Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Appropos of Nothing

Turned on the television late Saturday night and Cheers was coming on.

"Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot...."

And I'm curled up on the couch watching the sepia tone pub images and turn of the century illustrations. The ones they chose to echo the characters. The ones they changed when the cast changed - the new ones for Woody Harrelson, for Kelsey Grammer, for Kirstie Alley. The green shoes and dress for Rhea Perlman, which I always loved. You know the set will always be the same. Norm and Cliff will be at the bar. Sam will be hitting on someone. Carla will be wiping down the counter or smacking someone on the back of the head or taking pot -shots at Sam's newest fling. It's familiar and reassuring.

Like all long-running TV shows, things changed - actors left the cast, passed away, made different career choices. So new characters were created, new storylines. There is a sense of obligation to have people marry and change and divorce and move away and alter over time - as people do - when a television show runs for over ten years. But I could have watched Norm and Cliff sit around and goad Sam into trying some stupid scheme and Carla crow when the scheme backfires and Diane or Rebecca turn Sam down again and again... well, for just about ever. I know Sam was a sexist pig and all that, but it was always his undoing in the end, anyway, so I really feel no guilt feminism-wise for loving Cheers. It makes me smile.

It sounds silly, but I think the basic idea was brilliant and worked because it DOES speak to something in all of us. We love the idea of having somewhere we could go where there would always be friendly faces, where they know all your flaws and like you anyway, where everything is simpler because no one asks anything of you except that you come around every now and then. Cheers represented what family is theoretically supposed to be but never actually is for most people. And that's why we love it. That theme song - for me and many others - brings this brief rush of the feeling of coming home. Which, in a simpler world, is the best feeling there is... but in this world is illusive and far too fleeting.

Did you know that Nicky Colasanto (who played Coach) kept a picture of Geronimo in his dressing room as a good luck charm? When he died it was added to the set. On the final episode of Cheers, eight years after Colasanto's death, in the final scene Ted Danson straightened the Geronimo picture before he walked off stage for the last time.

I just loved that show.


  1. It was the first 'grown up' show I was allowed to watch. I'm not even sure why I was allowed to watch it; the content could be pretty tawdry, but I suppose I was around 13 at the time I got into cheers, so perhaps my parents felt it was an interesting introduction into the bluer side of humor ;)

    I loved it and watched every single episode. I haven't watched it in reruns since the final episode aired, but I think I'd like to :)

  2. We'll have to rent Cheers on DVD sometime and drink beer. :)

    I think I was fairly young when I started watching it. As a result of that, I think I always felt as if I "knew" these characters. The show is set up and shot so you feel like you're just someone sitting in the bar, watching the day's events unfold. And the characters were all so likeable. The actors and writers came together and created people you could not help but like and wish you knew personally.

    I can't watch a television show f I don't LIKE the people in it. I never liked Seinfeld (an unpopular opinion) because I really didn't like anyone (except maybe Kramer... sometimes) on the show and if I don't like a character then I don't care what they do or what happens to them.

    Most of the time Cheers was also a show about nothing - just people. Just people being there and living their lives. But they were good people. You cared what happened to them. You felt like they'd be nice to you if you walked into their bar.

  3. For me it was M*A*S*H. But you knew that ;)