‘Cheers’: What Was the Show’s First Spinoff?

by Megan Molseed
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Any fan of 1980s and 1990s sitcom programming knows well that the hit Boston-based classic television series, Cheers inspired a very successful spin-off series, Frasier. However, not many know that this series starring Kelsey Grammer, John Mahoney, and Peri Gilpin wasn’t the first spin-off born from the bar-room television sitcom.

Prior to the development of Frasier, there was a big push by the NBC network to develop a spin-off to the wildly popular Cheers series. This sitcom would be titled The Tortellis.

This Cheers spin-off series follows Dan Hedaya’s Nick Tortelli and his family. A family which includes Nick Tortelli’s ex-wife, everyone’s favorite abrasive bar-maid, Rhea Perlman’s Carla Tortelli. Even if they can’t remember The Tortelli’s, fans of Cheers likely remember Nick well. He’s the sleazy and womanizing ex-husband up Perlman’s Carla. This series follows Nick to Las Vegas as he hopes to rekindle his relationship with his second wife Loretta and begin a career working in TV repair.

The First Cheers Spin-Off Did Not Find the Same Success that Frasier Found Years Later

The Carla/Nick/Loretta Tortelli storyline was hilarious on the small screen during Cheers among fans. However, it wasn’t a strong enough storyline to carry an entire series, it seems. It became clear that The Tortelli’s would not find the same success as Cheers did shortly after the premiere of the spin-off.

The storylines featuring Nick Tortelli and his air-headed second wife Loretta were no doubt funny when they appeared on the original series. However, it soon became clear that this happens when the characters are featured in small doses. An entire series based around the Cheers side players soon proved to be too much.

This is especially apparent in Dan Hedaya’s effort to make Nick less of a slimy side-player as The Tortelli’s tried to find its legs in primetime. He never really made it as a likable character. The series was also slammed for focusing on a stereotypical look at the Italian-American community.

The Second Time Was The Charm For Cheers Spin-Off Shows!

The Tortelli’s may not have found its audience. However, years later another Cheers reboot series, Fraiser, would find massive success. This Kelsey Grammer-led series debuted in 1993. The show follows Grammer’s Frasier Crane character as he embarks on a new life chapter. He moves back to his home state of Washington to head his own Seattle-based radio show. His adventures – or misadventures – often include his brother Niles; Frasier’s father, Marty; and the rest of the show’s cast of colorful characters.

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