You could make a case that George Wendt’s Norm Peterson is the mascot for “Cheers.” The ritual of him entering the bar, everyone shouting his name, and him giving delivering a killer one-liner as he makes his way to his corner bar seat is the kind of thing that could only happen on this show. Norm is the beatdown, corporate cog with a home life with no spark, and the titular bar is where he can be himself. And when Wendt agreed to come in for “Cheers,” this whole character did not exist. He writes in his book “Drinking with George” that he came in to play a different character and was only to appear in the pilot:
“According to the original script, I wasn’t supposed to appear until the end of the episode. […] I was supposed to be George, [Diane’s] first customer. ‘I’m Diane,’ she would introduce herself. ‘I’ll be your waitress.’ Then would come a rambling monologue, a minute long, about all the strange circumstances that had led up to her becoming a waitress. My job was to look impatient, until Diane finally remembered she was talking to a thirsty customer. ‘Oh!’ she’d exclaim. ‘I should take your order. What can I get you?’ At which point I was to deliver my single line. My single word, actually: ‘Beer!'”
Wendt had appeared on an episode of “Taxi,” which the Charles brothers wrote and Burrows directed, and they asked him to come in for this one-line part. Obviously, they knew that giving this gifted performer just a single line was patently absurd, and the next time he got the script, George was no longer there. Instead, it was Norm. And the rest is history.