On this day in 1947, the actor Ted Danson, who will become best known for his role as bar owner Sam Malone on the mega-hit TV sitcom Cheers, which originally aired from 1982 to 1983, is born in San Diego, California.
After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied drama, Danson appeared on the 1970s soap opera Somerset and starred in TV commercials, most notably for the men’s fragrance Aramis. Danson catapulted to Hollywood stardom with his role as Sam Malone, a former professional baseball player and ladies man who runs a Boston-based bar called Cheers in the sitcom of the same name. The show, which premiered on NBC on September 30, 1982, and opened with the now-classic theme song “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” centers around a group of regulars who hang out at Cheers, including lovable but dim-witted bartender Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson), know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), frequently unemployed Norm Peterson (George Wendt), feisty waitress Carla (Rhea Perlman) and snooty psychiatrist Fraser Crane (Kelsey Grammer). (Crane later got his own long-running sitcom, Frasier, which originally aired from 1993 to 2004). Among the main storylines on Cheers were Sam Malone’s lengthy on-again, off-again romantic relationships with waitress-grad student Diane Chambers (Shelley Long, who was a Cheers cast member from 1982-1987) and businesswoman Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley, a regular from 1987-1993). During its 11-season run, Cheers featured guest appearances by a number of celebrities and public figures, including Johnny Carson, then-Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.
Created by James Burrows and brothers Glen and Les Charles, Cheers was almost cancelled due to poor ratings during its first season; it hung on, however, and eventually became a massive hit with audiences. The show was nominated for a total of more than 100 Emmy Awards, and it won 28. The final episode of Cheers aired on May 20, 1993, and attracted more than 80 million viewers, making it one of the top-rated finales in TV history. (The all-time record holder, the 1983 M*A*S*H finale, was seen by some 106 million people, while more than 76 million viewers tuned in to the 1998 finale of Seinfeld.)
Following Cheers, Danson starred as a cranky doctor in the TV sitcom Becker, which aired on CBS from 1998 to 2004. Among his more recent TV credits are recurring roles on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Damages. Danson has also appeared in a number of movies, including 1979’s The Onion Field, which marked his big-screen debut; 1981’s Body Heat, featuring Kathleen Turner and William Hurt; the 1987 hit comedy Three Men and a Baby, with Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg; Made in America (1993), which co-starred Danson’s then-paramour Whoopi Goldberg; and Saving Private Ryan (1998). Danson has been married to his third wife, the actress Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Elf) since 1995.