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The Cast Of Cheers Looks Different Today

It's been decades since Sam Malone turned off the lights for the final time in the bar where everyone knows your name. The NBC sitcom Cheers ran from 1982 to 1993, and was one of the biggest critical and ratings success stories of its era. Emmy Award voters nominated it for Outstanding Comedy Series in all 11 of its seasons, and Cheers ultimately won 28 Emmys against 179 total nominations. More than 40 million households watched the show's finale. Still, the show's most impressive accomplishment might be the way its stars defied typecasting and have continued to find work in Hollywood. While you might not immediately recognize their faces today, you've certainly seen them over the years.

Ted Danson - Sam Malone

If you were a boy in the '80s, you dreamed of being Bo Jackson, Magic Johnson, Prince, or Sam Malone. Okay, maybe that last one is an exaggeration, but Malone was still the TV king of dry one-liners, a perfectly timed raised eyebrow, and romancing the ladies—and Ted Danson was also pretty cool, receiving an Emmy nomination every season he played Sam Malone on Cheers and winning two of them along the way.

After Cheers, Danson made guest appearances as Malone on Frasier and The Simpsons, but went on to compete with Woody Harrelson for the most diverse career among former cast members. He starred in the sitcom Becker for six seasons, played himself in 13 episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, got another Emmy nod for his ruthless CEO character on Damages, portrayed a hilarious pot-smoking magazine editor on Bored to Death, and appears on CSI: Cyber as D.B. Russell, a character he originated on CSI. Through all that, he's also popped up in numerous other film and television roles, including his Emmy-recognized stint on NBC's comedy The Good Place as afterlife architect Michael. (And he's been married to Mary Steenburgen since 1995.)

Rhea Perlman - Carla Tortelli

Rhea Perlman won four Emmy awards for playing cocktail waitress Carla Tortelli, a character as brashly funny as she was fertile (by series' end, she had eight children). Since Cheers ended, Perlman has worked consistently as a guest star on television shows, including many featuring her former castmates, and appeared in several movies, including There Goes the Neighborhood, Sunset Park, and Matilda (the last of which co-starred her then-husband Danny DeVito, from whom she split in 2017 after 46 years together). More recently, Perlman played Annette Castellano, mother of Mindy's on-again, off-again boyfriend Danny Castellano on Mindy Kaling's The Mindy Project.

John Ratzenberger - Cliff Clavin

Is Cliff Clavin or Newman from Seinfeld your favorite sitcom postal employee? While Newman has a very high laughs-per-minute average, you can't ignore Clavin's ability to consistently bring annoying factoids and hapless humor to every episode of Cheers. According to his website, Ratzenberger originally read for the role of Norm, but sensed he wouldn't get it and suggested that Cheers should have a bar know-it-all character. The producers agreed, and Cliff was born.

While Ratzenberger still works consistently as a character actor, you haven't seen his face as often as his former castmates. You've certainly heard him, though: he's the only voice actor to appear in every Pixar film, most recently as Hamm in Toy Story 4 and Undermine in Incredibles 2.

George Wendt - Norm Peterson

Danson was the star of Cheers, Woody Harrelson was the surprise breakout, Kirstie Alley and Shelley Long were the crushes, and Kelsey Grammer played his character the longest, going on to star in Frasier for another 11 seasons after Cheers went off the air. But no one was more beloved during Cheers' run than George Wendt as Norm Peterson. The good-humored barfly always sat on the same stool and always delivered the perfect punchline, often placing himself as the butt of the joke. Whenever he entered Cheers, the patrons all yelled "Norm!," a reference that endures today. Wendt guest-starred as a character named Yoder on Hot in Cleveland. When his character entered an Amish bar, everyone yelled "Yoder!"

Wendt's acting resume since Cheers is longer than a master mixologist's drink menu. In addition to his ill-fated sitcom The George Wendt Show, he's appeared in everything from Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video to Saturday Night Live's recurring "Da Bears" sketch to Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Spectacular and more-recent hipster comedy shows like Portlandia and Childrens Hospital.

Kelsey Grammer - Dr. Frasier Crane

Dr. Frasier Crane was Cheers' overly educated comedic foil, adding an intellectual (and often uninvited) perspective to the show's proudly blue-collar environment. While Crane was clearly a highly intelligent psychiatrist, the other bar patrons loved putting him down as a nerd...although he eventually became one of the gang. Producers originally hired Kelsey Grammer to appear in six-episode arc, but fans loved Frasier so much that Grammer went on to portray the idiosyncratic doctor for two decades. Frasier became one of the most popular spinoffs of all time, running for 11 seasons and winning 37 Emmy Awards against 108 nominations.

Grammer has appeared often on Broadway since Frasier ended and starred in four more TV series that haven't been as successful: Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show, Back to You, Hank, Boss, The Last Tycoon, and Proven Innocent. You can still hear him as the voice of Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons. Recently, he contributed a voice cameo to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and made a brief appearance in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.

