Waitress Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) serving drinks to customers
"Give Me a Ring Sometime"
(season 1, episode 1)
"Don Juan in Hell: Part 2"
(season 9, episode 2)
|Portrayed by||Shelley Long|
|Family||Helen Chambers (mother)|
|Significant other(s)||Sam Malone (ex-fiancé)|
|Alma Mater||Bennington College|
Diane Chambers is a fictional character in the American television situation comedy show Cheers. Portrayed by Shelley Long, Diane appeared as a main character on Cheers until the Season Five finale, "I Do, Adieu" (1987). She appeared as a guest character in the series finale, "One for the Road" (1993), and in three episodes of the Cheers spin-off Frasier. Throughout her time on the program, Diane has an on-off relationship with the womanizing bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and a one-year relationship with Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer).
Creation and casting
According to Shelley Long, Diane looks more intelligent than she really is. She uses books and academics to communicate with others, usually unsuccessfully. After a series of events which bring her scorn and ridicule, Diane realizes that she knows little about the real world and the bar, and must learn about the world without using books.
Wendie Malick auditioned for the role of Diane; she later appeared in Frasier as Ronny Lawrence. Bess Armstrong was offered a role, but she turned it down. Long, Lisa Eichhorn, and Julia Duffy were the producers' top three considerations for the role. NBC executives praised test scenes between Long and Danson, so the creators chose Long. Julia Duffy later appeared as one of Diane's friends in "Any Friend of Diane's", a 1982 episode of Cheers.
Diane is full of gumption and chutzpah, but quite frequently, she doesn't have the vaguest idea [about] what's going on. However, the producers are cooperative, [and] they have agreed Diane will change. One of my fears of television is 'Do I want to play the same character seven, eight, maybe 10 years?' But it wouldn't be that bad because Diane has a lot of room to grow and still be funny. It's because she cares so deeply.—Shelley Long, Rome News-Tribune
When the character was conceived, Diane was to be an executive businesswoman who would have a "love-hate" relationship with ex-baseball payer Sam Malone (Ted Danson); their relationship was inspired by the romantic movies of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Instead, she became a pretentious college student. When Long left the series in 1987, the producers reverted to the original concept for Diane to use with Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley).
Diane Chambers premiered in Cheers in 1982 as a college graduate who works as a cocktail waitress. Her mother is Helen (Glynis Johns) and her father died before the start of the series' narrative. She attended the private Bennington College, and studied for her degree at Boston University. Diane suffers occasional facial tics and uses long-winded, poetic speeches and obscure words that often elude her audiences.'. In the 1982 series pilot "Give Me a Ring Sometime", Diane arrives with her fiancé Sumner Sloane (Michael McGuire). When he abandons Diane in Boston, she realizes that he will not return and takes a waitressing job at Cheers.
In "Someone Single, Someone Blue" (1983), Diane learns from her mother that she must marry quickly before her father's inheritance is cut off. She tries to marry Sam but is unsuccessful and her mother is cut off from her late husband's fortune. Nevertheless, the chauffeur Boggs (Duncan Ross) is found to have embezzled Diane's father's wealth, and Boggs and Diane's mother start a relationship, saving them from poverty.
Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) is Diane's nemesis. Diane's closest friend at Cheers is Coach Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto)[c 1] until his death at the beginning of Season Four. Diane often plays and wins morality games with others; In "The Boys in the Bar" (1983), for example, Diane is appalled by the regular patrons' homophobia, insisting that gay people deserve to treated with kindness and respect. In "Pick a Con.... Any Con" (1983), Diane spends a lot of time reading how to make a Bloody Mary from scratch, which agonizes Carla. When Sam tells Diane that a large jar of Bloody Mary is already prepared in a refrigerator, she feels humiliated. Sam berates Carla for this; Carla says that she was waiting to see Diane make vodka.
In "The Heart Is the Lonely Snipe Hunter" (1985), Diane scolds the men at the bar for abandoning her then-boyfriend Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) during a snipe hunt, which turns out to be a prank on Frasier. Diane persuades the men to find him immediately. Frasier quickly realizes it was a joke, and fools the men into believing he enjoyed himself and sends them out on another hunt. In "Cliffie's Big Score" (1986), Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) invites Diane to a ball. After she declines, he invites Carla. When Diane changes her mind, Cliff persuades Carla to go with a workmate of his. Carla later discovers that Diane was Cliff's first choice and then tells him that Diane lusts after him. Cliff attempts to seduce Diane, who orders him out of the car, drives away and leaves him stranded in the woods.
In "Norm's First Hurrah" (1987), Diane laments how lazy and unambitious Norm Peterson (George Wendt) has been over the years, prompting him to aim for success. Norm suggests an idea for his company's executives, but another worker Warren Thompkins (Tegan West) steals his presentation and is scolded by the executives because Norm's idea would hurt the company. Therefore, Norm decides not to follow Diane's advice and becomes an average, hard-working man and earns respect from his boss.
