Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Favorite Episodes: Cheers

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

I watched Cheers here and there as a kid. I remember my parents liked that show... or at least one of them did. It wasn't all that interesting to me (and it shouldn't have been... what would an elementary-schooler know about a bar??). After watching all of the Frasier episodes, I'd been meaning to go back and watch Cheers to see the background on the Frasier and Lilith characters. I found out that the episodes were available through Netflix streaming, and it took me several months to work my way through the eleven seasons bit by bit. I've finally finished and wanted to share some of my favorites - this is also our 1,000th post, so it seems fitting, because Cheers was the subject of #1, back in 2008. (No video links today - you can stream the series in its entirety on Netflix.)

I wasn't the biggest fan of the first couple seasons - not that I didn't like Diane (because I did prefer her to Rebecca), but I thought that it took a while for the show to do ensemble comedy on a regular basis. Plus, I would much rather have Woody over Coach. Take a look at the episodes I chose and let me know if you preferred Diane or Rebecca, Coach or Woody? Who was your very favorite character and which episodes stand out in your memory?

I maintained my general rules when choosing episodes to appear below... straying from holiday episodes because I generally mention those in holiday posts, and trying not to pick episodes that I have already substantially covered elsewhere.

Season 1: "One for the Book" (S01E11) This is an episode that focuses more on one-time customers than on the bar gang, which is interesting to me. A WWI veteran shows up for his reunion, not realizing that, at this point (1982), nobody else is alive or well enough to make it. It's a sad little plot, but the other random kid makes up for it - he's a young buck about to enter a monastery, so he wants one last night of debauchery. What puts this episode over the top, however, is that Diane is recording the events and quotes for a book.

Season 2: "Fortune and Men's Weight" (S02E17) Throughout the series, Coach did plenty of wacky things, but one that instigated the most trouble was buying a fortune-telling scale. You step on it and it gives you your fortune. Well, ever-superstitious Carla is paranoid, and logical Diane finds it absurd that the patrons are enjoying the funny predictions so much. I particularly enjoy the early hype of Carla's later staunch take on superstitions, plus it's one of a handful of episodes where Diane says one thing when she's removed from a subject, but as soon as she takes part, she does a 180.

Season 3: "Peterson Crusoe" (S03E11)  I like this episode because it has two very different but equally hilarious stories. First, there's Norm, who comes face-to-face with life and death when a physical reveals that he may be dying. He decides to move to Bora Bora, but when he learns that there was an error with his x-ray, he chickens out of a life change and hides in Sam's office... thinking he won't be discovered? The other story is Carla betting Diane that the novice could never pull in more tips than the veteran. Carla even gives Diane a head start, and is winning for much of the night - until a $20 tip in the final minute puts Diane over the edge and upsets Carla.

Season 4: "Fools and their Money" (S04E12)  Naive Woody has been doing well in recent bar pool and thinks he's ready to bet real money. He knows nothing about such things so he asks Sam to put $1,000 (Woody's life savings) in with Sam's bookie. After looking at Woody's picks, Sam doesn't place the bet, thinking that the poor kid has no chance of winning. Well, Woody should have won big, and Sam has to come clean... luckily, Woody is nice enough to believe that Sam wanted what was best for him. The best parts of the episode are Diane assuming a bookie would understand "an honest mistake" and Sam trying to convince Woody to take $1/week for 10,000 weeks. Everyone singing "Home on the Range" is good, too.

Season 5: "Diamond Sam" (S05E14)
  Sam and Diane are finally on the same page about getting married, so it's time Diane received an engagement ring. Norm mentions to Sam that he can get him a discount on a knock-off, so Sam goes for it, as it'll save $4,000. In order to keep up the ruse, Sam tells a few lies and buys a few dresses. After Diane wants to have the ring appraised for insurance purposes, Sam actually has to buy the real ring, then switch it out with the one she's been wearing. It was pretty funny up to this point, and we think that things have been taken care of, but Diane then intercepts a call and learns that Sam bought a fake ring - so she throws the one she's wearing out the window while she and Sam are headed to dinner. They never find the real ring, and Sam is now out $9,000. Now, I always laugh when a guy spends a ton of money to impress a girl or to keep her from finding out the truth, but this has got to be one of the more ridiculous examples!

