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June 24, 2020 9:17 AM   Subscribe

The A.V. Club with a fascinating look at the Sam & Diane storyline on Cheers.
posted by Chrysostom (30 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Favorited for excellent tag!
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:28 AM on June 24

Good article. Thanks. I wholly agree with the writer's opinion re: Danson's and Long's amazing comedy chops. Always surprised that she didn't have the post-Cheers career he did. Her timing and her dexterity with a physical or verbal bit were top of the class.
posted by the sobsister at 10:41 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]

I'm guessing it came down to that "perfectionism" that was mentioned in the article. Never sure how to read that when it's given as an actress "being difficult"
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:53 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]

Never sure how to read that when it's given as an actress "being difficult"

I've got a pretty good idea about what it means.
posted by jquinby at 10:59 AM on June 24 [27 favorites]

Yeah, that's generally how I read it as well.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:00 AM on June 24

There's a pleasant nostalgia for me around Cheers, but it's more about Dad corralling us all together for family TV nite -- it certainly wasn't the largely misogynistic, good ol' boy 'humor' that propped up the show in its later years. Even as a pretty impressionable, naive adolescent I could recognize just how messed up some of the casual joking was. (ie depreciating Long in her absence)

This article helped shine a different light on the show. Our family TV nites started after Long left the show, and when the re-runs were from her and Coach's tenure we'd often lose interest -- it felt like a different show. (not that I would've been able to pick up on the nuances in their performances at that age, anyways...) I'll go re-watch some of these links and see if I can revise my nostalgia so it includes a modestly redeemable program!
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 11:08 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]

She was delightful as Carol Brady in the Brady Bunch movies.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:09 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]

I'd offer a qualified defense of the later years, but it's certainly true that the humor became broader as time went on. I think this often happens, as the writing room runs out of ideas.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:10 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]

Also, having not thought about Cheers in a good long while, this reminded me of an assignment my high school English teacher had: "Chaucer & Cheers". She drew up a parallel between the motley crew in the Canterbury Tales and the collection of folks at the bar. Assignment: write your own 'Canterbury Tale' from the perspective of one of the characters in Cheers.

I wrote as Frasier Crane while my buddies eagerly did their best Norm & Cliff's, haha. Haven't remembered this in years!
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 11:13 AM on June 24 [28 favorites]

For 12th grade English, I wrote a parody of Poe called "The Clavin."
posted by Chrysostom at 11:22 AM on June 24 [20 favorites]

I always remember one of the creators of Cheers saying that the single question you must NEVER ask yourself when cooking up a sitcom plot is "Why wouldn't Sam just call Diane and straighten this whole thing out?" Pull on that thread, and your episode's whole premise crumbles.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:03 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]

Idiot plot!
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:11 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]

At one of my high school assemblies, circa 1991, the teachers did a sketch called "Tea-Cheers", which was, as the title suggests, a Cheers-based sketch in which all the patrons drank tea. The teachers who most resembled the various characters played those roles, and I still remember the totally spontaneous and unscripted roar of "NORM!!!" that erupted from the student audience -- including me -- as the teacher who played Norm walked on stage. We were Pavlov's audience.
posted by orange swan at 12:56 PM on June 24 [15 favorites]

Man, that relationship sounds exhausting, and not like a lot of fun to watch, either. I don't really remember it; I mainly remember the jokes at the bar.

But I have a random childhood flashbulb memory of a scene from Cheers that I was watching in daytime syndication. In it, Sam and Diane (or possibly Kirstie Alley's character) are supposed to sit quietly in a room together for some reason, but Sam says he can't do it without getting romantic towards her. She dismisses him, goes to sit on the couch, and takes off her stockings to get comfortable. He jumps up and yells "Whoo! Hot fire burning!" and runs away from her.

It was a baffling moment for a little kid. I don't accuse it of screwing me up or anything, but it was just one more thing that taught me that guys were either out of control around women (if they liked them) or indifferent to them (if they didn't). I believed this until quite an advanced age.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:03 PM on June 24

I think you're thinking of this scene with Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), from season 6.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:18 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]

I lost interest after Long left, but I always felt a weird dissonance when I watched Sam and Diane moving around in the course of an episode, because she had the grace and charisma of a professional athlete, and he was just a guy off the street.
posted by jamjam at 1:19 PM on June 24

For 12th grade English, I wrote a parody of Poe called "The Clavin."

"Quoth the Clavin, 'Little known!'"
posted by Gelatin at 1:28 PM on June 24 [14 favorites]

Wow! Great recall, Chrystostom. That must have been it, even though my brain mashed it all up
posted by Countess Elena at 1:47 PM on June 24

I remember Shelly Long as a TV presenter for a local-affairs news show in Chicago in the late '70s - maybe 1980? When the sitcom came out, I watched it because of her (I thought she was very pretty) and I liked it. I also drifted away from it when Long left the show, but still caught it from time to time. I was around 11 years old when it came out so I missed a lot of the jokes, but even as a boy I liked the weird chemistry behind Sam and Diane. It was weird for me, as my father was a military officer,* but he was closer to Diane in personality than he was to Sam. So the "familiar" sex roles were kinda off to me as a child.

