Sam "Mayday" Malone is a fictional character on the American television show Cheers, portrayed by Ted Danson. The central character of the series, Sam is a former relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball team and an owner and a bartender of Cheers. He is a recovering alcoholic and notorious lothario. Although his celebrity status was short-lived, Sam retains that standing within the confines of Cheers, where he is beloved by the regular patrons. Notoriously, he has an on- and off-relationship with Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) in 1982–1987 and the series finale in 1993, "One for the Road."
Sam appeared in all 275 episodes of Cheers between 1982–1993. He also made a guest appearance in the Frasier episode "The Show Where Sam Shows Up".
Before the series began in September 1982, Ted Danson appeared as a hairdresser in "The Unkindest Cut", the 1982 episode of the television series Taxi; Glen and Les Charles, creators of then-upcoming television series Cheers along with James Burrows, were executive consultants for that episode. Danson was one of three actors who auditioned for the role of Sam Malone; the other two actors were William Devane and Fred Dryer. Originally, Sam Malone was supposed "to be a former wide receiver for the New England Patriots." Fred Dryer was initially chosen for that role due to his status as a former football player, but the creators chose Ted Danson instead. Therefore, Sam then evolved into a former relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Fred Dryer later appeared as Dave Richards, a friend of Sam Malone and the sportscaster, in Cheers.
Sam dropped out of high school in favor of his potential baseball career. He became a relief pitcher in the Major League Baseball team, Boston Red Sox. His baseball career took a nosedive when he developed an alcohol problem. Sam has run the bar, Cheers, for five years when the series Cheers began in 1982 after his baseball career was over. Over time, his role as a bartender turned him into the "resident ringleader for an assortment of poor souls and wanna-bes."
Danson earned $450,000 per episode as Sam Malone within the last few years of Cheers before "One for the Road" was aired on May 20, 1993. According to the 1993 interview at the Paramount Studios, Danson wanted to stop portraying Sam Malone, which contributed to the end of Cheers. When the interviewer asked Danson about changes of Sam, Danson responded, "He got older, you know," and then, "They tried to make him Sammy again. But he's 45 now. I'm 45. It's OK to be chasing around when you're 37. But when you're 45, it's kind of sad to be chasing around that way."
Ted Danson wore a hairpiece to conceal his baldness for the role of Sam Malone during filming of Cheers. His baldness was revealed at the 1990 Primetime Emmy Awards. In the Cheers episode, "It's Lonely on the Top" (1993), Sam Malone reveals his own hairpiece that conceals his actual baldness to Carla (Rhea Perlman).
Sam is "athletically handsome" yet a "narcissist," "shallow," and "vain", as well. As a lothario, Sam dates and flings women in his life, including "women who want to have fun," even before Cheers began in 1982. Nevertheless, he fails to fulfill every relationship in his life. He was once married to a woman named Deborah (Donna McKechnie), but his marriage did not last.
Sam has an affair with a publicity agent (Barbara Babcock) to appear in commercials, but he breaks off this relationship and loses his job as an actor for advertisements. He makes flings with his adult high school teacher to gain his chances to earn himself a diploma, but he breaks off this relationship, has his exams re-examined, and then successfully earns a diploma without another fling with her again.
Notoriously, Sam Malone is irresistible to Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) and somewhat resisted by Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), inspired by works about "mixture of romance and antagonism of two people, [portrayed by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn], in a competitive situation." As Les Charles observed, Sam was a "straight man" to Diane; after Long's departure, he became more "carefree" and a "goof-off."
He has on- and off-relationships with "a bright, attractive graduate student" Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) in 1982-1987 and the 1993 series finale, "One for the Road," but they turn out to be a mismatch in each relationship. In 1987, Sam sells Cheers to the corporation, travels with his yacht, and soon returns to the bar to work there under employment of a "voluptuously beautiful" new manager, Rebecca Howe. Since then, Sam many times flirts with and attempts to seduce Rebecca, but she rejects his advances.
In Cheers, Sam is "allowed to be happy" and "living a rich life" Nevertheless, in "The Guy Can't Help It" (1993), Sam realizes his sexual addiction and begins to seek professional counseling. In "The Show Where Sam Shows Up," the 1995 episode of Frasier, the Cheers spin-off, Sam is depicted as identified sexual addict with help from group meetings and committed to change himself. Sam is engaged to a fellow sex addict (Téa Leoni) whom he met during group therapy, but he breaks off the engagement after he finds out that she slept with two other men during their engagement.