‘Cheers’ Popularized a Particular Storytelling Style: Here’s How

by Megan Molseed

The hit NBC classic TV sitcom series Cheers has certainly left a lasting impression on the landscape of TV, even decades after the final episode aired. The series will always remain the place we all want to go “where everybody knows your name.”

Even to this day, the memorable bar-room crew at Cheers continues to bring us hilarious moments as reruns continue to stream on a variety of platforms. And, in addition to endless laughs, Cheers has also brought us one particular sitcom format that has now become commonplace for many current TV shows.

Cheers Helped Develop Serialized Storytelling Style We Soon On Many Of Our Favorite TV Sitcoms

While TV dramas have long been telling storylines across multiple episodes, the tradition of TV sitcoms taking over this style is a fairly new one. And, the hit NBC barroom series Cheers is one of the first to feature these types of storylines.

For years, sitcoms were giving us hilarious moments with storylines that were largely one-and-done. Sure, there may be a “to be continued…” episode here and there within some early sitcoms. But, overall most of the sitcom plotlines before shows like Cheers stood almost entirely alone, specific to that particular episode.

Cheers was one of the initial sitcoms to change this, however. The series was one of the first to bring fans large and long-running story arcs. These would often include season-long plotlines such as Ted Danson’s Sam Malone and Shelley Long’s Diane Chambers’ “will they or won’t they,” story. Or even the time Kirstie Alley’s Rebbeca Howe and Sam Malone tried to have a baby.

Season-Long Storylines Have Changed The Landscape Of TV Sitcoms Over The Last Few Decades

One of the creators of the popular bar-room-based sitcom series, Les Charles once talked about Cheers blazing a trail for this new comedy series style. And, the showrunner jokes, he feels kinda bad taking away the stand-alone, one-episode plotlines from sitcom fans.

“[We] may have been partly responsible for what’s going on now,” the Cheers creator jokes about the impact the comedy series has had on TV sitcoms over the years.

“Where if you miss the first episode or two, you are lost,” Les Charles explains. “I feel kind of badly about it.”

Cheers Also Spear-Headed The ‘Will They, Won’t They’ Storyline That Has Now Become Commonplace On TV Sitcoms

Cheers’ impact on comedy shows today has not only inspired TV sitcoms to begin season-long story arcs. It has also inspired a bevy of “will they, won’t they” romances on some of our favorite shows. When Cheers hit the TV airwaves in 1982, the romantic tension between Ted Danson’s Sam Malone and Shelley Long’s Diane Chambers was immediately recognized by viewers. And, it kept fans tuning into the series for several seasons.

“The core of the show is Sam and Diane,” Shelley Long said in a 1983 interview, shortly after the Cheers premiere.

“The relationship has a wonderful chemistry,” the actress adds.

“Although they try to resist each other. The producers don’t want things to happen too quickly,” Long explains. “Yes, Sam and Diane are attracted to each other, but will it last?”