Can you believe Cheers wasn’t a success when it was first aired? Yes, after its premiere on September 30, 1982, its ratings were so low that it was nearly cancelled. And yet it went on to be one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. It also propelled its cast into TV stardom – but what happened to them once the show was over?
10. Ted Danson – Sam Malone
Before Cheers, Ted Danson was probably best known for being “the Aramis man” from the Aramis cologne ads. Then he got his big break playing Sam Malone. “Cheers was like being shot out of a cannon,” Danson once said.
Now while Cheers may have finished over two decades ago, Danson is still much in demand. He’s appeared in big shows like CSI and Fargo, for instance, but he’s also notable for his politics. He’s a devoted Democrat who’s friends with – and has campaigned for – Hilary Clinton.
9. Shelley Long – Diane Chambers
Playing Diane Chambers on Cheers made Shelley Long a multiple award-winning actress, but there were troubles behind the scenes. Ted Danson would later admit that there was “work-level” tension between him and Long.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Long left Cheers in 1987 amid controversy. She later said it didn’t occur to her that she might “sabotage [the] show” – although as it turned out, Cheers continued on just fine. Now, she still acts and says she regrets nothing.
8. Rhea Perlman – Carla Tortelli
Rhea Perlman already had some good acting credits to her name when she was cast as Carla in Cheers. Take Taxi, for example, in which she starred alongside her husband Danny DeVito. But it was Cheers that made her really famous.
In fact, Perlman ended up becoming the most celebrated member of the entire Cheers cast, being nominated for an Emmy in every year except 1992. She continued to be a successful actress long after Cheers had finished, too, and she’s still married to DeVito – despite them having separated for a spell in 2012-13.
7. George Wendt – Norm Peterson
George Wendt started off in the broader showbusiness arena by sweeping the floors of theaters, but a decade or so later Cheers would make his name. Indeed, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award six times for playing barfly Norm Peterson.
Norm was a big success as a character and has been frequently parodied on other shows – after Cheers ended, too. And although he’s done other things since, Wendt has been called upon to play Norm again in both Frasier and Family Guy.
6. John Ratzenberger – Cliff Clavin
John Ratzenberger originally read for the part of Norm Peterson – but then decided to just suggest his own character to the producers. Luckily, they loved know-it-all mail carrier Cliff Clavin, and he became one of the most integral parts of the show.
Adults may still remember Ratzenberger exclusively as Cliff from Cheers, but kids know him as something else: the Pixar guy. Yes, he’s been in every Pixar film to date, with his biggest role probably being that of Hamm in the Toy Story movies.
5. Kelsey Grammer – Frasier Crane
Kelsey Grammer’s life was marred by unbelievable tragedies before success came his way in the form of Cheers. Yep, after getting the role of Frasier Crane – a job that nearly went to John Lithgow – his life changed drastically.
Grammer of course went on to play Frasier Crane in possibly the most successful spinoff of all time – Frasier. And once Frasier reached the end of its 11-year run, Grammar was one of the biggest stars on TV… and still is.
4. Woody Harrelson – Woody Boyd
Woody Harrelson – the son of a convicted hitman – joined the cast of Cheers in season four. He was a replacement for Nicholas Colasanto’s character, Coach, as Colasanto had died in February 1985.
For Harrelson, as we know, Woody Boyd ended up as merely the first big role in a career full of them. Yes, he went on to appear in controversial film Natural Born Killers, the hit Hunger Games movie series, the TV show True Detective and much more.
3. Bebe Neuwirth – Lilith Sternin
Uptight Lilith Sternin, played by Bebe Neuwirth, was a late addition to Cheers but a welcome one. And as Sternin was the ex-wife of Frasier Crane, the character also appeared in twelve episodes of Frasier, which earned Neuwirth an Emmy nomination.
Meanwhile, Bebe Neuwirth has appeared in multiple TV shows and movies since Cheers, though perhaps her biggest recent successes have been on Broadway. In 2010, for example, she originated the role of Morticia Addams in the new Addams Family musical.
2. Kirstie Alley – Rebecca Howe
After Shelley Long left Cheers, the show was in need of a new leading lady. That new girl ended up being ex-interior designer Kirstie Alley playing Rebecca Howe, and she would win an Emmy for her work in 1991.
Once Cheers was done, Kirstie Alley gradually became one of those stars who are almost more famous for their personal lives than their acting. Her past cocaine addiction and her involvement with the Church of Scientology have certainly made headlines.
1. Jay Thomas – Eddie DeBec
Eddie DeBec seemed the perfect husband for Carla before he was killed in a freak Zamboni incident. And rumor has it that the character died because Jay Thomas, then a radio host, insulted onscreen wife Rhea Perlman while on air.
Still, whatever the truth behind Thomas’ departure from the show – and it’s still debated today – ultimately it didn’t hurt his career much. He’s still acting in shows like Ray Donovan, NCIS: New Orleans and Bones