Shelley long has been a sitcom icon pretty much since the moment she stepped onto Cheers set, back in 1982. However, one of the star’s first roles on a sitcom came right before Long’s time on Cheers when the actress guest-starred on the iconic war-era sitcom, M*A*S*H.
During her five seasons on Cheers, Shelley Long portrayed the highly intellectual yet oftentimes haughty and erratic waitress, Diane Chambers. This role, of course, made the actress a star, even leading to a variety of other roles in other popular sitcoms such as Modern Family, Murphy Brown, and the popular Cheers spinoff, Frasier.
Shelley Long Develops Her Comedy Chops On M*A*S*H
But, Cheers wasn’t the first time sitcom fans caught a glimpse of the actress in a television comedy role. Two years before Shelley Long made Diane Chambers a series favorite in the Cheers tavern, the actress starred alongside Alan Alda as a nurse, Lt. Mendenhall.
In this season eight episode of M*A*S*H, which is titled Bottle Fatigue, Long plays a nurse who has a date lined up with Alan Alda’s character, Hawkeye.
However, Hawkeye has come to the conclusion in the meantime, that his drinking is getting out of hand. He decides to take control over this issue and promises to stop drinking for one full week.
This isn’t an unusual direction for the series to go, really.
M*A*S*H is well-known for its keen focus on a variety of social issues, particularly the toll the Korean War is taking on those stationed on the battlefield.
While this topic is certainly a serious one, M*A*S*H, of course, expertly applies a comic lens to this sensitive storyline.
As luck would have it, the week that Alda’s Hawkeye has decided to get on the wagon is also the week of his scheduled date with Long’s Mendenhall.
And, with this new sobriety, Hawkeye has become aware of the drinking habits of people around him and he begins to believe others are also drinking too much.
While on their date, Long’s character orders a drink, which then leads to Hawkeye insulting her choice. This, of course, does not sit well with the nurse.
A Piece Of Television History
Just two years after this episode aired, the M*A*S*H guest star went on to portray her iconic character Diane Chambers, who works as a waitress in the tavern owned by Ted Danson’s Sam Malone.
M*A*S*H first premiered in 1972 and quickly became an iconic series that coupled award-winning humor while addressing many of the heartbreaking and long-lasting effects war can have on the world.
The hit CBS television series was on the air for a total of eleven seasons, its final episode aired in 1983, just a year after Cheers premiered on NBC.