Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

Posts Tagged ‘Cheers’

Cheers – “Fairy Tales Can Come True” (S3:E4)

Posted by Mr. Feeny on October 25, 2013

How perfect! A Halloween themed episode a few days before Halloween. I’m a sucker for special holiday episodes. I love making lists about them. As I demonstrated, there are a lot of classic Thanksgiving episodes. Tons of Christmas ones. Valentine’s Day gets used a lot, though not a lot of classics jump out at me. Occasionally a show will surprise me, like “Raising Hope,” which did a lovely episode about Arbor Day, which was actually about holidays in general.

So I’m trying to think of great Halloween episodes. A lot of shows have tried, because it allows writers to go crazy places. But not a lot of them land. The ones that come to mind first are “The Simpsons,” “Roseanne,” and “Home Improvement,” which made Halloween episodes a regular feature. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” did some great episodes, like where the characters turn into their costumes. “Community” has done great work on Halloween, like the zombie outbreak episode. “The Slutty Pumpkin” is a classic for “How I Met Your Mother.” “ER” often had wacky occurrences on All Hallow’s Eve.  I even liked “Modern Family’s” haunted house episode back when it was a funnier, less repetitive show.

So, how does “Cheers'” measure up?

Not well. I was very disappointed in this episode, at least in the beginning. Again, it might be my modern day prejudices, because my problems are primarily with long-term storytelling. The whole “is Cliff gay?” plot was stupid. All anyone had to do was remind the barflies that Cliff dated, and was going to propose to, Carla’s sister last season. So not only has he been with a woman, he was ready to commit to her. The stupidity of that rushed storyline aside, it happened and the writers shouldn’t ignore it. That would never fly nowadays. Nor would Norm’s insult about Cliff being unable to talk to women, when he can’t either…although that can be explained as Norm trying to save face.

What especially aggravates me is that in the same conversation, the writers show that they’re not completely opposed to lingering plot strings. Cliff talks about Florida and the barflies groan about him talking about the Sunshine State again…just like he did the first two episodes of the season. Either each episode stands on its own or this is a complete series. Make up your minds writers! I imagine they won’t.

Another frustrating element of this episode…Frasier’s naivety. How can he go from quoting “The Raven” to thinking there’s no problem letting Sam go to the concert with Diane. The Frasier we know from later years would never let that happen. Another reason I don’t think Frasier was intended for more than a plot device in season three. (I have since looked this up…I was right. He was going to only be in a few episodes).

The episode did get better when Cliff met his masked fairy (no pun intended based on the prior conversation…at least not on my part). I like Cliff because I’m similar to him. A trivia lover who has historically had trouble with the ladies. So I feel one with his excitement when this woman also takes an interest in the biggest alligator shoes in Florida and explorer history. But again, the writers pick and choose what sticks with the character. Later on, when he can’t form sentences with a woman, that calls back to last season…but how do you explain Carla’s sister. Maybe I should just accept that as the outlier, and not this. To be fair, it was Cliff’s first standalone episode.

But on the other hand, that episode set up the strength and greatness of Norm and Cliff’s friendship, which was reiterated here. So we can’t just toss that episode out. How can I rectify it in my mind?! And will Sharon O’Hare ever return? I’m guessing not.

Other notes…

– I loved Cliff’s gleeful release when Sam let him drop his guard at the end of the Halloween party. Very sweet and funny.

– Much less creepy for everyone to lurk in the background watching Cliff’s interaction with his mystery girl than if they just kept doing their business behind the bar.

– Sometimes a joke or moment goes too far. I thought it was sweet how Sharon couldn’t pronounce her name either from nerves, and funny when neither knew what to do next. And my favorite flavor of Sam is when he’s helping his friends, like he did play the jukebox. And it was funny when they didn’t get the hint. But then it became stupid when Sam moved them like statues in “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” That was over the top.

– Not much more to say about Sam and Diane. Again, just setting up the inevitable. I like that it was the B-plot, though.

– I don’t want to keep talking about fashion…it’s way out of my league. But while it makes sense Cliff would wear white socks with his suit…wouldn’t he realize that’s a faux pas for his big date?