*My dad grew up very poor, got himself a scholarship to U of Illinois and then a scholarship to the Naval Academy. He did four tours of Viet Nam (in-country, sort of a Swiftboater a la John Kerry), witnessed and took part in a large amount of close range combat and bloodshed, and then spent the next decade and a half as an officer at Great Lakes. He went from a young, idealistic anti-Commie warrior to what he is today... a fairly Leftist anti-authoritarian who hates the GOP and Trump with a burning, simmering, rage and resentment. Hell, I remember he voted for Johnson, not even Reagan back in 1980. My dad is a unique, interesting man and the most well-read person I've ever known. But I think the war shut him down terribly and changed him in a deep, resonant way. He never talks about it. /derail, but imprinted sex role models often shape the way we individually perceive media like Cheers.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:49 PM on June 24 [6 favorites]

I was never a regular viewer, but I caught Cheers on TV every once in a while. One thing about the show inspired me: I taught myself how to do Kirstie Alley's Cigarette Trick and used it to entertain bar-goers in college.
posted by Gray Duck at 2:02 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]

Conversations about Cheers are always baffling to me because I always go into them assuming they’ll be about what a perfect goddess Bebe Neuwirth is and they almost always end up being about something else. Something less interesting than Bebe Neuwirth.

What are people even doing?
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:25 PM on June 24 [19 favorites]

The time Lilith gave same some professional psychiatric advice was tops ("Do they pay you for this?"), but I can't find the clip.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:34 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]

If everybody knows your name in a bar, you might have a drinking problem. I never thought about it at the time, but looking back it seems a little weird.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:41 PM on June 24

Quoth the Clavin, 'Little known!'

Excellent, Gelatin!

How about:

'Quoth the Clavin, "Furthermore,"'

Except I don't remember Cliffie ever saying that. (Full disclosure: I have been likened to Mr. Clavin by someone who knows me extremely well).
posted by jamjam at 4:46 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]

That season two finale break-up is brutal, in every sense. I know where I was and what I was doing in May of 1984 (I was 19), but I'm not sure I watched the episode when it aired. But I think I did — I didn't watch much television, but I did watch Cheers and watching that scene now feels as if I'd only watched it a few months ago and am still sad about it. Maybe I have been for 36 years.

For me, Diane was essential to the show and it wasn't the same after Long left. The writer is correct — the later years with her became stale and the show began to be mean to the character.

I both identified with and had a crush on Diane. I cringed at her affect sometimes and took it as a warning to myself; but at least early in the show it was pretty clear that Diane was right about a lot of stuff and her heart was in the right place. The show even sort of was generous about her maladroit behavior in that milieu and encouraged us to accept her as she is. I think that's why their relationship worked in dramatic terms: they were terrible for each other, but the pairing helped the audience to see each of them with generosity and tolerance, because when they did that was the only time they weren't fighting.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:10 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]

For me the show was never the same after Diane left. I never liked Rebecca. Diane could be pretentious and affected, but beneath that there was genuine intelligence, ambition, self-actualization, and self-worth -- she really cared about her writing, and learning, and though she wanted love too, she cared about accomplishing other things with her life, and she was not about to sacrifice those things or her self for any man. She was centred in her own life. Rebecca pretended to be career-minded, but it was all a pose -- all she really cared about was getting married (preferably to someone high-status), and she'd throw common sense and any larger self-interest to the wind for her boss, Robin Colcord, who was a total rotter, if he so much as gave her the time of day. And ugh.
posted by orange swan at 5:45 PM on June 24 [8 favorites]

[not an exact quote]
I think maybe I'll head out to the coast this weekend and get some of that fish head soup.


No, I'm serious.
[/not an exact quote]
posted by hearthpig at 6:48 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]

If Sam Malone were around today he'd be in jail. Worst character on the show.
posted by Dokterrock at 10:36 PM on June 24

I was never a serious fan of Cheers, but I’ve seen several episodes and like it well enough. I like Diane too. But if I ever mention that to a Cheers fan, look out! Somehow she is a target of Breaking-Bad-Skyler levels of hate.
posted by Monochrome at 8:57 PM on June 25

Ah, I was thinking of season 9's "The Days of Wine and Neuroses":
Sam: She hasn't been here for two whole days. Do you...do you think I ought to go see her, Lilith?

Lilith: I'm going to tell you what I tell all my patients: "What do you think?"

Sam: They pay you for that?

Lilith: What do you think?
posted by Chrysostom at 4:39 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

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