‘Cheers’: Here’s How the Series Created One of Television’s Most Iconic Settings

by Taylor Cunningham

As all fans of Cheers know, the famed bar that showed Sam Malone serving up beers to his pals in the 80s and 90s was the kind of place where “everyone knows your name.” And according to co-creator James Burrows, honing in on that vibe took a lot of effort.

In a recent article in Literary Hub, Burrows reflects on developing the classic TV series that would go on to run for 11 years and win an astonishing 28 Primetime Emmys.

When Burrows began envisioning his project with his partners Glen and Les Charles, he knew the show needed to be about “good friends” in a warm atmosphere.

But before they even got to work on the legendary Cheers bar, they knew that the relationships had to be just right—because a bar is just a bar without camaraderie. And their inspiration came straight out of the comedy classic Fawlty Towers.

“We loved the outrageousness of it,” Burrows wrote. “I was not that big a fan of Monty Python, but I adored Fawlty Towers because that character was so brazen.”

The British series followed the staff of an English hotel who have to put up with a dimwitted and arrogant manager as well as a host of interesting guests.

The ‘Cheers’ Creators Spent Months Researching Locations and Bars

Once the creators had the quirky characters down, they moved on to the location. In his writing, Burrows shares that he and the Charles brothers mulled over options for cities for some time. And ultimately, they decided that Boston offered the most charm.

“There was an accent and because it was such a distinctive town—working-class and cosmopolitan at the same time,” he says of the decision.

Then came the hard part, creating the perfect bar. Burrows said that he and his friends spent two months “going bars to study the atmosphere.” And then at 1 am one morning, Glen called him with a eureka moment.

“I found our place,” he remembers him saying. “It was the Bull and Finch, a bar located below street level. We used it as a model. The downstairs aspect gave us a lot of creative opportunity. We used the image of feet on the staircase a lot during the run.”

But apparently, they caught a lot of flack for their choices. People from the Midwest wrote them angry letters about choosing a bar outside their region. And the network execs had “reservations” about using a bar at all. In their opinion, bars were depressing places where “people went to drown their sorrows.”

In the end, we all know that Burrows and Charles got their way. And we assume NBC was happy about it.

“Our goal was to make it a place that was welcome and safe,” he continues, “where people could feel comfortable and be excited to go to every Thursday night.”