!"
Andy Andy: "Do you ever dream you have claws?"
I loved it in the 80s, but I don't think it holds up that well.
Shelley Long was great on the show. There were two sides of her split with the cast.
She is a smart person, really, and had great comic talent and was a good dramatic actress. She got the Emmy right out of the gate, got a lot of attention and thought she could go beyond the show. Of course that didn't sit well with people, especially those who thought she thought she was smarter than everyone else.
Roger Rees has said quite openly that the rest of the cast got along really well but were often completely crude and often unprofessional. They showed up late, joked around, didn't run lines, weren't interested in talking much about characters and such and wanted just to do their thing. He said he heard that as they got past Season 3, Shelley was always apart from that bunch, especially after Colasanto died, as he was very much like Coach on the show in his relationship to Diane, very sweet to Shelley, always making her feel included, happy to be working and professional. Grammer had drug problems early in the show, Perlman and Harrelson were cutups, and so on. Shelley's character was serious, had a lot of neuroses that had to be explained beyond her animal attraction to Sam Malone -- she wanted to do it seriously, to work with the writers (and sometimes would question the writers)... the rest of the cast just wanted to have fun.
Rees said that he and Neuwirth often would sit and wait for the cast to get it together at every rehearsal -- which often never happened as the show wore on -- and Shelley had the same problem, but Shelley seemed to take it more personally.
I'm sure there are two sides of the story.
Unfortunately this clip gets cut off before it gets to its best part... (Diane starts to get reallu upset because Sam hit her, he tells her "not as hard as I wanted to" and she starts to cry and says if she walks out the door, she's never coming back... He just stands there and sighs). The tension in that moment was so real, it was pitch perfect.
But watch the start of the clip... about :25 in she tells Sam she told herself "I've said to myself one day we were going to get down to the real you, well we did it..." She gets it just right... angry, sad, with contempt...
The emotion coming from Danson is just as real... hurt, angry, but even a sense of knowing she's right, and it gets him.
They brought out the best in each other.
Rees is completely validated as all you have to do is remember the cast's drunken behavior on Leno the night of the final episode.
The weird thing about that show's success was that it had two parts: (1) it had brilliant writing and a few brilliant comic actors (Long, Grammar, Neuwirth, Harrelson, and sometimes Danson and Alley) who could really make their lines sparkle with brilliant delivery; (2) it had some very appealing "ordinary guy" actors (Danson and Alley when they were not at their best, Perlman, Wendt, Ratzenberger, Colosanto) who had lovable personae and could make the audience feel very comfortable. It sort of cut across the lowbrow and highbrow divide (in part because that's what the show was about).
I agree Long was the original standout character that showed how good the writing could be; she is an oddly limited actress, however, and her unusual physical type (very skinny with giant doe eyes) made it hard to cast her later--and she got typecast in spoiled or pretentious parts. It's been sad to see her flail about somewhat professionally because I always felt if she could have avoided being typecast she would have been terrific: she was wonderful; in NIGHT SHIFT, for example, before she played the Diane role, but after playing Diane she never got to play something like a prostitute again.
Grammar and Harrelson did extremely well for themselves afterwards, as did Neuwirth (albeit in theatre) because they have so much genuine talent. Danson coasted pretty much on the love people had for him and for the Sam character: he's not a terribly talented actor, though he's also not bad. Ratzenberger has a great voice and has had some success as a voice actor. Perlman and Wendt completely lucked into great characters on the show, but since they have the least talent they've not been able to do much afterwards.
I though Shelley Long was dead. They should put her in something.
My God, I forgot how handsome Ted Danson was back then. He rang my pre-teen bell.
[quote]I thought Shelley Long was dead. They should put her in something.
