On Cheers, Ted Danson played Sam Malone, a recovering alcoholic and former baseball relief pitcher who owned a bar. He never drank on the show but served up ice cold beer and cocktails for all his buddies.
But in person, Ted Danson drinks. He’s even a spokesman for Smirnoff Vodka. He did an interview four years ago about all things vodka and touched on his Cheers drinking experiences.
He said there was one Cheers cocktail experience that really stood out in his memory. It came months after the iconic comedy filmed its ended in 1993.
Let Danson tell it.
“I think probably our most famous group drinking experience was memorialized on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Danson said. “It was the end of the series. In our defense, they brought a cast together that hadn’t seen each other for three months [to say] goodbye. And they brought us to the bar in Boston six hours early to do interviews and hang around. Well, what do you think is going to happen?”
When stuck in a bar for hours, you drink. Even stars of a hit comedy series are human around adult beverages. The way Danson described it, the free-flowing alcohol made everyone a bit misty eyed.
“It was a very emotional, sweet experience,” Danson said of the Cheers talk-show drinkathon.
“I remember Jay Leno’s eyes. He was busy taking notes and preparing. Then they counted down five, four, three, two, one. And he looks up and you could see his eyes get very large, realizing, “Oh dear lord. I have to do an hour and a half with these guys.”
Cheers Finale Drew An Audience of 80 Million
The 11-year run of the show produced 275 episodes of high-quality comedy. The series received an Emmy nomination for best show for all 11 years. Overall, the show won 28 Emmys with 118 nominations. Danson twice won an Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy.
The Cheers series finale in 1993 drew an audience of 80.4 million. Shelley Long, who played Diane, Sam’s old love interest, returned to help end the series. The only scripted series finale with a bigger audience was the 1983 ender of M*A*S*H. It drew an amazing 105 million.
Danson said there was no drinking while the actors filmed the show. He said the actors stuck with near beer and colored water for cocktails. Danson added that after production ended, actors George Wendt (Norm) and John Ratzenberger (Cliff) moved on to real beer.
But no one would drink the hard stuff.
“No, no,” Danson said. “The acting would go out the window.”