June 22, 2020


This Early Cheers Episode Explains Why Everybody Still Knows the Sitcom's Name (NITISH PAHWA, JUNE 22, 2020, Slate)

[A]ccolades aside, what's truly remarkable about Cheers is that, almost 40 years after its premiere, it mostly remains a warm, friendly, accessible show, despite some attitudes of its time. It began as a collaboration between brothers Glen and Les Charles, writers for M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and others, and James Burrows, a longtime TV director. As Burrows told the New York Times in 1983, the trio "wanted to create a show around a Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy-type relationship" between a sophisticate and an average Joe.

They came up with a former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher and Casanova named Sam Malone (Danson), whose problems with alcoholism derailed his career and who now stays sober while owning and tending his own bar, Cheers. His former coach, Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto), helps run things, while the sharp Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) works as a waitress, and the three regularly serve proud postal worker Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) and accountant Norm Peterson (George Wendt), the latter such a staple at the bar that he's cheered by name whenever he walks through the door. The Hepburn to Sam's Tracy is intellectual, snobbish Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), an academic who, after being dumped by her fiancé and former professor, takes a job serving at Cheers.

The famous Sam-and-Diane dynamic is an essential part of the show and affects just about every plot point in some way, but the show is not just about the two of them--it explores all the characters' lives in detail. And as Cheers goes along, characters filter in and out, including new bartender Woody (Harrelson), psychiatrists Frasier Crane (Grammer) and Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth), and businesswoman Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley). The show is also very proud of its firm Boston and Massachusetts roots, featuring cameos from local celebrities and politicians like Wade Boggs, Tip O'Neill, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis. As any actual Bostonian will be quick to tell you, Cheers as the characters know it never really existed, although there is a bar at the exterior location seen on the show, formerly known as the Bull & Finch Pub and now a tourist landmark named Cheers Beacon Hill.

Obviously, the greatest episode would have been the one where Vera came to fish Norm out of the bar and is played by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Posted by at June 22, 2020 6:36 PM


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