Waitress Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) serving drinks to customers
|First appearance||"Give Me a Ring Sometime" (episode 1.01)|
|Last appearance||"Don Juan in Hell (pt. 2)" (Frasier episode 9.02)|
|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, portrayed by Shelley Long, of the American television show Cheers. Diane appeared as a main character of 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 Cheers spin-off, Frasier. Notoriously, she has on-off relationships with the lothario bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and a one-year relationship with Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer).
Creation and casting
Diane looks smarter than she really is, according to Shelley Long. She uses books and academics to communicate with others without avail. After a series of scorns and ridicules, Diane realizes that she does not know much about the real world, like the bar, so she must learn about the world without books and academics.
Shelley Long, Lisa Eichhorn, and Julia Duffy were the producers' top three considerations for the role. NBC executives praised test scenes between Ted Danson and Shelley Long, so the creators chose Long. Julia Duffy later appeared in "Any Friend of Diane's", a 1982 episode of Cheers, as one of Diane Chambers's friends.
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
Diane was to have been an executive businesswoman, who would have a "love-hate" relationship with Sam Malone (Ted Danson), the ex-athlete, inspired by the romantic movies of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Instead, she became a "pretentious college student". When Shelley Long left the series in 1987, the original concept was reverted with the replacement for Diane Chambers, Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley).
Wendie Malick auditioned for the role. She later appeared in the Cheers spin-off Frasier as Ronny Lawrence. Bess Armstrong was offered a role, but she turned it down and then had no regrets about it.
Diane Chambers, born to her mother Helen (Glynis Johns) and her father who died before Cheers premiered in 1982, is an educated college graduate and a cocktail waitress. In the 1982 series pilot, "Give Me a Ring Sometime", Diane arrives with her then-fiancé Sumner Sloane (Michael McGuire). When he leaves and then never returns, she realizes that she has been jilted and takes a job waitressing at Cheers. She occasionally has facial tics. Also, she uses long-winded, poetic speeches and obscure words that would elude everyone in the bar'. She attended Bennington College, a private college, and attended Boston University for graduate school.
In "Someone Single, Someone Blue" (1983), Diane learns from her mother that she must be married quickly before her father's inheritance will is cut off. She tries to marry Sam but the mission is unsuccessful, and she loses her mother is cut off from her late husband's fortune. Nevertheless, the butler Boggs (Duncan Ross) is found to have embezzled Diane's father's wealth, and Boggs and Diane's mother start a relationship, which saves them from poverty.
Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) is Diane's nemesis. Diane's closest friend of Cheers was Coach Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto)[c 1] until his death at the beginning of Season Four. Many times she plays morality games with others and wins against them. In "The Boys in the Bar" (1983), Diane is appalled by regular patrons' negativities toward gays, insisting that gays are the same as other people. In "Pick a Con... Any Con" (1983), Diane spends a lot of time on reading instructions of making Bloody Mary from scratch, which agonizes Carla. Then Diane learns from Sam that a big jar of Bloody Mary is already prepared in a refrigerator, which humiliates her. When Sam berates Carla for this, Carla responds 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, during a snipe hunt, which turns out to be a prank on him, and she convinces them to go and find him immediately. Frasier who has worked out it was a joke, turns it around and fools them 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 convinces Carla to go with a workmate of his instead. Carla later finds out that Diane was Cliff's first choice and then tells him that Diane has the hots for him. Cliff attempts to seduce Diane in the car, but then Diane orders him to "get out" of the car, drives the car, and finally 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 and urges Norm to be successful. Then, when Norm attempts an idea for executives, another worker Warren Thompkins (Tegan West) steals his presentation and then becomes scolded by executives for an idea that would hurt the company. Therefore, Norm decides to go against Diane's advice and then to be an average man who can work hard for corporations, even when he may be anonymous to high-rank employees.
Diane had on-again, off-again relationships with former baseball player Sam Malone (Ted Danson), who is the opposite of her: a high-school dropout, a womanizing bartender, her boss, working class, and "the opposite of intellectual". In the two-part first season finale, "Showdown" (1983), Diane is charmed by Sam's more successful brother, Derek, and then becomes torn between him and working-class Sam. Eventually, Sam and Diane no longer keep their feelings for each other and make passionate embrace toward each other. During the second season (1983–1984), their relationship is consummated but then becomes dysfunctional with endless doubts, arguments, breakups, and reunions until, in the second season finale, they finally end their on-off relationship.
She meets Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) at a psychiatric hospital and dates him during Season Three (1984–1985). Frasier was created and intended (1984–1985) by Cheers creators Glen and Les Charles to be a rival to Sam's  but then becomes a regular character, At the beginning of Season Three she finds out 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, which leads to Diane taking her job back as a waitress as there is no longer any animosity between them. Later in the season, Diane leaves Boston again in "Cheerio, Cheers" (1985) to accompany Frasier on a work trip. When Frasier proposes Diane accepts, leaving Sam heartbroken again. However, in "Birth, Death, Love, and Rice" (1985), it is revealed she left Frasier at the wedding altar and began working at a convent back in the US. Sam goes to see her and she takes it as a sign she should return to Cheers.
