TV Guide citation: In the March 26, 1983 issue of TV Guide, there is a feature article on Shelley Long. This article contains quotes from the creators of Cheers and Shelley about her character.
"After receiving good notices in movies like "Caveman" with Ringo Starr and "Night Shift" with Henry Winkler, she was offered the role of Diane Chambers, Cheers' smart but sheltered waitress. "It didn't seem that a television show was what I intellectually thought I should be doing," she recalls, being concerned that it might "limit or eliminate my possibilities of doing more film." But she took the job after reading just one script because "my guts were telling me that this works."
She hasn't regretted the decision. Long is enthusiastic about the series. "There is a special feeling on Cheers. There is a nice, tight nucleus there, and it happened almost immediately. It's a quality that adds to the show's spontaneity, an artless realism that makes the Boston bar and its patrons sympathetic and believable."
Cheers' creators, Les and Glen Charles and director Burrows, set out deliberately to achieve that ambiance and looked for specific kinds of actors to carry it off. Glen Charles explains: "Our comedy isn't based on hard jokes. So you really need to have actors who can work with an attitude or a piece of physical timing." The role of Diane was particularly difficult to fill. "We read a lot of people for the part," Glen Charles says. "One of the problems was Diane is not always a sympathetic character: she has pretensions of intellectual superiority and is often a snob. Yet at the same time she has to have an endearing quality that keeps redeeming her. Shelley treads that tightrope with disarming skill." Adds Burrows: "She far exceeds what we thought in our heads Diane was. What Shelley does great is commit to a particular speech or line or moment with incredible verve. She makes those lines work."
Perhaps that's because she does see something of herself in the role. "Diane is blind. She cares, but she works out of here too much," Shelley Long says, tapping her head with a forefinger. "Whenever a human being has sensitivities, awareness, he or she should stay in touch with them, and I was closing them off. I was making myself blind. Diane does that to some extent, and we laugh because we see ourselves and we see the pain that we put ourselves through by not really being in touch with what's going on, by not seeing that we throw obstacles in our own paths."
Currently about the only obstacle in Shelley Long's path, and that of Cheers, is the shows poor showing in the ratings. It's been near the Nielsen basement so often that, if precedent had been followed, NBC would have buried it without a second thought. But the show has been so highly praised that a stay of execution was granted until at least the end of the season. Long dearly wants Cheers to survive and to see Diane Chambers evolve.
Ultimately, though, Cheers moment of truth will arrive. If it survives, the critics will call it a triumph for quality television; if not, they'll no doubt refer to H.L. Mencken's observation that no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people.