Woody Harrelson - Woody Boyd

The passing of actor Nicholas Colasanto, who played Sam Malone's original bartender and former baseball coach, saddened Cheers fans while leaving an opening in the cast. That void was filled by young actor Woody Harrelson, who joined the cast as the good-hearted but naïve Woody Boyd, a small-town hayseed trying to make it in Boston. The part earned the actor five Emmy nominations, one win, and made him a star.

Harrelson rode his Cheers fame into diverse roles in blockbuster movies such as White Men Can't Jump, Indecent Proposal, Natural Born Killers, Zombieland, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and The Messenger, the latter two of which earned him Oscar nominations. His more recent projects include the first season of HBO's True Detective, the role of Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games saga, Tobias Beckett in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and as a dying sheriff in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, for which he received another Oscar nomination.

Kirstie Alley - Rebecca Howe

Kirstie Alley replaced Shelley Long on Cheers as Sam Malone's main object of affection. Like Long's character before her, producers kept Rebecca Howe and Malone in a "will they or won't they" orbit for several seasons—but unlike Diane, Howe was a neurotic bar manager and wannabe social climber. She tried everything to make Cheers a more successful bar, usually while being undermined by her staff and regular customers.

Alley went on to star in the Look Who's Talking trilogy with John Travolta and in Veronica's Closet for three seasons. Her pseudo-reality series Fat Actress outlined her public struggles with her weight. More recently, she's been a fan favorite on season 15 of Dancing With the Stars, starred in one season of her TV Land sitcom Kirstie, and guest-starred on the Netflix series Flaked.

Bebe Neuwirth - Dr. Lilith Sternin-Crane

The name "Sternin" certainly fit the character. From season four to season seven as a recurring character, and then a bump to the main cast for the rest of Cheers, Bebe Neuwirth portrayed the stern, prim, ultra-serious intellectual, wife of fellow psychiatrist Frasier Crane. 

In 1990 and 1991, she won back-to-back Emmy Awards in 1990 and 1991 for her work. Casting Neuwirth as the arguably the most buttoned-up character in television history is something of an entertainment industry inside joke as well as a testament to Neuwirth's acting skills, because apart from Lilith, she's best known as a Broadway legend, often portraying, vampy, flashy, boisterous women who dance a lot and wear revealing, leggy costumes. Before Cheers, she co-starred as a dancer named Sheila in A Chorus Line and private dancer Nickie in Sweet Charity, a role for which she won her first Tony Award. After playing Lola, the Satan-serving sexy seductress in Damn Yankees in 1994, right after Cheers ended, Neuwirth won another Tony for her work as Velma Kelly in the long-running revival of Chicago. 

Neuwirth still does a lot of TV acting, too. She had a recurring role on HBO's Bored to Death as a literary editor, along with occasional appearances on Blue Bloods. From 2014 to 2017, she co-starred as chief of staff Nadine Tolliver on the CBS political drama Madam Secretary.

Paul Wilson - Paul Krapence

Paul Wilson had already amassed dozens of credits — mostly guest parts on fare like Laverne & Shirley, Too Close for Comfort, and Columbo — by the time he made his first appearance on Cheers in early 1983. For the duration of the show — 55 episodes in all — Wilson's Paul Krapence was a Cheers semi-regular, guzzling beer alongside Norm and Cliff. While the other patrons treated Paul like an annoyance, he successfully wooed members of the opposite sex — he had a brief affair with Carla, and a mention of him on a Frasier episode revealed that he'd destroyed Sam Malone's engagement, having slept with his barkeep's fiancée.

Cheers was one of two long-running, acclaimed sitcoms where Wilson worked regularly. He played annoying condo association leader Leonard Smith for the entire run of It's Garry Shandling's Show concurrent with his time on Cheers. After Cheers ended, Wilson showed up on dozens of '90s and early 2000s TV shows, usually for just an episode or two. His most famous role came in the cult classic movie Office Space — he played one of the "two Bobs," the smarmy downsizing consultants. In more recent years, Wilson popped up as a professor in an episode of The Big Bang Theory and as a guy in Dan's grief support group on The Conners.

Shelley Long - Diane Chambers

Shelley Long rose to fame playing Diane Chambers, a Bennington College graduate who wanted everyone to know she was smarter than her cocktail waitress job would indicate. Long played the part perfectly, projecting her voice while reciting poetry that was lost on the bar patrons and occasionally becoming a bit unhinged when realizing her life wasn't what she dreamed it would be.

After five seasons on Cheers, Long left the show to pursue other work and spend more time with her family. She went on to appear in several movies and TV shows, including The Money Pit, The Brady Bunch Movie, Troop Beverly Hills, and later even revived Diane for an episode of Frasier. She was also been seen occasionally on Modern Family playing DeDe Pritchett, until writers killed off the character in 2018.