When the NBC comedy Cheers ended, NBC made a big deal out of it. There were televised specials with the cast, including an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Looking back, the creators of Cheers regret all of it.
Cheers creators Glen and Les Charles, James Burrows and writer Ken Levine spoke with Variety in 2018 on the 25th anniversary of the Cheers finale. If there’s one thing they could do over again, they wouldn’t have the cast party on camera when the show ended.
James Burrows NBC ‘milked the crap out of’ ‘Cheers’ finale
It wasn’t just post-finale festivities. NBC did a Cheers finale preshow too.
“The network not only gave us a lot more time to fill,” Glen Charles told Variety. “They actually did a pre-show special with Bob Costas talking about what’s about to come and how wonderful it’s going to be. We, of course, had nothing to do with that. But they tried to turn it into the Super Bowl!”
In Burrows’ words, “NBC milked the crap out of it.”
Levine thinks all that buildup lessened the impact of the Cheers finale.
“I know the network wanted to get as much mileage out of it as they possibly could, but I think that ultimately hurt the last episode,” Levine said.
The ‘Cheers’ cast and crew partied in Boston one last time
Production wrapped long before the Cheers finale ultimately aired. So when they reunited in Boston, the setting of Cheers, it was a long night.
“I remember we watched the show upstairs in the restaurant at the Bull & Finch, and we started early in the evening,” Glen said. “They started to get kind of weird very early, and I said, ‘You know, we’ve got a long ways to go here…’
Levine remembers emotional outpourings, hugging, crying, etc. Burrows remembers the Boston crowd contributing to the Cheers finale festivities.
“We had finished the show about two or three months before that, and we were just in Boston having a good time,” Burrows said. “We were treated like a national championship team every time we went there. We’d gone there for the previous five or six years for a week of shooting, and it was crazy. You had a police escort, you had police protection. …It was like being in a rock and roll band! And that night was just glorious. Glorious but sad, because the show was ending. And what do you do when you’re sad? You drink!”
‘The Tonight Show’ appearance embarrassed the creators
The Tonight Show aired live after the Cheers finale. Levine holds Jay Leno accountable for letting that post show go off the rails.
“And then at, like, 25 after 11 p.m., they came up and said, ‘Okay, time to go down for The Tonight Show!’” Levine said. “And they were just in no emotional condition to go on live television. Although I also think that Leno did a very poor job of handling that situation. I always maintained that if it were [David] Letterman, it probably would’ve been less of a train wreck.”