Sam and Diane work side by side as friends in the fourth season (1984–85). In the three-part season finale, "Strange Bedfellows" (1986), Diane is rivaled by intelligent, attractive politician Janet Eldridge (Kate Mulgrew) for Sam. Janet insists he should choose between them as it's time he settled down. The season ends with him proposing to someone over the phone. In the opening of the fifth season (1986–87) we learn it was Diane he proposed to. She initially rejects his proposal but then realises her mistake and goes back to him. Sam however is hurt by the rejection and says he no longer wants to be with her. In "Chambers vs. Malone" (1987), Sam proposes again and again she declines, this time because she thought he was only asking because she was crying. He chases her down the street causing her to fall and hurt herself. She takes him to court even though he didn't physically cause the injury. In the courtroom, he proposes again at a judge's behest; she finally accepts. In the Season Five finale, "I Do, Adieu" (1987), their wedding day has arrived, but after Diane is offered the chance to fulfil her dream of becoming a writer she leaves Cheers saying she will return after six months. As she leaves Sam tells her to "have a nice life", to which she says you only say that if you'll never see the person again. After she leaves he says it again, as he knows she will not come back.
In summer 1984, Shelley Long was married to stockbroker Bruce Tyson and pregnant with his child, and the storyline of Diane Chambers' out-of-wedlock pregnancy was speculated to have either Sam or Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), who started out as part of the "Sam and Diane" triangle, as the father of her child. However, the producers found the pregnancy idea undesirable and scrapped it. Instead, Diane became written as childless, and scenes of Diane and Frasier in Europe were filmed before Shelley Long's pregnancy manifested. During the third season, Long was shot on camera either above her waist or while she stood behind the bar to disguise her pregnancy. In March, she gave birth to a baby girl. As Les Charles admitted, "one of America's sweethearts" Diane is liberal enough to be "an unwed 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 even though she and Danson had, Long said, "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. The creators in February 1987 decided to find a female lead replacement whose hair was not blonde and who did not resemble Shelley Long. During production of the fifth season finale, "I Do, Adieu" (1987), the producers have developed ideas to separate Sam and Diane by keeping Sam and casting Diane out. Many ideas to write Diane out were attempted, but they decided to have her leave Boston for a writing career. They, as James Burrows admitted, intended Cheers to be a comedy about comedy itself set in the bar, but, as Burrows claimed, the "Sam and Diane" romance predominated the show for five years and, as he hypothesized, would have made the bar more of a minor role and more irrelevant if Shelley Long had not left the show as Diane Chambers in 1987. When Long decided to leave Cheers, producers made plans to do revamp the show without losing its initial premise, and then they credited Long's departure for saving the series from cancellation.
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 the actress re-appeared for the series finale, Shelley Long appeared as herself for the 200th episode special in 1990, hosted by John McLaughlin, along with other surviving cast members at the time. Her return was rumored in 1989, but a spokesperson for Paramount Television dismissed these rumors.
According to the April 1–4, 1993, telephone survey of 1,011 people by the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press (now Pew Research Center), Sam Malone was voted a favorite by 26%; Diane Chambers was by 4%; Rebecca Howe was by 6%; Frasier Crane was by 1%. For the question of to whom he 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 reunited after six years of separation. Diane admits that she did not want to return to Cheers until she was successful. For a while, Sam and Diane confess to 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 behind for Los Angeles. At the start of the plane's departure, Sam and Diane begin to have second thoughts about their future together with help the announcers give them rhetorical questions about their relationship. Finally, when the plane becomes 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 plays the role of 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 flesh in "The Show Where Diane Comes Back" (1996). In Los Angeles, she lost her job by accidentally setting Jane Seymour's hair on fire at the set of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Moreover, she lost her friends, boyfriend, beach house, and financial supporter of her upcoming play. Therefore, she arrives to Seattle for help from Frasier. Later, during rehearsal of her play, inspired by and resemblance to her experience in Cheers, Frasier goes frantic and then talks negatively about Diane. After the rehearsal, Diane reconciles with Frasier about leaving him in Europe years ago. Finally, she decides to postpone the play and then to move back to Los Angeles.
Shelley Long has 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" and did not win in 1993.
In 1990, Robert Bianco praised Diane and Shelley Long for making the show a "classic" and was devastated that she left the show, along with Nicholas Colasanto's death, which lessened Bianco's praise on the show. In 1993, John Carman from San Francisco Chronicle found her guest appearance in the series finale 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 No. 30 of the top 100 "Greatest TV Women" of all-time.
On the other hand, 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 people in Cheers onscreen. More often, she has not befriended women, and she has "[teased] men more than [pleased] them". In 2002, Bill Simmons, previous writer of ESPN, praised Diane's early years but found her becoming "overbearing". In 2009, Andrea Zimmerman from Lemondrop website ranked Diane No. 5 in the "20 Least Feminist TV Characters" for chasing after Sam to prevent her own insanity. In 2012, Steve Silverman from the Screen Junkies website considered her "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 in the fan dedication website, Frasier Online. Two reviews found Shelley Long's performance in Frasier "overplayed" and overacting and not the same as how she portrayed Diane in Cheers when she was a regular character. Nevertheless, Diane's reconciliation with Frasier at the end was praised. 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.
Lance Mannion in his blog depicted Diane as self-serving, a "femme fatale", a "threat" to men, especially Sam and Frasier, and a "true [snobbish] outsider" who wants to change people to be part of the Cheers gang. Mannion is relieved that the show got better since her departure, and prefers Rebecca Howe to Diane. Josh Robertson of Complex website called Diane a "total drag" and "almost impossible to [be] in a sexual situation, [especially with] Sam." Robertson preferred Diane's replacement, Rebecca Howe to Diane as "way more attractive", even when not "as good for comedy on [the series][.]"
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