‘Cheers’ Star John Ratzenberger Didn’t Think Show Would Last: Here’s Why

by Allison Hambrick

Cheers actor John Ratzenberger had low expectations for the show when he first started for an unusual reason.

“It was so much fun that I was convinced that it would never last because it was too much fun,” Ratzenberger said during a Cheers reunion special. The reunion featured Ratzenberger along with Rhea Perlman, Ted Danson, Shelley Long, and George Wendt.

Cheers originally ran from 1982 to 1993. In addition to the cast who attended the reunion, Kirstie Alley, Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth, and Woody Harrelson starred in the series. Eventually, it produced the highly successful spinoff, Frasier. The latter series saw Grammer moving his neurotic psychiatrist to a new city for more hilarity.

While it wasn’t an overnight hit, Cheers became a classic. The will-they-won’t-they relationship between series leads Sam and Diane became the calling card for television romances. The theme song is internationally recognized. Even a quote as simple as “Norm!” is now iconic.

Because they spent so long working together, the cast remains close. According to Perlman, they became more like a family. A family that shoots spitballs during important scenes, but a family nonetheless.

The Time the Cheers Cast Got Too Drunk for Leno

To celebrate the last episode of Cheers, the cast gathered at a bar to film a tribute episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. While they had originally planned to do comedy sketches, Leno discovered that the cast was, in fact, wasted. Additionally, most of the party guests were similarly under the influence.

As a result, Leno had to put on a very different show. Instead of doing skits, he worked the room. The special became more of a series of interview. He started with the less drunk celebrities, then worked his way to the cast. Even though they were pretty far gone, he managed to get some good answers from them.

“Those people were so drunk I don’t know what else we could have done in a live situation,” explained Leno.“All those celebrities got there early and started drinking early,” Leno said. “And with the exception of [then-] Sen. [John] Kerry [D-MA], everybody was really drunk. People were like vomiting. They were out of their minds. They stumbled.”

Emotions were running high during the screening of Cheers. After 11 years, the cast watched the very last episode of a show they poured their hearts into. Additionally, the drinks started pouring early in the day. So while Leno didn’t get the special he’d planned, it’s not hard to see why the cast decided to enjoy themselves.

As for Leno, the former Tonight Show host doesn’t hold it against the Cheers cast. If his many years of television experience taught him anything, it’s that “you win some and lose some.”