in "An American Family" (season 3, episode 9)
"Give Me a Ring Sometime"
(season 1, episode 1)
"The Show Where Diane Comes Back" (in-person)
"Don Juan in Hell" (fantasy)
|Portrayed by||Shelley Long|
|Family||Spencer Chambers (father)
Helen Chambers (mother)
Diane Chambers is a fictional character in the American television situation comedy show Cheers, portrayed by Shelley Long and created by Glen and Les Charles. After her fiancé Sumner Sloan abandons her in the Cheers bar in the pilot episode, Diane works as a bar waitress. She has an on-off relationship with the womanizing bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and a one-year relationship with Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), who later becomes a main character of the series and Frasier. When Long left the series during the fifth season, the producers decided to write her character out in "I Do, Adieu", where Diane moves from Boston to Los Angeles to pursue her writing aspirations. Since then, they added her permanent replacement Rebecca Howe, a businesswoman played by Kirstie Alley, in the sixth season. Shelley Long made a special guest appearance in the series finale as Diane, who wins an award for writing a television film. In Frasier, while her fantasy counterpart appears in two episodes as part of Frasier's dreams, the actual Diane appears in a crossover episode "The Show Where Diane Comes Back", where she loses her career and house in Los Angeles.
Other actresses auditioned for the role of Diane Chambers. Producers decided to give Long the role primarily for her scenes with Ted Danson as Sam. Critical reception for the character has been mostly positive, but some critics gave negative reviews about her. For her performance as Diane, Long won an Emmy Award in 1983 for an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and two Golden Globe Awards in respectively 1983 and 1985 for a Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Television Series.
Diane Chambers premiered in Cheers in 1982 as a college graduate who works as a cocktail waitress. Her mother is Helen (Glynis Johns), who appears in only an episode "Someone Single, Someone Blue" (1983), and her father Spencer died before the start of the series' narrative. She attended the private Bennington College and studied for her graduate 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 at Cheers, she realizes that he will not return and takes a waitressing job at Cheers. As a waitress, she gains a new nemesis Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman), while she gains a new close friend Coach Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto)[c 1] until his death offscreen before the fourth season begins.
Diane also has on-and-off relationships with womanizing bartender Sam Malone, who is her non-intellectual opposite. When Sam and Diane end one of their relationships at the end of the second season, she goes to a psychiatric hospital in the following season and meets its psychiatrist Frasier Crane, initially Sam's rival who eventually becomes a regular character and then has his own spin-off. At the end of the season, Diane leaves Boston to marry Frasier in Europe. However, at the start of the fourth season, she jilts Frasier at the wedding altar. In the fifth season, after Sam ended his relationship with politician Janet Eldridge (Kate Mulgrew), Sam cyclically proposes to Diane, who repeatedly rejects his proposals until she accepts one of his latest proposals in the episode "Chambers vs. Malone" (1987). In the season finale, "I Do, Adieu" (1987), when Diane is offered the chance to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer, Sam and Diane halt their wedding. Therefore, she leaves Boston, promising him that she will return to him for six months. However, in the series finale, "One for the Road" (1993), after six years of separation, Diane returns to him as the award-winning cable television writer. Both try to rekindle their romance for old times' sake and plan to leave Boston together for Los Angeles. However, they begin to reconsider their relationship and then amicably break it off. Therefore, Diane returns to Los Angeles without Sam.
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—inspired by her experiences at Cheers—Frasier becomes verbally angry with Diane's rose-tinted portrayal of herself and her inaccurate depiction of him. 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.
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 Diane's replacement Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley).
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 he felt, if her character was pregnant with Sam's child and did not marry Sam, she would be seen as unsympathetic, and he did not want the character to marry Sam because it would change the show into a domestic comedy.
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 revise 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
Long's replacement Kirstie Alley debuted as businesswoman Rebecca Howe in the sixth season and becomes a main cast member since.
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.
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.
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 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 said that Diane often plays and wins morality games with bar patrons. Shapiro said further than she is 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".
- Primary sources
- "The Godfather, Part III." 1987. Cheers: The Complete Fifth Season. Paramount. DVD.
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- Bjorklund, p. 180.
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|access-date=(help) Author worked for Los Angeles Daily News at the time of publication.
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- "Louie De Palma Is Top TV Character; TV Guide Puts Out Top 50 List". TV Guide. 11 October 1999.
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|access-date=(help) The margin of error in the survey was ±3, according to the polls. In this web edition, scroll down to see its headline.
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- Shapiro 2011, p. 122.
- Shapiro 2011, pp. 122–123.
- Shapiro, Primetime Propaganda, p. 123.
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- Hecht, Jennifer Michael (2007). The Happiness Myth: An Expose. HarperOne. p. 235. ISBN 0060813970.
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- Hecht, Jennifer Michael. The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think is Right is Wrong: A History of What Really Makes Us Happy. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. ISBN 978-0-06-081397-0.