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How fans said goodbye to the TV show Cheers at Toronto's SkyDome

An American situation comedy set in a Boston basement bar got a big send-off by its network and by TV viewers when its last episode aired on May 20, 1993.

40,000 fans packed the stadium to watch the last episode together

Viewers raise a glass in a mass gathering to celebrate the end of an era in TV sitcom history. 1:18

Cheers was closing for good. And in Toronto, there was a place where well-wishers could go to take a break and get away for last call.

"Thousands communed at the SkyDome last night for a final goodbye,"  said reporter Bill Cameron in a voice-over for a report the following evening. "It was the bar where everyone knew your name."

The long-running American sitcom aired its series finale on May 20, 1993, and it didn't go quietly. 

The stands at SkyDome were full of 40,000 fans, some of whom were waving homemade banners and bearing signs spelling "NORM" — a favourite denizen of the on-screen Boston basement bar.

'Better than MASH'

Fans hold up signs spelling out the name of a well-known character on Cheers at SkyDome on May 20, 1993. (CBLT Newshour/CBC News)

The CBC camera showed what the big screen at SkyDome had looked like as it aired the last program in the series, which starred Ted Danson as the former baseball pro and recovering alcoholic who owned the bar.

"It's the last episode of Cheers!" said a fan standing behind a banner that read "Another round of beers for Cheers." "Greatest show ever made. Better than MASH."

MASH was a drama/comedy series that had ended 10 years earlier and also enjoyed a mass audience for its final episode.

"Watching Cheers last night was a little like getting drunk," said Cameron. "Initial euphoria, followed by stupor."

Alcohol, after all, was a depressant, he pointed out.

"They're like part of my family and I'm really sorry to see them go," said a woman in the audience.

But, as Cameron pointed out, Cheers was sure to live on in reruns — "until, as with MASH, viewer cirrhosis sets in."

'Over-sentimental'

Two entertainment writers dish on CBC's Midday about the final bow of a popular TV sitcom. 1:50

The finale, which had been preceded by a weeklong promotional push by host network NBC, was also discussed by two media reporters on CBC's Midday the next day. 

"We had a week, on NBC anyway, of every single person who seems to have drawn a paycheque from that network doing a 'goodbye Cheers', sort of a teary-eyed farewell," said journalist David Shannon. "I just thought it was over-sentimental."

Shannon even suggested that instead of SkyDome, it would have been a better choice to host the event in his city's crumbling Olympic Stadium, "with 55-pound slabs falling off."

Panellist Jennifer Scott, a CBC entertainment reporter, had kinder things to say, recalling a moment involving the ensemble discussing the meaning of life.

"I thought it was a really poignant scene," she said. "They injected the humour at just the right time ... it was classic Cheers."

Cheers fans show off a banner at the finale held at SkyDome in Toronto. (CBLT Newshour/CBC News)