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  • Lance Mannion
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Dave Schuler

I was acquainted with Shelley back in college—she dated a friend of mine for a while. To the best of my recollection she wore the same sweatshirt and jeans all four years and it certainly appeared that she never washed her hair. That's why the femme fatale image for her always amused me.

My impression of Shelley from those days was that she was a very serious actress. Grim, even.

Shakespeare's Sister

Her name's become a synonym for really bad career move because of her decision to leave Cheers to pursue a movie career that never amounted to much

I believe that particular dishonor was usurped by David Caruso in the 90s.


Her name's become a synonym for really bad career move because of her decision to leave Cheers to pursue a movie career that never amounted to much

I always thought that dubious distinction remained with Chevy Chase for leaving SNL. (Though, Shakes, I totally agree with you about David Caruso. He drives me nuts.)

Kevin Wolf

So, Mr Mannion, how often do you run these TV writing seminars?

But, seriously, you aren't by any chance a fan of The Rockford Files? I'd love to read anything you've got on that show.

blue girl

I like that top picture of Shelley Long you posted. She looks cute there.

I always preferred her over Rebecca. But, I didn't analyze it *quite as deeply as you did.* Plus, I had no real preference for what either had up top, walked around on, etc.


I just always loved the one episode where they were in the back room fighting and then they just attacked each other.

Kate Marie

Excellent as usual, Mr. Mannion. You've nailed it. I especially like your analysis of how Diane became Carla's vision of Diane as the show progressed.

I was also one of those who was puzzled by your apparent preference for Rebecca over Diane, even while I had to admit that the show got funnier after Diane left. Maybe I just thought the Diane character --especially in its earlier incarnation -- was more interesting, and maybe for the very reasons you mention. For all her snobbery and self-absorption, Diane *was* originally a civilizing influence, and sometimes I like Cheers most in the moments when it gets wistful about lone-wolfery and the possibility of growing up -- like in the episode where Sam has to have some kind of surgery and it ends with Sam staring pensively out of his hospital window at rain-soaked Boston.

Exiled in New Jersey

And here I thought it was Colonel Henry Blake who invented the bad career move, with Rhoda Morgenstern taking runnerup. It is probably my age speaking.

You need to put these television rambles into a Lance Deconstructs portfolio.


Yeah, as for discussion on Carla's perspective, Diane was kind of the Hot Lips Hoolihan (movie version) of Cheers. I remember very little about it. For me it's more the show that spun off Frazier. "Oh, yeah, Cheers. That's the show that gave birth to Frazier."


Yaah! It's not just me. A while back I made a totally gratuitous comment here on how I hated those images that you have to translate in order to get your comment to post because for some reason I get them wrong 2 out of 3 times. Today I stared and stared at a letter which looked like a house with a roof and wondered, "What in the world is that?" And I called my son over and asked him to decipher. (Yeah, I know he's only 8 years old. So?) Anyway, he looked and he looked again and then in an exasperated voice said, "I don't know Chinese! The only word I know in Chinese is shush!" So he's like me, the letters against the scarred up backgrounds become something akin to pictures and like ideographs. Don't know whether it's something about artist's eye or the dyslexia. Anyway, this time I got it right the first stab at it.

Michael Bains

I think that review completely explains why so many people loved that silly show. At least it, quite surprisingly managed to cover some very personal reasons that I did.

Nice, Man. Thanks for the thought food.


Thanks, Michael!

Shakes, NJ,

You're both right. Caruso and Stevenson top Long. But that's part of why I think Shelley's been given a bum rap.

Kevin, I've got the first season of Rockford moving up in my Netflix queue even as I type, so there's going to come a day. I couldn't figure out how to work into this post the fact that James Garner is one of the very few actors who managed to go back and forth between TV and movies with no diminishiment in his reputation. But then, he's James Garner.

BG, that's my favorite picture of Diane/Shelley.

Dave, we lived in Fort Wayne for a while, long after Shelley left town, but my wife interviewed her high school speech teacher for the newspaper. I heard Shelley could be intense and I've wondered if one of the reasons the writers turned on Diane was because Shelley had tried their patience somehow.

KM, it was a hernia operation, and that episode has a special importance to this webpage. Nothing to do with hernias, operations, or wistfulness about lost youth, I hasten to add.

Idyllopus, I'm thinking of doing away with that feature. It's doing its job, blocking robot spam, but it's frustrating lots of people.

Kate Marie

Don't leave me hanging, Lance. What is the special importance of that episode to your webpage?


Let me now praise those who "destroyed" their careers. While I cannot argue with the Caruso example--a classic catastrophe--I've always thought Stevenson and Long got kind of a bum rap. Stevenson (and Wayne Rogers) said many times that all the outdoor shooting on MASH made it a miserable place to work; and in hindsight it's always looked smart to me to have punted as Larry Gelbart, the show's real motor, left. I mean, look what happened under the Alda Regime. It went from funny, cynical, and somewhat preachy to less funny and very preachy, until it finally became an screamfest where everyone was the same character and the cook got lines. Oy.