Season 6: "Let Sleeping Drakes Lie" (S06E18)
  I think this is one of the funniest episodes in the entire series, though longtime readers know that I'm just a big fan of this type of gag. Wealthy Evan Drake is in Europe and has Norm painting his home while he's away. Rebecca is dying to see the inside of the place, so Norm lets her in... but Drake comes home early and Rebecca has to hide in his bedroom closet. Norm goes back to Cheers and explains the dilemma, ultimately getting the gang to brainstorm on how to get Rebecca out of there without Drake knowing. It takes several knee-slapping attempts, but eventually they succeed.

Season 7: "The Gift of the Woodi" (S07E19)   The obvious plot in this episode is Woody going to Kelly's birthday party, where she's gifted all sorts of expensive cars and whatnot, but he has written her a simple song. It's a classic scene and an interesting song, however, there are two smaller stories that add enough to the episode to make it a winner... Rebecca decides to utilize Lilith as a role model, someone who is serious about her work. Additionally, Cliff has a crazy scheme to cross rutabagas with beets. But, really, the bulk of the cuteness stems from Kelly not understanding that Woody doesn't have riches.

Season 8: "Indoor Fun with Sammy and Robby" (S08E19)  I think this is one of the weaker seasons, honestly. Yes, they manage to work in some jokes, but so many episodes centered around Robin and Rebecca made for a lot of boring stories. Now, those two are in this one as well, but I found the premise oddly amusing. Robin has agreed to take a day off from work to spend however Rebecca wants (so she comes up with a giant list of things to do - the beach, the zoo, a picnic, a show, etc.), but Robin winds up in a competition with Sam that keep going all day, forcing Rebecca to face her "dream day" alone. Meanwhile, Sam and Robin play darts, pool, and chess, all for the bet of one week's salary - Robin is just competitive, and Sam wants to get enough money to finally buy back the bar. The best part goes to Norm and Pete helping Sam cheat in chess.

Season 9: "Home Malone" (S09E25)  Dumb wordplay in the title aside, this episode features Sam babysitting Frederick for the first time. The little bugger outsmarts our favorite barkeep and locks himself in the bathroom. Sam tries to go out the window of an adjacent room to reach the toddler, but Frederick knows how to lock windows and doors. Sam winds up falling to the ground and re-entering the house... only for the entire thing to happen again. Sam has to watch Frederick from a window outside the playroom until Frasier and Lilith get home - not what you'd want to see as parents! The other storyline has Kelly working at Cheers as research, with Carla pulling a few fast ones and Woody worried about guys hitting on her. Both plots are worth watching, but the baby tricking its sitter is the more intriguing.

Season 10: "An Old-Fashioned Wedding" (S10E25)  Thank goodness this is an hour-long episode! Otherwise, there's no way they could have gotten in all of the chuckle-inducing moments that make this installment great! Nearly the entire episode takes place in Kelly's family's kitchen, where the Cheers gang is helping with preparing drinks and whatnot for the reception. Woody and Kelly are going crazy for one another after finally giving in to their sexual attraction, Rebecca has to frost the cake, the guys are hiding the priest's body, Cliff is sewing part of Kelly's dress, and everyone has to avoid some nasty dogs. A great wedding episode if ever there were one.

Season 11: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Bar" (S11E14) 
Robin makes a return, telling the Cheers folks that he has donated the $6M that was in Rebecca's desk and now plans to live a life of poverty. He admits to still have feelings for Rebecca, and she figures he probably hid another $6M somewhere nearby, which was his habit. Everyone tears apart the bar looking for a money belt, taking turns calling Robin on the sly for hints, but it can't be found. The deduce that the fire captain must have taken the money when the bar burned down six months prior. Carla has her kids kidnap the guy so the Cheers group can interrogate him. Rebecca, meanwhile, thinks that Robin is feigning destitution in order to test her. He stops by the bar on his way out of town, letting the guys know that there never was another money belt.
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