Throughout her time in the series, Diane had an on-again, off-again relationships with former baseball player Sam Malone, who is her opposite: a high-school dropout, a womanizer, a bartender, her employer, working class, and a non-intellectual. In the two-part first season finale, "Showdown" (1983), Diane is charmed by Sam's more successful brother Derek and cannot decide between him and Sam. Eventually, Sam and Diane no longer suppress their feelings for each other and passionately embrace. During the second season (1983–1984), their relationship is consummated but becomes dysfunctional with endless doubts, arguments, breakups, and reunions until, in the second season finale, they finally end their on-off relationship.
In Season Three (1984–1985), Diane meets Frasier Crane at a psychiatric hospital and dates him. Glen and Les Charles created Frasier as a rival to Sam,  but he becomes a regular character. At the beginning of Season Three, Diane hears from Coach that Sam has relapsed into alcoholism since the breakup. With the help of Frasier, Diane, and Coach, Sam regains his sobriety. Diane and Sam tell each other they no longer have feelings towards each other, and Diane returns to her waitressing job. Later in the season, Diane leaves Boston again in "Cheerio, Cheers" (1985) to accompany Frasier on a work trip. Diane accepts Frasier's marriage proposal, leaving Sam heartbroken again. However, in "Birth, Death, Love, and Rice" (1985), it is revealed she left Frasier at the altar on their wedding day, returned to the U.S. and began working in a convent. Sam goes to see Diane; she accepts his visit as a sign she should return to Cheers.
Sam and Diane work together as friends in the fourth season (1984–85). In the three-part season finale, "Strange Bedfellows" (1986), Sam dates an intelligent, attractive politician Janet Eldridge (Kate Mulgrew), who insists he should choose between her and Diane. The season ends with Sam proposing to someone by telephone. In the opening of the fifth season (1986–87), it is revealed that Sam proposed to Diane. She initially rejects his proposal but then realizes her mistake and returns to Boston. Sam is hurt by her rejection and says he no longer wants a relationship with her. In "Chambers vs. Malone" (1987), Sam proposes to Diane again, and she declines, this time because she thinks he was asking because she was crying. As he chases her down the street, she falls and injures herself. Diane takes Sam to court over the injury, which Sam did not cause. In the courtroom, he proposes again at a judge's behest; Diane finally accepts. In the Season Five finale, "I Do, Adieu" (1987), their wedding day has arrived, but after Diane is offered the chance to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. She leaves Cheers, saying she will return after six months, but Sam realizes she will not return.
In mid-1984, Shelley Long was married to stockbroker Bruce Tyson and was pregnant with his child. The press speculated that the storyline of Diane's love child would have either Sam or Frasier as its father. However, the producers found the pregnancy idea undesirable and scrapped it. Instead, Diane became childless, and scenes of Diane and Frasier in Europe were filmed before Long's pregnancy manifested. During the third season, Long was filmed from either above her waist or standing behind the bar to disguise her pregnancy. In March 1985, she gave birth to a baby girl. Les Charles said that as "one of America's sweethearts" Diane is liberal enough to be an unmarried mother, but impregnating Diane would defile her in the eyes of viewers.
In December 1986, Long decided to leave Cheers for a movie career and family; she said that she and Danson had "done some really terrific work at Cheers". Her decision was so surprising that it became national news and greatly worried the show's cast and crew, who believed that the Sam-Diane relationship was fundamental to Cheers' success.
In February 1987, the creators decided to find a female lead replacement who did not resemble Shelley Long. During production of "I Do, Adieu, the producers developed ideas to separate Sam and Diane. Many ideas of writing out Diane were attempted, but they decided she would leave Boston for a writing career. James Burrows said they intended Cheers to be a comedy about comedy set in the bar, but the "Sam and Diane" romance predominated the show for five years and would have made the bar a minor role and less relevant if Long had not left the show in 1987. When Long decided to leave Cheers, producers made plans to do revive the show without losing its initial premise; they credited Long's departure for saving the series from cancellation. Long said:
I've never regretted leaving, quite honestly ... I didn't always know what to do with myself, though. When you've been that busy for so long with the show that's so demanding on your time, energy, and concentration on Cheers, the rhythms of your life change totally when you let it go.—Shelley Long, Los Angeles Daily News, April 1993
Before her appearance in the series finale, Shelley Long appeared as herself in the special 200th episode in 1990, which was hosted by John McLaughlin and other cast members. Long's return was rumored in 1989, but a spokesperson for Paramount Television dismissed these rumors.
