November 23, 2017

BESIDES WKRP:

'Cheers' Has The Greatest (And Messiest) Thanksgiving Episode Of All Time (Brett White, Nov 23, 2017, Decider)

Written by Cheri Eichen and Bill Steinkellner and directed by multi-cam master James Burrows, "Thanksgiving Orphans" is a delicious sitcom turkey stuffed with the holiday spirit. It checks off all the holiday boxes while also saying something really profound about family-and there are also a dozen or more A+ jokes that hold up 31 Thanksgivings later.

As the title implies, this Cheers episode brings the entire cast together for a holiday dinner after they all realize they have nowhere else to go. Carla's (Rhea Perlman) kids are with their father, Frasier's (Kelsey Grammer) alone and bitter, Cliff's (John Ratzenberger) mom is volunteering at the rescue mission, and Woody's (Woody Harrelson) spending his first Thanksgiving away from home (if you don't count last year). Others have a place to be (Sam has a date on Thanksgiving!), but they would rather spend the day with their friends. Norm (George Wendt) just wants to get away from his in-laws' no-fun-zone (there's no beer, no TV and the heat is turned up to 80). Diane (Shelley Long), excited that she's been invited to spend the holiday with a stuffy professor she's keen on impressing, suggests that Carla host dinner for everyone else. Carla obliges, even allowing her archenemy Cliff to come over for yams (so long as he never tells anyone).

Plenty of sitcoms focus on friends and found families, and those resonate with me way more than any of the TGIF shows. But Cheers feels different from, say, Friends. The characters in Cheers really don't have anything in common outside of a place, whereas most of the Friends are lifelong buds and, in some cases, literal family. Would Woody and Carla ever hang out were it not for this bar? Or Frasier and Norm, or Cliff and Diane? The characters of Cheers are bonded together by a place. They're a subtly disparate bunch, a fact you don't consider until they're off their common ground. And just like IRL Thanksgivings, this episode, plucks everyone out of their comfort zone and drops them in a new context: Carla's house.

Once the episode relocates, the characters start to slowly fall into a familial rhythm. Carla plays host in her own aggressive way while her guests sit on the couch and alternate between football games and the parade. There's even a moment where Cliff musses a wonder-filled Woody's hair, a fatherly gesture between two men that are usually bartender and patron.

Now that they're spending a holiday together, these characters are connecting. Woody even asks "Who needs family?" Frasier responds with the episode's entire thesis, stating that family is more than just blood relations. That proves to be true as the rest of the cast shows up, having been abandoned by their plans. Norm couldn't convince Vera to come to Carla's, even though he said this was important to him. Sam (Ted Danson) shows up stag because his date's sister showed up in town (and they weren't into his suggestion of how to spend Thanksgiving). They're welcomed into Carla's house and immediately start drinking beer and subconsciously fighting over the TV-and then this makeshift family's "nutty old aunt" shows up.

Posted by at November 23, 2017 11:10 AM

  

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