One of the most viewed series finales in TV history, it was 98 minutes long, including commercials, three times the normal length; the 271st episode and the 25th episode of the eleventh season of Cheers. It first aired on NBC on Thursday, May 20, 1993, to an audience of approximately 42.4 million households, making it the second-highest-rated series finale of all time behind M*A*S*H and the highest-rated episode of the 1992–1993 television season in the United States. The 98 minute version was re-shown on Sunday, May 23, 1993, and an edited 90 minute version aired on Thursday, August 19, 1993.
Woody Boyd is elected Boston councilman and gives Norm Peterson a job. Cliff receives a promotion at the post office. Diane is seen by the Cheers staff & patrons winning a televised award, for writing a TV movie. Although her book's manuscript was rejected by publishers, it was perfect for a made-for-TV movie, prompting her to stay in Los Angeles in hopes of even greater success. At night, Diane calls Sam at Cheers' to thank him for the congratulatory telegram he sent.
Both she and Sam pretend to be married to impress the other, while eating dinner at Melville's. Sam involves Rebecca as his "wife", however Rebecca's boy-friend, plumber Don Santry, interrupts their dinner to propose, foiling Sam's charade. When Rebecca and Don leave, Reed's partner, Kevin (Anthony Heald), arrives to confront Reed for "cheating" on him with Diane, exposing Diane's "marriage" as nonexistent. Now alone at the table, Sam and Diane come to terms about having no family of their own. Diane admits to Sam that she failed to return to him in six months, as promised in the episode I Do, Adieu (1987).
Sam and Diane walk in and announce their engagement, but his friends disapprove. Disgusted with their disapproval and years without a family, Sam exits the bar with Diane. In the plane, Sam and Diane begin to reconsider their decisions to be together again. As the flight is delayed and returns to the airport, the pair decide to amicably part ways. Diane boards another flight for Los Angeles, while Sam returns to Cheers. When Sam returns, Rebecca joyfully announces that Don has been offered a good job with the Boston Sewer Department and leaves in excitement for their honeymoon.
When most of the gang has left, Norm stays behind and admits that he knew Sam would return to Boston for his "one true love", saying, "You'll always come back to her." After Norm leaves, a man(Bob Broder) knocks on the Cheers' door, but Sam replies, "Sorry, we're closed", and turns all the lights off.
Three hundred people attended the filming of the finale in Paramount Studios' Stage 25 in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 31, 1993, from 7:20 PM to 2:15 AM. Due to Shelley Long's commitment to the CBS sitcom, Good Advice, the finale's bar-scene ending was filmed without her, on Wednesday, April 7, 1993, after the penultimate episode "The Guy Can't Help It" was completely filmed on the same day. However, the ending was concealed from the general public, especially the studio audience, until the original airing.
United States President Bill Clinton was invited to be part of this finale, but declined. Brandon Tartikoff, former executive of NBC, as well as Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, appeared in the finale as uncredited bar patrons. Bob Broder, agent for the show's creators, is told by Sam Malone in the finale scene that, 'the bar is closed'.