I thought Diane Chambers was one of the most annoying, unbearable characters ever to appear on a tv sitcom. I never bought the Sam/Diane relationship. Sam was a good-looking, good-natured guy; why would he want to hook up with the stuck up, twitchy, VERY fucked up Diane? I mean there she was, with all her education/intelligence and her condescending attitude and her snotty ways...and she was a BARMAID. Just like the uneducated, blue collar, perpetually pregnant Carla. Why on earth did Sam want to be with the bitch? She wasn't drop-dead gorgeous or anything; why did he put up with her crazy shit? I know it was a comedy, but even in a comedy show you expect tihngs to make a little bit of sense.
r33, it's called dramatic license. Suspension of disbelief for comic effect. It would not have been the least bit funny had Sam Malone just had a continued string of big plastic tittied, blonde bimbo girlfriends. That is a dull cliche. Diane Chambers rocked his world. Called him out on his shit. Was NOT interested in him, at first. And remember, Sam also RAN A BAR. His playing days were behind him. He likely would have hooked up with the women who were IN the bar or around it. Diane was pretty, she was not a dog. She just was not a "Candy" or a "Nicole" with double D's and no brains. Also, if you watched the show, Sam was not the total "smooth operator" that he and his bar buddies made him out to be. He was kind of clutzy and dorky, at times, with women. His posturing jock behavior was a screen for his vulnerability, which made him likeable. He was arrogant but he was kind of a mess underneath. (This is not unlike the Carrie Heffernon character from The King of Queens. She was a bossy "bitch" but was really goofy and vulnerable beneath the surface.) The sparring between Diane and Sam made perfect sense in context when you understood the characters.
The film that Diane edited to send to Woody's folks remains a favorite.
I don't think that it's far off that a guy like Sam would go for a neurotic 'challenge' like Diane. People get easily bored with things that take no effort to accomplish (like Sam getting laid with braindead bimbos). Some people want exitement in their life and subconsciously resent a safe and easy routine (= boredom).
I thought Danson was great on the first season of Damages. Though I was probably the only person that saw it.
Alan Autry as Sam's former teammate was so hot in that episode when Sam finds out he's gay.
[quote]I mean there she was, with all her education/intelligence and her condescending attitude and her snotty ways...and she was a BARMAID.
For some people, education/intelligence is a desirable quality. Not everyone is interested in people in terms of what jobs they hold.
She was a grad student in anthropology as well, I believe. She saw the bar as one big learning experience- at first at least.
Damn, she looks better than she has in 15 years in that pic.
Good on ya Ted Danson.
R33. Shelley Long's character was supposed to be that way. She played it perfectly.
But the humor and rationale of Sam and Diane's relationship was that she was indeed a bit uppity and book-smart, but actually, she was sort of a loser like the rest of the characters. She couldn't or didn't succeed in her own profession (whatever that was). And she wasn't street-smart enough to really make it in the big bad world.
So the humor came from her "lording" over everyone in a place she really didn't belong, as well as acting superior because Long's character was indeed intelligent among a bunch of neanderthals. She could make fun of them--and they could make fun of her. And that's what sustained the show and her relationship with others in the bar--and with Sam.
And then there's always the cat and mouse--and animal attraction Sam and Diane had toward one another that for at least five years made for "must-see," funny television.
Didn't Long attempt suicide a few years ago after her film career bombed?
By the way, Shelley was fabulous and funny in "Troop Beverly Hills."
A guilty pleasure of mine.
[quote]I thought Diane Chambers was one of the most annoying, unbearable characters ever to appear on a tv sitcom.
Finally someone said it. She sounds like a bitch, too.
Exactly, R43, This is summed up in the episode when they go to the opera and Diane is trying to educate them and then the camera pans over all the guys asleep to... Diane, who is also asleep.
Wow, some of you bitches really loved this show. I barely knew it existed until this thread.
[quote]In male dominated television, the "Diane Chambers" character was strong, confident and witty.
Bitch, please. We beat her to the punch by a decade.
[quote]she was sort of a loser like the rest of the characters. She couldn't or didn't succeed in her own profession (whatever that was).
Diane never really had one. She was an English-lit grad student when the show started and fucking one of her professors, who ended up dumping her to get back together with his ex. Since she couldn't face the "humiliation" of returning to grad school, she started working at Cheers.
Btw I'm also not getting all the Diane love. I always thought she was an uptight cunt, frankly (on the show *and* in real life, as demonstrated by quitting with delusions of film fame in her head).
A grad student? Wasn't Shelley Long like 35 years old when Cheers started?
Diane was 28
The show went downhill after Shelley left.
