Saturday is May 20, which is the 30th anniversary of the end of “Cheers.” Or, as then Governor William Weld proclaimed it on May 20, 1993, “Cheers Day.” The sitcom, set in a Boston bar — the Bull & Finch Pub, later changed to Cheers Beacon Hill — was so popular that it’s now embedded in local history.
On that Thursday of the 98-minute series finale, Boston, NBC, and the Bull & Finch threw a giant party in town. There were closed streets, media folks from across the country, and crowds on Boston Common singing the show’s theme song. There was a cast visit to the State House, where they appeared before a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature to hear Senate President William Bulger note, “We’re so happy for the tax dollars you have brought.”
There were giant video screens on the Common so the crowds could watch the finale. And there were parties near the Bull & Finch — including upstairs at the Hampshire House — that found politicos and journalists mixing with the show’s cast.
NBC’s “The Tonight Show” was filmed live at the Bull & Finch that night, featuring host Jay Leno dealing with drunken cast members and the rowdy crowd on the bleachers set up outside. At one point during the live broadcast, Leno sat at the bar asking the cast questions while they shot spitballs at one another.
“Cheers” ran for 275 episodes across 11 seasons, finding and holding onto a strong ratings base after the first season. It brought a freshness to the tried-and-true sitcom theme of friends as a family of choice. The bar was indeed the place “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” And “Cheers” milked the will-they-or-won’t-they romantic formula for all that it was worth and then some. The finale was called “One for the Road,” and it revolved around the return of Shelley Long’s Diane and Sam’s decision to stay with what Norm called his “one true love,” the bar. It was a blockbuster, drawing an estimated 84 million viewers.
You can still watch “Cheers,” by the way. All 11 seasons are available to stream on Paramount+ (four seasons are available on Hulu). And, to mark the 30th anniversary, the free streamer Pluto TV will run a marathon of the final season starting Saturday at 10 a.m.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.