“You wanna be where everybody knows your name”
And who wouldn’t want that? In its landmark 10th year Cheers kept on delivering pretty much the same. It’s remarkable that this cast remained almost untouched since the first year a decade ago. Coach passed and Diane left, but the patrons just kept coming back week after week providing that friendly ambiance that Billy Joel likely understood when he wrote Piano Man. Cheers was a simple show with very little fluff. The location almost never left the confines of the bar. The elegance of the series can be found in just how much could be mined in such a limited location. These characters had tremendous chemistry, and it was so easy to believe these relationships had existed forever. Part of the charm was our desire as an audience to hang out with these characters. Each week the series invited us to pull up a stool and be a part of the family. When Cheers went terribly astray it was the romantic entanglements, first with Diane and finally with Rebecca. We like Sam more when he’s his womanizing self playing the field. Cheers never needed complicated relationships. We all reveled in the absolute simplicity of this
Cheers was that kind of place that songs have been written about. Billy Joel’s Piano Man describes such a place where the patrons are, for the most part, regulars and pretty much family. In the days before huge screen televisions and satellite networks, Cheers would likely have been considered a sports bar. In those days the sports was more the talk of the place and not merely gathering to watch 127 games at a time. The bar’s owner was Sam Malone (Danson). Sam was a washed up baseball player for the local Boston Red Sox. He was a pitcher who liked to drink a bit too much. So, what does he do? He buys a bar. Actually the character has kicked the drinking and is always seen sporting a bottle of water. At first his bartender was his old baseball coach, until Nicholas Colasanto passed away after 3 years. Coach was replaced by Woody, played by Woody Harrelson. Woody was a farm boy with naiveté and small town charm reminiscent of Radar from MASH. His innocence was often the butt of the jokes. In a strange coincidence, the show’s popular theme song, performed by Gary Portnoy, sounded a lot like Harrelson’s voice, and for years it was believed by anyone too lazy to read the credits that Harrelson sang the tune. The barmaid was Carla, played by Danny DiVito’s wife Rhea Perlman. She reminded us a lot of her husband’s Louie character from Taxi. She was abrasive, sarcastic, and more than willing to kick a guy when he was down. She had a soft spot for Sam, however, and was often protective of him. Kirstie Alley played Rebecca Howe, an on again off again romantic interest for Sam and also on again off again owner of Cheers in later years. She replaced Shelly Long, who played Sam’s romantic interest and barmaid Diane for the first half of the show’s run. The steady customers offered most of the stories for Cheers. Cliff, played by John Ratzenberger, was a postman who spent more time nursing a beer than actually delivering the mail. He often joked about how hard it was to fire a civil service employee. He was a know-it-all and too often bored his comrades with longwinded explanations for even the simplest concepts. His best friend was Norm (George Wendt). Norm was one of the more popular patrons, greeted with shouts of “NORM” whenever he entered the bar. He sat in the same stool, usually griping about his life but unwilling to move off his seat and actually do anything about it. He was married to an unseen wife who worked while he loafed at Cheers. Finally, Kelsey Grammer played psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane. You might recognize that character the most, because he got his own show after 9 years on Cheers which lasted another decade. Frasier was the elitist who acted superior to the others but deep down just wanted to be one of the guys.
So what can you look forward to from this 10th year of Cheers? The downside is there is this drawn out arc where Sam and Rebecca are trying to have a kid. Even with this relationship overload going on, there are still some absolutely hilarious happenings at the bar this season. Norm hurts himself while painting for The Cranes in The Norm Who Came In From The Cold. Now they feel sorry for him and make the mistake of letting him recuperate at their place. One of the all-time best episodes is Where Have All The Floorboards Gone. A few of The Celtics make an appearance when the boys decide to “fix” the floorboard situation at The Boston Garden. When Kevin McHale goes down because of too many floor bolts, it’s up to the gang to remove a few of the pesky things. Woody does some real moonlighting as a gravedigger in No Rest For Woody. In Take Me Out To The Ball Game, Sam considers a comeback but is a little surprised to find the young players of today too immature for him. Now that’s saying something. There’s also the continuation of The Bar Wars with numbers V & VI.The season ends, as these kinds of shows so often do, with a wedding. Woody and Kelli are finally getting married.
Each episode of Cheers is presented in its original full frame broadcast format. Most of the time the picture is fine and likely is a good representation of the original broadcast quality. There are times when grain and compression artifact are quite obvious here. Colors are a little soft, likely due to typical sitcom production values.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is serviceable for the kind of a show Cheers is. Let’s face it, the dialog is pretty much all there is here, and it is reproduced just fine.
Cheers runs only another year after this season, but it was never really winding down, as evidenced by the popularity and another decade of Frasier Crane with his successful spin-off. It could also be said that when Danson finally got another good run himself in Becker that he was really just playing Sam as a doctor. It seems we just never really stopped wanting to visit Cheers over the years, and this 10th season collection is as good an excuse as ever to keep coming back. Television keeps throwing all kinds of “innovative” situation comedies at us, but “you’d think they have a little respect. Some of us are trying to drink our beer here”.
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