Shelley/Diane was the best. Her relationship with Sam was an opposites attract, addictive ying and yang and very funny.
Kirstie was very funny too; she was just different; the chemistry was different. Her relationship with Sam was more two of a kind.
R40 - Literature was Diane's field
R54- Rebecca would have been a great foil for Sam if they kept her original character (savvy business woman), but they made her into a laughingstock.
r48, bitch, do tell us what you follow so we can predict how it will hold up for future generations
R34, for the record "suspension of disbelief" doesn't work when it requires one to suspend their disbelief beyond all boundaries of credibility. It's a subtle, inherent component of how people experience dramatic writing (whether comedy or drama), not a get out of jail free card for lazy, uninspired writers. In fact, if you have to reference "suspension of disbelief" you've probably already failed. People are either willingly engaged by your premise or they're not. Using the phrase "suspension of disbelief" doesn't change that. Nor does it make you a better writer.
If Shelley Long was so great in Cheers why did her departure leave such a stink on her? I never watched Cheers but I assume she was playing Diane in Outrageous Fortune which is the only thing besides Modern Family I've ever seen her in.
It seemed like the press and public were hoping she'd fall on her face after leaving "Cheers." I don't know if people conflated Long with the character of Diane or if Long had been coming off unlikeable in interviews at the time or if people were just angry she was leaving a favorite show. But there was definitely a lot of schadenfreude when her film career failed to take off.
Everyone has seen her in The Brady Bunch movies...
Life has been hard for Shelley also take in account when women get to be a certain age in Hollywood its over plus so many TV actors have a hard time making it in movies(if that was the real reason she left). Since the show was over no one has any kind words about Shelley maybe Ted has trying to change that...
Hollywood is especially hard on female actors who try to crossover from TV to the big screen. Not that guys like David Duchovny or David Caruso had it easier.
That movie she did with Bette Midler called Outrageous Fortune is a guilty plesure of mine.
R27, thanks for posting that clip of Coach and his daughter. Well done! Wasn't that Alice Beasley from "Moonlighting"?
I thought the transition from Diane to Rebecca was one of the few times a show successfully managed a major casting change and then managed to improve or at least hold. Rebecca and Diane couldn't have been more different. Most creative teams would have settled for a lookalike Diane2.
63 posts and barely one mention of Woody Harrelson?! He was so hot back then! Is this really a gay board?
R59, I think there was a lack of understanding at the time about how difficult it is to do a primetime show while raising young children.
[quote] how difficult it is to do a primetime show while raising young children.
A sitcom is the best schedule for a working mom.
The hours are basically 9 to 5, with the exception of Friday which is tape night. That is a 12 hour day.
You also get the last week off of every month. 3 weeks on, 1 week off.
She only had one child when she was doing Cheers. Plus this was filmed at Paramount, which had a daycare center for moms like her, Rhea Perlman and Meredith Baxter.
I like older, shaved head Woody better.
"Diane was 28."
HAH! She looked at least mid-thirties.
Diane's hair and clothes didn't scream "youth."
I loved watching Diane. She would have been impossible to deal with in real life, but that can be hilarious on screen (like Woody Allen & Bugs Bunny).
And I loved Lilith for the same reason, though her dreadful traits were quite different from Diane's.
Brilliant writers for both of those characters, matched with the perfect actresses.
I wonder if Shelley Long has enough to live on? It's been a long time since she's really worked, isn't it?
She was on an episode of A.N.T. FARM that my nieces were watching. I felt bad for Shells.
Danson's a class act.
Alley's Rebecca rejuvenated the show.
Diane may have been in her twenties, but Shelley had just turned 33 when the show premiered.
I loved Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith. What a unique character she was, and Neuwirth was pitch-perfect.
I haven't watched an episode of Cheers in years and years, and this thread is making me want to check out a couple to see if it still holds up. I'm sure it does - from what I remember, the writing was a lot smarter than sitcom writing is today.
I'm old enough to remember when Shelley Long quit Cheers and it was a major news story...the show was that big at the time. I know that doesn't seem like much now, but in those days entertainment news didn't really get covered in the mainstream media, it had to be a big deal for network news to cover something about Hollywood. Total opposite of today.