– Best Joke — Cliff: “I guess [I’m] Ponce de Leon.” Sharon: “Oh, the Fountain of Youth guy who discovered Florida!” Cliff: “<gasp> Will you marry me and bear my children!?!”

– Cliff’s Notes — “Well there are many theories as to why the Florida orange is far superior to its California counterpart. I personally think it’s the trace mineral element in the Floridian water. That’s obviously due to the frequency of the typhoons and the nitrogen-enriched alligator guano.”

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Cheers — “I Call Your Name” (S3:E3)

Posted by Mr. Feeny on October 24, 2013

Forget the next 8 seasons. Let’s just give Frasier his own series now. Seriously, how great is Kelsey Grammer in this role? This episode is clearly an important set-up to the rest of the season, showing how Frasier can get along with Sam, and enjoy the bar atmosphere, thereby easing him into the rest of the group later on. Even though we don’t get to see his private moments, like we do with Sam or Diane, following them more, we can easily see that he’s talking about him and Diane, not Thor and Electra. And Sam can see it too, because he’s never actually as dumb as others mistake him.

The scene between him and Frasier after the bar closes is so good, I forgot there was half an episode left. A half of the episode where we get to see Sam being smug, Diane not knowing what to do with herself, and Frasier being pompous. I was surprised Diane actually did yell Sam’s name…I thought there was going to be a twist showing Sam jumping to conclusions. I’m disappointed I was wrong, though, because that already belabors the point that DIane and Sam have a thing for each other and keeps prolonging the inevitable.

And then, I was surprised, when the show dealt with that issue head on. But that only led to more frustration, as Diane and Sam convinced Frasier he was wrong. Then came the funny, but perplexing move by Diane at the end. Let’s take a poll. How many people would be ok with their boyfriend or girlfriend kissing their ex passionately, just to prove a point? You don’t do that. That’s cheating on Frasier. Much like when Carla and Sam kissed, although that had more emotional stakes. Also, why did Sam need to be taught a lesson here anyway? What was the point? In a modern sitcom, this would come back as a plot point later, but not in the 80s, I’m assuming.

Sam Scarber, former NFL player

Another nice thing about this episode is that it gives a lot of time to the B-plot. Cliff’s mix of conviction and cowardice has already become a defining character trait, but they mined new material by playing him against his intimidating coworker. And for a while, I thought that was actually the main plot until Frasier came in. That’s why this is an ensemble show, despite all the big episodes given to Sam and Diane. I liked the humanity of Lewis to let Cliff off the hook, and as always, Ratzenberger played it great in response. I do wish they hadn’t undercut the moment by showing Cliff wrote someone else’s name down. Just like last season’s karate revelation, it would have been nicer to give Cliff a karmic win.

Other notes….

– The difficulty of watching classic television is understanding the era. For instance, when Coach makes an accidental dirty joke about pinkies, is that something all shows were doing and I didn’t notice because I was young and it went over my head? Or was “Cheers” breaking the mold?

– I grew to love television in an era of serialization. Dramas and sitcoms nowadays like to keep reoccurring characters around. “Cheers” does that, with characters like Harry the Hat, Andy Andy the killer, and now Lewis, Cliff’s fellow mailman. But I do wish character developments carried over from episode to episode, too.

– Remember when I was wondering if Frasier was the same character that I knew from his spin-off? “I’ll have a tankard of your finest lager.” “I understand the local Boston Red Sox baseball franchise has a herculean task in front of it to qualify for the postseason tournament.” Yep, he is. Gloriously so.

– Diane’s apparel has been the most 80’s thing about this show. I find myself wondering if and why people actually wore those blouses. I thought her outfits have been much more reserved this season, though, including a flannel to start the episode. I hope that continues.

– Best Joke — Frasier: “Tell me. You’ve been with a lot of women. When you were with one of them, did she ever call out another man’s name? ” Sam: “Well, I don’t think so, but then, who listens?”

