If it's crap ... We'll tell you
It's another edition of Movies In My Collection and this week, I spent much of the week looking at one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Cheers. I finally got the entire collection of all 11 seasons this past week and sat down and watched them all.
The show revolves around a Boston bar called 'Cheers', in real life called the 'Bull & Finch Pub', and its' owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson). In the first episode, we're introduced to Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) and her fiance Sumner Sloane (Michael McGuire) who arrive in the bar so Sumner can call his ex-wife and ask for her ring to give to Diane as they prepare to get married in Barbados. When Sumner leaves to get the ring, Sam is asked to watch Diane until he comes back. After that, we're introduced to the other main characters including Coach (the late Nicolas Colsanto), Carla (Rhea Perlman), Norm (George Wendt), and Cliff (John Ratzenberger). Towards the end, Diane realizes that Sumner has gone back with his ex-wife and have traveled to Barbados themselves, as Sam had initially predicted. The event leads Diane to eventually join the crew at Cheers and thus, the series begins its' long run.
Over the course of the first five seasons, Sam & Diane have the on-again/off-again relationship where they're together for a few episodes and then they're not. And that's a technique that's been used in shows since Cheers such as Ross/Rachel on Friends, Jim/Pam on The Office, JD/ Elliott on Scrubs, and even Ted/Robin or Robin/Barney on How I Met Your Mother.
In the third season, Diane started dating Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), who would eventually move on to becoming a main character on the show and would eventually follow in his own spinoff, Frasier, which ran just as long as Cheers did, meaning that Grammer has played the role of Frasier for 20 years, a rare feat for an TV actor to play the same role continuously in different shows.
Season three was also the last season for Coach because Colsanto passed away shortly after the season wrapped up filming.
The fourth season introduced Coach's replacement, Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson), a lovable, albeit extremely naive and unsophisticated bartender. And to be perfectly honest, I actually like Woody more than I liked Coach, I liked both actors but I thought Woody was more enjoyable and you can tell the writers had a lot more fun writing his character. Plus, it's amazing to see how much Woody Harrelson has changed since Cheers ended and how great of an actor he's become since that.
Season five saw the biggest move with Cheers for a number of reasons. For one thing, it seemed like Sam & Diane were finally getting ready to tie the knot, Frasier Crane was eventually made into a more prominent character on the series in this season, and finally, and the biggest one of all, it was the last season for Shelley Long so she could venture off into film. In the last episode of the season, Sam & Diane are getting ready to be married but at the last minute, Diane backs out and gets a publisher to buy a novel from her that she wrote.
The last five minutes of the episode show Sam & Diane saying goodbye and Sam telling Diane, 'Have a good life', and then Sam daydreams into the future showing an older version of the two dancing as the episode ends. I thought that was incredibly well done and a perfect farewell to that storyline.
The sixth season was the start of the new storyline. It starts off with Cheers not being the same as it used to be as Sam sold the bar to a large corporation and bought a boat. And it was also the introduction of Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), who at the start had a similar feel of Diane Chambers and there was even points in this season and the years afterward that Sam and Rebecca would end up together, that ended up not happening. I'm like most people who prefer Diane over Rebecca but that said, I don't think Rebecca Howe was a bad character. She kind of got annoying in the first few episodes but as the show went on, she grew into her own and she actually became a pretty good followup to what we saw before. It wasn't like the bullshit they pulled with Two & A Half Men when they brought Ashton Kutcher in, the transition was very slow to start off but it grew with time and got better.
After that, there wasn't that much change to the show for the rest of the run with the exception of the addition of Lilith, Frasier's wife played by Bebe Neuwirth, who showed up in more episodes around the eighth and ninth season and for awhile in the tenth season, she became part of the major cast with her name in the opening credits.
Some of the recurring storylines that happened during the run besides the Sam/Diane and Sam/Rebecca relationships include the long standing battle between Cheers and Gary's Old Towne Tavern, Carla's numerous pregnancies during the course of the series, her boyfriend Eddie LeBroc (Jay Thomas) who ends up dying in a Zamboni accident, Rebecca's relationship with Robin Colcord (Roger Rees), and Woody getting married to girlfriend Kelly (Jackie Swanson) in the second-to-last season.
The show also would open up with a cold open with a story that was not relevant to the actual subplot. I think The Office took a lot from how Cheers did their cold opens and while they didn't downright steal from Cheers, you can see some of the mild similarities. One of the interesting things the series does is that when it comes to 2-part episodes, especially in the first five years, they manage to come up with clever ways to show what happened in the last episode without doing the typical 'Previously on...'. After Rebecca came in, they went back to the typical 'Previously on...' but there were points where they would do the same thing they did in the first 5 years.
The show also saw a lot of real famous names in the guest cast including John Cleese, Roger Rees, Jay Thomas, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Emma Thompson, Annie Golden, Harry Anderson, Fred Dryer, Tip O'Neill, Dick Cavett, Christopher Lloyd, Carol Kane, Alex Trebek, Johnny Carson, and even voice actors like Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series), Tress MacNellie (Babs on Tiny Toons and Dot on Animaniacs), Christine Cavanaugh (Chuckie on Rugrats), and Doris Grau (Lunch Lady Doris on The Simpsons and Doris on The Critic) would show up in roles on the series.
And of course, you can't forget the theme song. I don't care what anybody says, that's the best 80s theme song ever. Perfect Strangers ain't got nothing on the Cheers song.
The last episode of the series, One For The Road, is for my opinion, one of the best series finales ever if not the best. They did an incredibly job of wrapping up everybody's storylines, giving all the main characters a proper goodbye, bringing back Diane into the story and having it make sense, and they didn't cop out on anybody and what you would think would happen doesn't happen. It's a finale that takes you by surprise and gives you a finale that works on all levels.
The DVD sets has some bonus features, mostly in the first three seasons, which include outtakes, several featurettes with the cast and crew, a virtual tour of the Cheers bar, and much more. After season three, there's no bonus features on any of the other seasons. Unless you include season 11 which features syndication promos for that season on every episode.
Cheers really is one of the last great sitcoms, it was a staple of its' time and it's still hilarious even today. Cheers has a lot of great characters, packs on a lot of laughs, and remains consistently well made throughout the course of its' run. If you want to see a network television show that became a gamechanger for the time, Cheers is definitely that show. Definitely check it out.
DVDs Mentioned In This Post: