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Kirstie Alley’s Emmy-Winning ‘Cheers’ Performance Is a Boozy Tour de Force

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Kirstie Alley died suddenly at the age of 71 after a brief battle with cancer. To honor her memory and understand why she was essential to Cheers, watch her Emmy-winning performance.
Kirstie Alley was tasked with doing the impossible, and that’s something worth underlining and celebrating upon her tragic, sudden passing at the age of 71. Remember: Cheers could have easily ended when Shelley Long — one half of the medium’s definitive will they/won’t they couple — left the series after Season 5. The show had grown from being the lowest-rated show on TV to being one of the biggest hits; Long’s final episode as Diane was the #1 most-watched show of the week. Replacing Long should have been impossible — and then came Kirstie Alley.
Wisely, Cheers chose a performer and character almost diametrically opposed to Diane Chambers. Alley’s Rebecca Howe was an ’80s working woman, all shoulder-pads and upward mobility. That stood in stark contrast to Diane’s studious, somehow endearing elitism. And unlike Diane, Rebecca never really fell for Sam Malone’s charms. She resisted him with ease — except when she didn’t. Rebecca spent 6 seasons on the show, so of course Sam and Rebecca hooked up and had some off-and-on plots. The writers had to come up with 20+ stories a year! But Rebecca was allowed to occupy a different space in Cheers. She related to everyone in the bar in a new way. She was the boss… and she was a mess.
Nowhere is that better exemplified than in Season 9’s “Days of Wine and Neuroses.” This is the episode that would win Kirstie Alley her Emmy — in her fourth season on the show.

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