Question about opening credits of "Cheers"

We’ve got a six-week-old baby at our house, so Mrs. Sauron and I have been up a lot at night. I’ve gotten to see a lot of Cheers reruns on Nick at Night.

I’ve noticed something odd, though, about the opening credits. If you’ll remember, the Cheers credits were set against a backdrop of a photo montage from the early 1900s (I’m guessing at the time period). As the names of the cast were displayed, an obvious effort was made to link the photo with the character played by that person. For example, when the name “Ted Danson” was displayed, the photo would be that of a dark-haired bartender. When the name “Woody Haralson” was displayed, the photo was of a younger man behind a bar with a somewhat winsome expression on his face. And so on. Each photo is displayed for about three seconds, the same length of time the actor’s name is displayed.

This trend was broken in two instances, though. For Rhea Perlman (who played Carla), the photo showed a woman’s legs. No face shot whatsoever. For George Wendt (Norm), a large man was shown very briefly (less than a second), and then the next photo flashed up – that of an older man holding up a newspaper with “WE WIN” as the banner headline. Wendt’s name was still on the screen, but obviously this wasn’t supposed to be his character.

Why were Perlman and Wendt slighted (if indeed it is a slight) in this way?

Note: I’ve noticed this on the most recent versions of Cheers (those with “Rebecca Howe” as opposed to “Diane Chambers”); I don’t know if the earlier versions of the show had this same trait. I believe Perlman’s name was always linked to those legs, rather than a face, in the credits, but I think Wendt at one time had “his” photo displayed longer.

Sauron I can relate, our kid is two weeks old.

I read in some Entertainment News type bit that the creators didn’t know who was in the photographs–they got them from some historical archive or similar place. They are (or were this was some time ago) interested if anyone could identify the people.

I am not able to answer your question but you could try:
Cheers Message Board

Thanks, Threadkiller. Hope you’re getting some sleep.

I’ve checked various Cheers sites on the Web, with no luck so far. I don’t really care who the folks are in the photos; I just wanna know why Perlman and Wendt didn’t get the same “face time” as the other characters in the opening credits.

“Face Time” was actually very important in the early days of the series. The story goes that Ted Danson and Shelley Long both considered themselves the star of the series and neither wanted to receive second billing. That is why, if you will look closely you will notice the unique placement of their names(SL, lower right corner, TD upper left corner) allows both to be considered “Top billing”. In other words, if you read from left to right, Shelley Long is the star. However, if you read from top to bottom, Ted Danson is the star.

Chris W.

“This has been another…useless fact !”
–Y. Warner

The same credit arrangement was used for Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in The Towering Inferno. Just thought I’d point that out.

Dammit, I was going to point that out!

I’m the one who makes gratuious Towering Inferno references around here! ME! ME! ME!

Remember to breathe…just remember to breathe… :wink:

IIRC, the guy with the paper was originally shown behind the credit for the fellow who played the Coach, which might have something to do with it.

A set of photos of the credits can be found here:

Although not needed by the OP the photos of the bar people came from “Our Town on the Plains” J. J. Pennell’s Photographs of Junction City, Kansas, 1893-1922

And Sauron, I think that maybe the reason why photos for the secondary characters were not as consistent as the main ones could be due to the mundane reason that they were indeed secondary. Of course, as the seasons progressed, it became obvious that the whole cast was important. Lets not forget that the show was almost cancelled after the first season and IMO, changing the credits was the least of the worries.

Not wishing to be too nitpicky:

I think you mean SL in upper right corner, TD in lower left corner. The way that you describe it (UL, LR) gives a clear billing order.

Antonius Block

Thanks, guys.

Actually, the credits I’m talking about come from the last couple of seasons of the show (although I think Perlman’s name was always superimposed over those legs). Why do Perlman and Wendt not get the same consideration as the other members of the cast in the credits?

I could possibly see Wendt giving up some “face time” in the credits to allow a tribute to the character of Coach (represented by the guy with the “We Win” newspaper). But why does Perlman’s character never get a “face” in the credits?

I think you’re missing the obvious visual pun. Since Rhea Perlman is very short, they only showed the lower legs of a woman (cos she’s short, get it?).

Can’t explain the Norm bizness, tho.

If they’re making a pun on Perlman’s stature, wouldn’t it make more sense to show only the top of a lady’s head?

For you Cheers fans:

The original bar (not the establishment, the wooden bar itself) shown in the opening credits of Cheers can be found in the Irish Lion in Bloomington, IN where I live. Almost no one here knows it and there is only a tiny sign in the bar talking about it. The only way I found out is that a member of the family who owns the bar told me at the local business expo.

Still, it sounds to me like a must-visit for any Cheers fan. Go there and order the Celtic Stew. It’s delicious.

To further nitpick,

<pushed over>Ted Danson

Shelley Long

SL in lower left and TD in upper right. That way, left to right, SL is billed first and top to bottom, TD is billed first. Or did I just goof it up? :confused:

I thought that showing legs near Rhea Perlman’s name indicated that the character was sexy and perhaps a bit mysterious (or, at least, she thought of herself that way!) It doesn’t seem that insulting at all. Perhaps the photo archive did not have a suitable picture of a diminuitive Italian barmaid.

As for Wendt–I don’t know. I seem to recall that in the early episodes, though, Cliff was not credited in the opening montage–John Ratzenberger’s name appeared at the end of the show. I think their parts were just intended to be more minor in the beginning.

Showing a woman with her foot mannishly propped on the bar rail is a way of conveying Carla’s character that would have been less effective if they had shown the face.

I suspect that they cut away from the fat guy to the “we win” shot in order to pay homage to the dearly departed “Coach”.

Not sure if this will help, but the Nick at Night opening credits are MUCH shorter than the original ones. Most of the lyrics are gone (“makin’ your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got… taking a break from all your worries,” etc. etc.). So in the trimming for the late-night-cable-world, they probably left much of the original “face-time” on the cutting room floor. As to why Wendt’s time got cut more than the others, I dunno.

I have to agree with the no-suitable-picture-for-Carla theory, by the way…TRM

Why, it’s all the magic of syndication, my friend! Cut and compress! Cut and compress! Who cares if purists hate it? We get more money that way!

Actually, I think the opening credits were compressed while Cheers was still in its original broadcast run. By the time Kirstie Alley joined the cast, the show was a huge hit. I bet they cut the opening credits to squeeze in another commercial or two.

I got no problem with altering the “face time” in the credits to pay homage to Coach. But why should Wendt be the only one so affected? Why not shave half-a-second off everybody’s “face time” and give Coach’s “image” the same amount of time as everyone else? As it is now, Wendt gets shafted. I’m sure he agreed to it (my understanding is that credits are a huge part of contract negotiations), but it still seems strange.

Maybe Perlman never saw an image she liked, and so refused to have a “face” with her credit?

After looking at GIGObuster’s links, I can tell you that the “We Win” guy is not Coach. There is a different picture (in the top link) that has Nicholas Consanto’s name on it. The “We Win” Guy (second link) comes at the very end of the credits and is not attributed to any member of the cast.

They did compress the opening theme in syndication, but I thought that they played the originals on Nick at Nite. I could be wrong, though, and I don’t have cable anymore to check.