Reviewed by David Williams (August 29, 2003)
I've heard of that stuff. Better give me a tall one in case I like it.
Cheers doesn’t require a lot of setup, as the premise is very simple. It’s a small, friendly, downtown bar located in Boston that’s run by a womanizing local sports hero, Sam Malone (Ted Danson), a former pitcher for the Red Sox. He’s a recovering alcoholic who enjoys the camaraderie and fellowship found at his small, neighborhood watering hole. Sam is given a hand behind the bar by the tender-hearted Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto), affectionately known as “Coach”, a retired baseball coach/manager who’s never short on witty sayings or astute and perceptive advice. Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) is the head waitress at the bar – a wise-cracking, divorced mother who has never heard of the term “political correctness” and has absolutely no problems calling a spade a spade.
Sam is also joined at the bar by Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), a good-looking, intellectual grad student who was introduced in the very first episode of the series. Jilted and abandoned at the bar by her fiancée, Diane, who has no “real world” employable skills or experience, ends up working at Cheers as a slightly overqualified waitress. Sam, obviously attracted to Diane, maintains a very antagonistic relationship with her throughout the first season (as well as much of the series) and their relationship comes to a boil during the season one season finale.
Who can talk about the show and not mention some of the bar’s patrons? The Cheers regulars were quite a motley crew and a couple – and I think you know who I’m talking about – are definitely worthy of mention. First off, there’s Norm, an accountant who seems to drink beer more than crunch numbers. Married to the saintly Vera – who we never see by the way – Norm is Cheers’ best customer. Always found at the corner of the bar on his stool, Norm is the foundation of the bar - the ying to Cheers’ yang. There’s also Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), a postal worker with more than enough useless knowledge to win his fair share of Trivial Pursuit challenges. These two, along with other recurring background characters, made Cheers the place to be during the 80’s. I can recall being hooked from the very first episode and my dad and I never missed a chance to pop down in front of the TV to watch it – even when I was old enough to do other things and go other places (I was 12 when the show debuted), dad and I always had a date in Thursday nights. We missed a few nights when I was away at college, but it’s something I’ll always remember. It sounds sappy, but watching the first season on DVD took me back home in a way not many things could.
Cheers started off with a relatively small audience, but by the end of its inaugural season, it had received eight Emmy nominations and cashed in with five wins including Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Directing (James Burrows for “Showdown”, the two part season finale); Outstanding Lead Actress (Shelley Long); Outstanding Writing (Glen and Les Charles); and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Graphic Design and Title Sequences (James Castle and Bruce Bryant).
The show had a miraculous run of eleven years on NBC and was the staple of the network for many, if not most, of those seasons - Cheers was part of the original “must see TV”. The Emmy-award-winning series bowed out before it became stale and thankfully, Paramount has resurrected the show from syndication and put it out on DVD for all of us to enjoy over and over again at our leisure – complete season by complete season (hopefully).
Let’s take a quick look at the episodes found on the First Season set …
- DISC ONE -
Give Me A Ring Sometime – Pilot (Original Air Date: September 30, 1982)
In the show’s pilot episode, an intellectual grad student, Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), waits on her fiancé (Michael McGuire) at the Cheers bar and is forced to listen to the regulars debate ridiculous subjects. She soon realizes that she’s been ditched and at the same time, she must fend off the advances of Sam Malone (Ted Danson), the owner and bartender of the hangout.
Coach’s Daughter (Original Air Date: October 28, 1982)
Easygoing Coach (Nicholas Colasanto) is excited when his sweet, but lonely daughter, Lisa (Allyce Beasley), seems to have found the man of her dreams, a door-to-door salesman (Philip Michael McKenzie). Unfortunately, no one at Cheers – even Coach - can stand the guy, except for Diane. Her feelings soon change however.
Sam’s Women (Original Air Date: October 7, 1982)
Sam gets angry when Diane mentions that he only dates airheads. Sam becomes determined to find a more intellectual girlfriend and when it looks like he might have succeeded, Diane stops with the jokes. This episode marks the only appearance of Sam’s ex-wife, Debra (Donna McKechnie).
The Tortelli Tort (Original Air Date: October 14, 1982)
Carla (Rhea Perlman), a hardcore Red Sox fan, attacks an obnoxious Yankees fan (Ron Karabatsos) who visits the bar. The guy is so loutish that Carla punches him and Sam finds himself – and the bar – threatened with a lawsuit. The man says he’ll drop the suit if Sam fires Carla.
Sam At Eleven (Original Air Date: October 21, 1982)
Dave Richards (Fred Dryer), an old buddy and former teammate of Sam’s, is now a local broadcaster and he asks Sam for an interview. After being asked to do the interview, Sam realizes that he really misses the spotlight that he so often enjoyed as a former sports hero. However, the interview falls through and Sam weighs hitting the bottle again.
Any Friend Of Diane’s (Original Air Date: November 4, 1982)
Diane’s former college roommate, Rebecca (Julia Duffy), is on the rebound from a failed romance and is looking to have a fling with someone who is tall, dark, handsome, and stupid – or as he’s known to the Cheers regulars, Sam. Diane becomes upset that Rebecca would base a relationship based solely on sex – something Sam has no problems with whatsoever.