I don't remember what episode it was or even the complete dialogue but Lilith is getting some pictures taken and she says to the photographer, "and please do something about the lighting, I always to tend to be terribly pale in photographs." Just brilliant!
Ted Danson needs to have his ass spanked.
r58 Shelley's departure left a "stink" BECAUSE her character was that important to the show. The reason people tuned in week to week was of course because the show succeeded in ways Taxi had tried in the Happy Days/Three's Company... It was written for adults, and people who were educated could enjoy the show, get the references, and laugh at themselves.
Diane-Sam was the love story on TV that people wanted to
see resolve. Diane was also the character that was the vehicle for bringing a moral point of view into the bar, as well as all the more elevated humor. That fell to Frasier and Lilith when she left, and as a result it became a secondary part of the show.
It was a rare show in the 80s and people were sad to wonder how it would go on. The writers and Kirstie Alley did a great job for the first three years to keep it going, but it was very much Cheers II ... never the same.
The good news is we got Frasier out of it, which was even better.
Hollywood is also harder on females who have opinions. Shelley's big crime was wanting to turn out the best product she could. But the results more than vindicated her protracted creative process.
She also seems to have taken the creative process seriously. Cheers was not there as a place to get together and party with her friends.
She was involved in turning out a great product. Party girl idiots like Perlman and Grammer resented her because they knew she was the only reason they had a job.
[quote]It's been a long time since she's really worked, isn't it?
She plays the Pritchards' Mom/ex-wife on Modern Family.
[quote] Perlman and Grammer resented her because they knew she was the only reason they had a job.
How is that a reason to resent someone?
With Perlman and Long, I wonder if it is simply that they were so different (like their characters) that they rubbed each other the wrong way. That tends to build up over five years.
The very first episodes they did play up Long being younger than Sam, and she was also portrayed being more naive and innocent and optimistic. She was a contrast to the people in the bar. Sam was also not quite as dumb.
R84, it would be good for the bank account while it's hard on the ego.
Is it true that Frasier's agent Bebe, played by Harriet Harris, was named after Bebe Newirth because Kelsey and the writers hated Bebe so much on Cheers?
IIRC it took several years before they brought Newirth onto Frasier to make a guest appearance.
R87, it more like half of the first season. Lilith was on Frasier about once a season, give or take an appearance.
Interesting that Grammar had some friction with both Long and Bebe. I liked Fraiser, but I always disliked the sweeps arcs where he would find his great love with some multi-episode guest star. They always seemed so forced and false. The only characters/actresses I felt he sparked any romantic chemistry with were Lilith and Diane.
R87 your memory is definitely faulty. Out of eleven seasons, Lilith was featured in nine of them, and R88 is correct this started early in the second half of season 1. There were gaps in her appearances in her run during Chicago and appearances in Fosse and her own TV show during the later years, but a "Lilith" episode was a constant for that show.
As for her friction with Grammer, he was a mess and still is. He was a hard-core alcoholic and on cocaine during the run of Cheers, and Shelley and Bebe both were the ones that had to not only work opposite him, and put up with all the production delays and his temper tantrums and nuttiness, but that had to affectionate to him. Considering how much shit both of them take for being bitchy and cold, the fact that they tolerated it and made it work -- with chemistry as R89 says -- is credit to their professionalism and their talent as actors.
Look at how great Bebe and Kelsey were together from the very first episode of Cheers...
[quote]Wow, some of you bitches really loved this show. I barely knew it existed until this thread.
You aren't missing anything. It's a highly ovverrated show that does not hold up well at all.
For r81 and r82:
Václav Havel said, "Bring me a dissident and I'll show you someone who tried to do a good job."
I grew up watching Cheers in reruns and I wanted to be Diane Chambers. Explains alot nowdays.
[quote]The good news is we got Frasier out of it, which was even better.
R79. I disagree. 'Frasier' was good, maybe very good, but not better than 'Cheers,' especially not better when Shelley Long was on 'Cheers."
I agree, R95. Frazier often bored the hell out of me. Cheers never did.
Did Sam and Rebecca ever sleep together?
Yes, r97. In one of the later seasons there was an awful extended plotline where Sam and Rebecca were trying to have a baby.