You have defended Long admirably. I mean, I'm not saying she made a good decision, but the woman did have offers. The window closes fast on movie stardom. If only she had stuck with Tom Hanks! But, I don't blame her for aiming at paydirt. Putting aside the obvious Clooney example, let's remember that Geena Davis made the leap from a few failed sitcoms and did okay.

Perhaps we should officially call it David Caruso Syndrome. Or, alternately, Art Garfunkel Syndrome.


Oh, c'mon, KC. Why stop there? Pete Best syndrome too, or was he pushed?

Interestingly, the current issue of Time has a short list of actors whose careers Time judged to be failing or in a slump until they made a certain movie, and those actors then went from dud to stardom. It's appended to the cover story about Johnny Depp. (I leave it to you to figure out why Time feels it necessary to do a cover story on Johnny Depp.) The list includes Liz Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando, Halle Berry, John Travolta and Jodie Foster.

Mike Schilling

I know! I know! Me! Call on me!

When Sam had the hernia, he checked into the hospital under an assumed name. Initials LM.


Correction: Newsweek, not Time. I plead myopia.

Kate Marie

A ha! Thanks, Mike! I hadn't seen the episode in a while.

The Boy

Nice post. As I said today on the Friday Blogroll, the fastest way to the hearts of Good Nonsense's posters is to talk at length about Cheers, the best show ever.

Though I do have one qualm...they delved into physical comedy (violent and sexual) with Sam and Diane pretty often, and it produced a lot of the show's most classic moments. No question Kirstie Alley was better at it, and the show went much further into slapstick when she was there, but Shelley Long was quite good at it too.

Kiara Daniello

I think Shelley was perfect for the show , and yet even though she wasnt a part of it as it came to an end , she MADE the show , and everyone loved watching her , I do agree with the fact the show became funnier as Kirstie entered the show , but the show would not have been as successful without the character Diane.

Dave Rovinson

I agree entirely with Kiara Daniello above as regards Shelley Long. She made Cheers and was Cheers and when she left and after seeing a few episodes of the new series I left to. When I think of the hostile environment in which the character Diane Chambers had to function with being relentlessly criticised, humiliated and belittled and some of it very personal especially by Carla (your living bra died) I am surprised she stood it 5 years. Her film career though not producung any spectacular films produced some that were enjoyable to watch and I have seen some top actors produce some films that were far worse. Her 1993 sitcom GOOD ADVICE should have relaunched her small screen career especially with the 1sr 6 episodes but someone changed it all and it wasn,t so good and they blew her chances.

Jeff Kuhl

Diane didn't make Cheers and wasn't Cheers. I did enjoy her, but the ENTIRE cast made Cheers. She alone didn't do anything. Otherwise, the show would've died when she left.

marsha cohen

I must admit sometimes I still watch the old Cheers episodes -the ones with Shelley long. I think her intensity is what made her delivery so funny (she was so committed to her role!) and helped develop the Sam character to evolve from a one dimensional macho cartoon to a character with conflicting emotions, not the least of which was love for Diane. After she left, Kirstie Alley's broad characterization instigated slapstick of which I am not particularly enamored and unfortunately reduced the Sam character into the one dimensional hound-dog that I found so uninteresting.

One of my favorite bits from the show actually took place among Diane, Woody and Carla. Diane, responding to Sam's comment says "Methinks the man protests too much." Woody: "Miss Chambers, don't you mean I thinks?" Carla: Not in your case Woody." Guess you had to be there. Glad I was.


The show was much better when Diane was in the show, not just because of her, but because of the script, it was much better when Sam owned the bar and the Diane was his employee bar maid, it made things funnier, To go one step further it was much better when Coach was on the show, Annoying
Woody replacing the lovable Coach brings things down a notch. When Coach died that's when the show wasn't as good to me. Diane was much better than Rebecca, but I have to admit, the character had probably run it's course, there wasn't anywhere for the character to go.


After reading this, I am going to give the second half of Cheers a chance. I had planned on stopping after season 5, and moving onto Fraiser as I watch on Netflix. Reason being, I hadn't watched since middleschool, when they ran two eps after the news. I remember not being as fond of the Howe episodes as I was the Chamber ones.

But end of season 4, and being midway through season 5, I started really disliking Diane's character. She was always sort of a snob, and sometimes used her relationship with Sam to her advantage, but I seem to have forgotten, or maybe missed most these eps from this time, just how bad Diane got at the end. She basically becomes a bitch, and how the writers have Sam react to it may be even more troubling than how Diane was a bitch.

It really starts when Sam starts dating that council woman at the end of Season 4. Diane, supposedly by "accident", overhears things between Sam and the council woman Janet Eldridge. Later she comes back to talk to Sam, and some reason instead dives under his desk and "accidently" hears the two again? And what does she do with the knowledge but purposely sabotage their relationship in front of the entire town. Not to mention furthers it by making very childish gestures to him to further make Sam enraged. It seemed, for her character, to come out unexpectedly from right field. More annoying though is just an hour or few later, Sam forgives breaking up a good relationship he had going and making a fool out of him in front of the entire town and jumps right into asking Diane to marry him?

