Throwback Thursday: When Cheers First Aired, It Got Awful Ratings
The bar where everyone knows your name was almost never known by everyone.
When Cheers first aired on NBC 34 years ago, things didn’t go so well for the sitcom about a group of pals who hang out in a Boston bar. In fact, it tanked—ratings were awful. According to Nielson, it clocked in at 77 out of 100 shows that week.
Apparently, Brandon Tartikoff saw the (beer) glass half full. As NBC’s entertainment president, he prevented the show from being cancelled during its first season. It was a good move, because a little over a decade later, Cheers would become one of the highest-rated shows in television history.
Even though it took some time for viewers to appreciate its comedic excellence, Amy Poehler once told GQ she loved Cheers from the start:
I remember being on board from the absolute beginning. I grew up in Boston, and we always felt like it was a hometown show. I had some small personal connections to the show: Every once in a while, they’d stick a true Bostonian in there, to remind everybody about the accent, because nobody was really doing it [on the show]. One of the guys from my local pizza place was an extra, and I remember meeting him and being like, “Oh my God, this guy is the best.”
Cheers continued for 11 seasons, with a whopping 84 million people tuning in for its finale on May 20, 1993. Just last week, Rolling Stone ranked it the 20th greatest TV show of all time.
Exterior shots of the much-loved bar in the show were filmed at the place that inspired it all: the Bull and Finch Pub on Beacon Street. At the time, the pub was truly a neighborhood spot where everyone knows your name. Boston magazine knew it, too, because the year that Cheers aired, this very publication awarded the Bull and Finch Pub with the title of “Best Neighborhood Bar.”
Today, the bar—which is now called Cheers—pays homage to the show by upholding the bar’s original vibes, adorning its walls in Cheers photos, and selling plenty of T-shirts.