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‘Cheers’: What Happened When Kirstie Alley Met Shelley Long

Showbiz CheatSheet logo: MainLogo Showbiz CheatSheet 1/28/2023 Fred Topel

Whenever the NBC comedy Cheers had to replace an actor, the new actor overlapped with the rest of the cast. After the death of Nicholas Colasanto, Woody Harrelson became a regular. Even after Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) broke up with Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), Frasier remained at the bar. Kirstie Alley joined Cheers in season 6 after Long left, and they never met, until the series finale

L-R: Shelley Long, Ted Danson, and Kirstie Alley | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images © Provided by Showbiz CheatSheet L-R: Shelley Long, Ted Danson, and Kirstie Alley | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Long returned as Diane for the Cheers series finale. She even suggested some of her own ideas for why Diane never called Sam Malone (Ted Danson) after she left. The writers included some, but for Ken Levine, the big worry was the meeting of Alley and Long.

Shelley Long handed ‘Cheers’ off to Kirstie Alley

The first five seasons of Cheers were all about Sam and Diane. Would they end up together or not? The fifth season even built toward a potential wedding, but viewers knew Long had already decided to leave the show. 

Season 6 introduced Rebecca Howe (Alley), the new manager of Cheers after Sam sold it. Sam returns to bartend but now must work for Rebecca. Co-creator and director James Burrows once revealed that Sam working for a woman was the original premise of the show. It just took them six seasons to get there.

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By the end of Cheers, there was still unfinished business between Sam and Diane. The finale would address that once and for all, but how would Alley react to Long’s homecoming?

The ‘Cheers’ cast and crew worried about Kirstie Alley meeting Shelley Long 

Levine devoted the Dec. 14 episode of his Hollywood & Levine podcast to Alley after her death on Dec. 5. He revealed that Alley wore a Shelley Long costume on her first day to break the ice. After six seasons on the show though, there was reason to worry about Long meeting. 

“This was the last Cheers and Shelley Long graciously agreed to come back and do that final episode,” Levine said on Hollywood & Levine. “We thought this could be very awkward on the set. Is Kirstie going to be kind of a diva? Is she going to go, ‘This is my set now? And this is my stage? And you’re on my stage.’ Which could happen. Would she make Shelley feel very uncomfortable?”

Kirstie Alley was a class act

Levine had nothing but good things to say about Alley. He considered Alley a master at portraying Rebecca as a hilarious mess, and she was a good sport about raunchy jokes. So too, when she met Long, Alley was just as welcoming to her predecessor.

“No, it was just the opposite,” Levine said. “She was happy to see her. She welcomed her with open arms. And that’s just Kirstie. She was just a really good soul.”

While a Long/Alley catfight would have made great headlines, there was no need for that sort of trouble. It’s nice to know the place where everybody knows your name was harmonious even for former cast members. 

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