Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Legendary Boston Sitcom ‘Cheers’
It’s been 40 years since New England began its decade-long run in the pop culture universe thanks to a place where everybody knows your name.
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the debut episode of “Cheers.”
On Thursday, September 30, 1982, viewers of the then-struggling NBC series viewed the beginning of what would become one of television’s legendary romances – Sam and Diane – and in turn, one of the most acclaimed sitcoms in television history.
But it almost didn’t make its first year. Or month.
On September 30th, 1982, Cheers placed 60th out of 63 shows in Nielsen’s ratings, according to the Los Angeles Times. Conventional television wisdom was that the show would fare well as a lead-in for the established hit and would-be classic “Taxi,” but there were a few problems with that theory.
For starters, “Taxi” had just jumped to NBC from another network, so it’s likely many viewers weren’t sure if the show that launched the careers of Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza, Danny DeVito, and Marilu Henner was even on anymore, never mind where and when to find it.
So, over on “Cheers,” the then-unknown cast faced an uphill battle debuting against the season premieres of “Magnum: P.I.” and “Too Close for Comfort" (in fact, the episode didn’t even air in Alaska until October 14).
Critics, too, were lukewarm on the show about cold ones.
While the Associated Press hailed “Cheers” as ushering in a new wave of clever network comedy, others tempered their praise, saying that while the show was funnier than another popular show set at a bar, “Archie Bunker’s Place”, some of the jokes felt forced, and the characters were wackier than those you’d find at a real bar.
Clearly, these critics had never visited Boston.
Thankfully, those at NBC exercised something that is unheard of today: patience. This paid off, as “Cheers” would run for 11 seasons and 275 episodes, taking home 28 Emmy Awards and introducing writers and producers to a region ripe for laughter.