That was just the troubles though. Season 5 has been even worse. First she leads him on that she'll say yes, and ends up turning him down after all she just put him through. Then she just shows up at the bar, where she hadn't worked for quite some time (last it was known, she had been a grocery bagger), tosses on an apron, and starts serving while talking about how Sam loves her or something and acting like she hadn't been a complete bitch over the last week or however long of time its been? I have no idea how Sam didn't literally toss her out of the bar.

Now I'm at episode 7 and after this time of her trying to push herself onto Sam, she's suddenly dating some other guy? WHAT THE HELL?!

Cheers really went down the drain in season 5, and I forgot just how bad Diane got at the end. Due to this post however, along with forgetting just how bad Diane was at the end of her run, I'll at least give Howe another chance and maybe be rather surprised... I hope?

Tim Norton

You make some good points but consigning Diane to being a dissembler or destructive force is to miss the point. Shelley Long gave a character that was conceived to be a target depth and Diane was made to be sympathetic in many cases, thanks to Shelley.

Remember, Diane was left in the bar my Sumner Sloane and Sam offered her a job, though for his own romantic ends. Diane was always trying to see the good in everyone and offer comfort or help with a full heart. For her efforts, she was abused by Carla and laughed at by the others. Diane came from a moneyed family but refused to use family money to support herself. She was willing to take any job to earn her own way.

Compare that to Norm bemoaning his lapsed unemployment and Cliff having too much free time to bore the hell out of everyone with his blabbering. Diane did grow too. In "From Beer To Eternity", she beats Gary's Old Towne Tavern in the bowling tournament and she swears everyone to secrecy on her skill. Her bowling in college to fulfill an easy PE requirement was the perfect way to explain her ability.

Instead of dumping on Diane, you need to know where she was coming from. She was taught to "walk with kings" in her words but she was someone who lived out her ideals in a sincere way. For this, she was mocked. She acted superior at times but her intent was to instruct, share her knowledge and to offer personal support when she could. As to her relationship with Sam, love is not a rational thing. If it was, everyone would be happily married with no conflict. Look a little deeper. Diane Chambers was an unforgettable character.

Tim Norton

I should have said before that Diane wanted to be part of the bar family and was rejected by most of them, save Coach, Woody and Sam. When she won the bowling tournament for Cheers, she was accepted and embraced by everyone with no put down to ruin the moment. Watch Shelley when she is not speaking in a scene. She was fully committed to her character and she worked hard to make Diane three dimensional. As to Diane's snooty exterior, she just wanted to be loved and accepted as she loved and accepted others. She could have easily been a martyr but she could throw a bon mot back at an attacker when needed.

Diane turning down Sam's several proposals was hard to take but the producers were not going to marry the pair. She could not have said yes under any scenario.

Tim Norton

Dave Schuler,

Shelley did not attend Northwestern for four years. She left after two for acting and modeling opportunities. As to her wearing a sweatshirt and jeans in college, didn't everyone?

Marsha Cohen

Shelley Long explained after she first left the show, that in the fourth year the rest of the cast (except for Woody Harrelson) were either treating her like she was Diane -or - she was becoming like her character and that she needed to leave for her mental health. She noted that the writers of her character around that fourth year had made her much less sympathetic and that it had become challenging for her to show her as a fully developed character. Under those circumstances I can completely understand why she left. I for one, think Shelley Long was the best actor on the show. When I watch it in re-runs she still amazes with her subtle reading of pretty straightforward lines.


Tim Norton is spot-on with his analysis of Miss Chambers. Absolutely perfect.

To me, she's not a snob. She's over-educated and wants to share her knowledge with everyone to help people grow. It may be presumptuous and annoying, but I don't see her as a snob. A snob is dismissive. A snob is judgemental. A snob is someone who doesn't deign to be with others of a "lower station". Diane Chambers is no snob. Priveleged and over-educated, maybe; but not a snob!

Shelley Long managed to walk a very fine line with this character, and she makes her human, flawed, and likeable. I like all seasons of Cheers, but I absolutely adore seasons 1 and 2. Sam has so much more depth in the early seasons. He just gets too silly and "flat" in later years...

I was in middle school when Cheers first came out. I found Shelly Long's portrayal of Diane Chambers somewhat inspirational. She showed how a woman can be strong, brainy, sexy and feminine all at the same time. As an adolescent immersed in "Madonna 80's culture", Diane Chambers offered something different and far more inspiring to me.

Tony Wall

Hi Lance,

Just yesterday I came across an epidsode of Cheers on daytime TV here in the UK.

At the end of the episode (S2 E1) Sam clumsily forces the door in to Diane's apartment to show her exactly how he feels about her. She changes from a dressing gown in to a short pink night dress, and there are those beautiful legs...

I didn't realise until the moment that I tuned-in how much I had missed the warmth, the femininity and sensuality of Shelley Long.

Now I will have to go back to the start of the first series and watch Cheers from the start.


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