Why Cheers' Cast Almost Quit Over Repainting The Show's Set

The sets of different sitcoms can feel like a home away from home for the audiences watching, so it's not hard to imagine just how much the casts of those shows might get attached to them. Sitcoms are frequently about families (either by blood or friendship) and the casts can develop relationships just as potent, making the sets the place of incredible memories. Unfortunately, sets aren't made to last forever and that can lead to some emotional consequences for the cast. Sometimes there are tragedies like the fire that took out the set of the "M*A*S*H" finale, and sometimes it can be something as simple as giving the set a fresh coat of paint that can totally upset the balance of things.

The 1980s sitcom "Cheers" takes place in a bar owned by former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Sam Malone (Ted Danson), who serves up drinks to a motley crew of regulars and the occasional guest star. It's a pretty instantly recognizable set to anyone who's ever seen even a few minutes of the show, but when the set was repainted one year, it almost caused some of the cast to quit. That might seem like a bit of an overreaction, but there were some rather tragic circumstances behind their response.

The loss of Coach

The problem was that Nick Colasanto, who played Sam's co-bartender and went by the nickname Coach, had written bits of his lines all over the bar when he was growing increasingly ill from heart disease. During the filming of season 3, the cast showed up to tape and found out that he had died of a heart attack. So when his line reminders were painted over, it was a crushing blow to the cast, as Danson once recalled to GQ:

"When Nick had heart disease, he was getting less and less oxygen. There wasn't a surface on that set that didn't have his lines written down. There was one episode where a friend of Coach dies, and he says, 'It's as if he's still with us now.' Nick had written the line on the wood slats by the stairs the actors would use to enter the studio. Nicky dies, and the next year, we're all devastated, and the first night we come down the stairs, right there was his line: 'It's as if he were with us now.' And so every episode, we'd go by it and pat it as we'd come down to be introduced to the audience. And then, one year, they repainted the sets and they painted over the line. People almost quit. Seriously. They were so emotionally infuriated that that had been taken away from them."

Losing such a powerful touchstone would upset anyone, so it's hard to blame them for being so angry. The painters should have gone around that line in particular given its significance, but maybe no one told them. It's just really a shame that such a neat and emotionally powerful piece of TV history was lost forever.

Head back to the place where everybody knows your name

It's been decades since "Cheers" debuted, so sadly there aren't many actors from the series still left alive. Colasanto was sick when he was cast, however, and everyone knew it was just a matter of time, though they didn't realize it would be so quick. Actor George Wendt, who played regular customer Norm, told GQ that the show's producers had warned the cast earlier in the season that he was unwell but they said, "Well, it could mean six weeks, could mean six years." Sadly, it ended up being closer to six weeks. At least the cast had a chance to memorialize him for a little while, touching his words on their way to work.

Sam's bar in "Cheers" is a truly memorable place that feels incredibly comfortable, like any good big city bar, but it does have a certain Boston charm that's hard to ignore. Just like the bad decision to paint over Colasanto's words, the team behind "Cheers" also came close to trading the Boston bar for a desert saloon, which would have been a seriously tough sell. Thankfully they didn't go that route, and we got 11 seasons of love and laughs in the bar where everybody knows your name.