- DISC TWO -
Friends, Romans & Accountants (Original Air Date: November 11, 1982)
Norm (George Wendt) tries to get some brownie points with his boss (James Read) by having the office party at Cheers. Diane suggests a toga party, but what she doesn’t know is that Norm has lined her up to be his boss’ date - a much older, and quite horny, man.
Truce or Consequences (Original Air Date: November 18, 1982)
Sam gets tired of all the bitching between Carla and Diane and demands that they reconcile. Over a few drinks together, Carla makes a confession to Diane about the father of her youngest child and swears Diane to secrecy. However, the confession turns out to be bogus.
Coach Returns To Action (Original Air Date: November 25, 1982)
Sam finds himself attracted to Coach’s new neighbor (Murphy Cross). Problem is, Coach has his eye on the woman himself and he doesn’t appreciate Sam moving in on the lady of his dreams. Coach lets Diane in on his crush and swears her to silence.
Endless Slumper (Original Air Date: December 2, 1982)
When a Red Sox pitcher, Rick Walker (Christopher McDonald), goes into a slump, Sam decides to let him borrow his lucky bottle cap. However, while Walker’s luck turns around on the baseball diamond, Sam’s luck goes downhill fast. Sam’s reversal of fortune threatens to knock him off the wagon, but Diane comes to his rescue.
One For The Book (Original Air Date: December 9, 1982)
A young man (Boyd Bodwell) shows up at Cheers on his last night of “freedom” before entering a monastery. When he falls for Diane, he decides that he’d really enjoy one last fling before entering the priesthood. Cheers is also the site for a WWI reunion, but when only one soldier shows up, it becomes slightly depressing.
The Spy Who Came In For A Cold One (Original Air Date: December 16, 1982)
An Englishman, Eric Finch (Ellis Rabb), strolls into Cheers, hits on Carla, and tells her that he’s a James Bond-type secret agent. Everyone gets a kick out of Finch’s tall tales, while Diane, quite suspicious, has a hard time separating fact from fiction.
- DISC THREE -
Now Pitching, Sam Malone (Original Air Date: January 6, 1983)
A hot talent agent (Barbara Babcock), who specializes in lining up work for former athletes, lands Sam a job as a pitchman for a beer company. However, Sam soon learns that her main interest may be something radically different than getting Sam commercial gigs. However, refusing her sexually overt advances may cost him his job.
Let Me Count The Ways (Original Air Date: January 13, 1983)
After Diane’s cat dies, she turns to the Cheers gang for comfort and sympathy. However, everyone’s too involved in a locally televised Celtics game to care.
Father Knows Last (Original Air Date: January 20, 1983)
Carla can’t keep – or hide – her secret anymore; she’s five months pregnant! Being divorced for much longer than the current term of her pregnancy, Carla needs to figure out who the father of the unborn child is. When she reveals that it’s Marshall Lipton (Mark King), a MIT professor, Diane becomes slightly suspicious.
The Boys In The Bar (Original Air Date: January 27, 1983)
Sam’s former teammate (Alan Autry) comes out of the closet in his autobiography and many of the Cheers regulars fear that the bar will become a gay hangout. Misconceptions and generalities abound as the group comes up with all kinds of problems that might be encountered if gays were to start frequenting their favorite watering hole.
Diane’s Perfect Date (Original Air Date: February 10, 1983)
On a dare, Diane and Sam agree to set each other up on a blind date. Sam misreads Diane and realizes it in a big way when she shows up with her hot friend, Gretchen (Gretchen Corbett), rather than offering herself up for the date like Sam thought she might. At the last minute, Sam is forced to find Diane a date and ends up paying a Cheers customer (Derek McGrath) to go out with Diane. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to Sam, Diane’s “date” also happens to be an ex-convict.
No Contest (Original Air Date: February 17, 1983)
Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill (playing himself) drops in for a beer and is instantly recognized by Carla. O’Neill denies who is really is and Norm is the only one who believes it. Norm then goes on a rant about “do nothing” and “bum” politicos in front of O’Neill. Sam enters Diane into the Miss Boston Barmaid contest.
- DISC FOUR -
Pick A Con … Any Con (Original Air Date: February 24, 1983)
Sam is convinced that Coach is being rooked by his card-playing partner, George (Reid Shelton). In order to catch George in the act and beat him at his own game, Sam enlists bar regular and scam artist, “Harry The Hat” (Harry Anderson), to play in an after-hours poker game.
Someone Single, Someone Blue (Original Air Date: March 3, 1983)
Diane’s very wealthy mother (Glvnis Johns) shows up at Cheers and announces that if Diane doesn’t marry within the next 24 hours, she will lose her inheritance – and cause her mother to lose hers as well. Sam agrees to a wedding in order to save the day, as well as the inheritance money, for Diane and her mother.
Showdown – Part One (Original Air Date: March 24, 1983)
In part one of the two part season finale, Sam’s brother, Derek (George Ball), visits the bar and wins everyone over with his charm. Sam’s not impressed however and becomes even more enraged when Derek hits on Diane and asks her to go with him to Paris.
Showdown – Part II (Original Air Date: March 31, 1983)
In the closing episode of the first season, Diane decides to fly off to Paris with Sam’s brother, Derek. Diane shows up at Sam’s apartment hoping that he’ll try and stop her from going away with his brother. It brought season one to a fitting conclusion and definitely whet everyone’s appetite for season two.