According to a telephone survey of 1,011 people conducted by the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press (now Pew Research Center) on April 1–4, 1993, Sam Malone was the favorite Cheers character of 26%, Diane Chambers was favored by 4%, Rebecca Howe was favored by 6%, and Frasier Crane was favored by 1%. The survey also asked whom Sam should marry; 21% voted Diane Chambers, 19% voted Rebecca Howe, 48% voted Sam to stay single, and 12% had no opinion on this matter.
In the series finale, "One for the Road" (1993), Diane and Sam reunite after six years of separation. Diane admits that she did not want to return to Cheers until she was a successful writer. For a while, Sam and Diane tell each other that they are never meant to be in a relationship, despite their good times together. As Diane prepares to leave Boston again, Sam stops her and begins to seduce her, reigniting their romance. The next day, Sam and Diane become engaged again and then leave Boston for Los Angeles. As the flight boards, Sam and Diane begin to have second thoughts about their future together; the airport announcers ask them rhetorical questions about their relationship. When their flight is delayed, they amicably break off their romance. Sam stays in Boston with his friends and Diane returns to Los Angeles.
Diane appears three times in the Cheers spin-off, Frasier. She appears as a dream figure from Frasier's mind in "Adventures In Paradise (Part 2)" (1994) and later again in "Don Juan In Hell" (2001). Diane visits Seattle in "The Show Where Diane Comes Back" (1996). In Los Angeles, she loses her job by accidentally setting Jane Seymour's hair on fire on the set of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. She also loses her friends, boyfriend, beach house, and financial support for her upcoming play, and travels to Seattle to ask Frasier for help. During a rehearsal of her play—which is inspired by her experience in Cheers—Frasier becomes angry and then talks negatively about Diane. After the rehearsal, Diane reconciles with Frasier about abandoning him in Europe. Finally, she decides to postpone the play and to move back to Los Angeles.
Shelley Long received one Emmy in 1983 and two Golden Globes in 1983 and 1985 for her leading performance as Diane Chambers in the series Cheers. Long was nominated as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for the series finale "One for the Road" in 1993, and did not win.
In 1990, Robert Bianco praised Diane and Shelley Long for making the show a "classic", and was devastated when she left the show, along with Nicholas Colasanto's death. In 1993, John Carman from San Francisco Chronicle said Long's guest appearance in the series finale was neither well-performed nor well-aged. In 1999, Diane was rated number 33 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Characters list. In 2011, Kim Potts from The Huffington Post ranked her 30th in his list of 100 "Greatest TV Women" of all-time.
In 1987, Monica Collins from USA Today called Diane a "snitty, selfish snob" and was relieved that the character left the series. According to Collins, she has not made friends with other Cheers characters onscreen. More often, she has not befriended women, and she has "[teased] men more than [pleased] them". In 2002, Bill Simmons of ESPN praised Diane's early years but said she became "overbearing". In 2009, Andrea Zimmerman from the website Lemondrop ranked Diane number 5 in his list of "20 Least Feminist TV Characters" for chasing after Sam to prevent her own insanity. In 2012, Steve Silverman from the website Screen Junkies website wrote that Diane was "too needy and insecure for anyone [like Sam] to have a legitimate relationship with".
In the book Primetime Propaganda, conservative author Ben Shapiro represented Diane Chambers as an "elitist liberal" of a "high culture" and "the conscience of the show [...] and solid feminist", who outsmarts Sam over morality. Diane's taunting toward Sam and his class "[presents] the first inkling of the yuppie conundrum that would haunt liberals throughout the 1980s." Shapiro considered Diane becoming "sexualized" and "liberated" when, in the Season One episode, "No Contest" (1983), when she accepts prizes that she won, including two tickets to Bermuda. Jennifer Michael Hecht in her book, The Happiness Myth, depicted Diane as herself too "unhappy" to be taken seriously as an adviser and her psychoanalysis on Sam's promiscuous behavior as "unreliable".
Diane's appearance in the Frasier episode, "The Show Where Diane Comes Back" (1996), was reviewed by the fan website, Frasier Online. Two reviewers said Long's performance in Frasier was overplayed, overacted and not portrayed the way she played Diane in Cheers as a regular character. The reviewers praised Diane's reconciliation with Frasier at the end or the program. In the same website, reviews praised her another Frasier appearance in "Don Juan in Hell" (2001) as part of Frasier's imaginative evaluation about his troubled love life.
In his blog, Lance Mannion depicted Diane as a self-serving femme fatale, whom he said was a threat to men, especially Sam and Frasier, and a snobbish outsider who wants to change people to be part of the Cheers gang. Mannion wrote that he was relieved that the show improved since her departure, and prefers Rebecca Howe to Diane. Josh Robertson of the website Complex called Diane a "total drag" and someone with whom it would be "almost impossible to [be with] in a sexual situation, [especially with] Sam". Robertson preferred Rebecca Howe to Diane, and said Rebecca was "way more attractive", even though she was not "as good for comedy on [the series]".
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