Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cheers to You, Netflix

So we finally caved in and subscribed to Netflix last April.  Noticing that the service offered a few classic TV shows, I immediately embarked upon a quest to watch the entire 11-year, 271-episode run of "Cheers."

From the time I was five until I learned to drive, "Cheers" was on Thursday nights at 8 and, by the time I was in junior high, was also on in syndication every weeknight after the local news.  Ironically my mom and I, complete teetotalers, would watch the comedy set in a bar almost every night. 

I had not seen an episode of "Cheers" for almost 20 years; here are my observations and a few things I learned:
  • I was shocked how young the cast was; most of them were in their early 30's when the show began, as young or younger than I am now.  In real life, the cast is about the same age as my parents.
  • My chief question going into this was, Diane or Rebecca?  Diane's obnoxious snobbery was, in a word, obnoxious; more so than I had remembered.  When Shelley Long left after five seasons, a routine running gag was making digs at her character, including at least one directed more at Long and her early departure from the successful show.  But Rebecca's pathetic self-loathing meltdowns were both funny and endearing.  Kirstie Alley's sympathetic train wreck of a character was the hands down winner.
  • I had forgotten that Diane factored into the three-part series finale.  I'm with Carla; that woman is trouble.
  • My second big question, was looking for hints about the "Frasier" spinoff in "Cheers."  There aren't any; the show wasn't fully conceived until the "Cheers" production was finished.  I noticed, however, that twice over the years Frasier mentions being orphaned.  In the spinoff Frasier lives with his father.  This is explained when Sam appears on "Frasier" and Frasier says he lied because he was fighting with his father and was mad at him. [Thanks, IMDB trivia]
  • John Mahoney, who plays Frasier's father in "Frasier," appears in a scene with Kelsey Grammar in the final season as an advertising man.  "Fraiser" co-star Peri Gilpin (Roz) also made an appearance later in that season as a reporter.  You also can spot multiple actors from other NBC shows like "Seinfeld" and "Night Court" playing bit parts.  I haven't looked up all the connections on IMDB, but you can find even more crossovers as the principle actors from "Cheers" made many appearances together in each other's future works in television, live stage, and voice acting.
  • I'd not realized how frequently the 2nd tier of barflies was involved in the action.  Norm, Cliff and Frazier naturally get most of the attention but another half-dozen actors routinely appeared around the bar as customers and were frequently given speaking parts.  In later seasons, the character "Paul" was almost as involved as Cliff and Norm.
  • Cliff's postal uniform, specifically the jacket, changed in the last season.  His high water pants and white socks did not.
  • George Wendt's real-life wife, Bernadette Birkett, repeatedly played the voice of Norm's wife, Vera, though she never appeared on screen.  However, she does appear dressed as Tinkerbell and dances with a costumed Cliff, early on in the series.  I saw Wendt and Birkett on stage together last year and couldn't help dwelling on them as I re-watched "Cheers," picturing Birkett every time Norm joked about his wife, Vera.

What am I going to do now that I've finished "Cheers"?  Watch 263 episodes of "Frasier," naturally.  I hear the blues a-callin'/Tossed salads and scrambled eggs.

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