– Cliff’s Notes — “I can’t endorse anarchy….Yeah, sure it’s only a perfume sample, but if the other employees see him getting away with this, they’re gonna start taking things too. First, whole magazines go missing. Then social security checks. Before you know it, grandma’s fruitcake doesn’t make it to little Bobby, Peggy and Sue.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

“Cheers” — Rebound (S3:E1,2)

Posted by Mr. Feeny on October 24, 2013

Like I said in my re-introductory post, I owe the inspiration for returning to this blog to the A.V. Club, who did a wonderful job reviewing the first two seasons of “Cheers.” Now I’ll try to take their lead and provide episodic reviews for the other nine seasons!

I’ll sprinkle in my thoughts on the first two years as we go. Can’t put it all into one review! So, I’ll touch briefly on the Season 2 finale that led into these episodes.

The character I have been most excited to see is Frasier. I think his spin-off is one of the best comedies ever and have become quite familiar with his character in Seattle. But I don’t remember much about him in Boston. So I came into this episode very curious about what Frasier was like back then. Especially since he used to hang out in a bar, which he rarely did in the 90s. Was he the same lovable pompous snob?

The Doctor Is In

The Doctor Is In

Anticipating Frasier’s arrival, I was very excited when I noticed a young (and trim) Kelsey Grammer standing near Sam’s office. There was no focus on him. He was just there as Sam came out. For that entire scene, Frasier is no more than a random barfly (like the old man in a hat – Al Rosen – who constantly looks right at the camera, and elicited character-breaking laughs last season by yelling “Sinatra!”). But knowing what we know now, it was fun to watch him react in the background to the things Sam said about his drinking problem.

Frasier doesn’t really come alive in the first episode. Trying to put myself in 1984, I could see him being no more than a recurring guest star. Someone who’s there to serve a purpose (talk Sam out of drinking) and provide a romantic foil (probably just a temporary boyfriend for Diane). In the second episode, though, Frasier comes to life. He shows an unexpected gamesmanship with Sam, able to joke (calling Diane “bonkers) and react in ways not meant for one-note characters. In this episode, I see Frasier as a future customer at the bar.

Of course, Frasier’s appearance is only significant in retrospect. The bigger issue, of course, is Sam’s drinking and Diane’s mental instability. They toyed with the idea of Sam falling off the wagon in season one, in one of the most poignant episodes of the series. I love a comedy that can ably mix in dramatic elements. Knowing what we do about the characters, Sam’s drunkness (perfectly played by Ted Danson) carries a heavy overtone even with the jokes. This is especially driven home by Coach’s disappointment and the fact that everyone in the bar thinks he has a problem. Sam’s problem is never treated as a side plot. It’s given the full attention it deserves.

Nick Colosanto was especially terrific in both episodes. His performance made it clear what life was like during Sam’s boozing days as a player. His genuine concern was touching. So much so that it made any usual Coach jokes feel out of place. I also thought his crafty ability to set up Sam, Diane and Frasier in part two was a little out of character. This is the guy who can’t keep his bank tellers straight. Although I guess he was able to pull off the con in Season 1 with Harry the Hat.

The thing I’m most surprised about in watching “Cheers” is that this isn’t the workplace comedy I thought it was. It’s really a romantic comedy. Sam and Diane are more central to the plot than I realized.  Since Diane clearly had to come back to the bar, I thought the the set-up might be over the top (much like Diane’s ability to say Sam. Like when Sam couldn’t say “I love you,” this joke is never funny). But Frasier’s rushed treatment of Sam actually makes sense in a lot of ways (Frasier doesn’t want to belabor this, Sam realizes he’s repeating his mistakes) and Diane still does have some attraction to Sam. They both can still get each other’s goats and their back-and-forth is still sharp (I loved how their trading insults had so much affection tied in). I feel like the whole season will just be an elongated set up to eventually breaking up with Frasier and getting back with Sam. Did it feel that way at the time, I wonder?

More points…

– I love how “Cheers” does their “previously on” segment to begin the second half of a two-parter. It’s a lost art these days, as most shows no longer use “To Be Continued” as a cliffhanger that lasts a week. But I’ve watched a lot of classic television and “Cheers” probably has the best use of this device. Character-specific, entertaining, and fourth wall-breaking, which I think was fairly unique in those pre-mockumentary days. Cliff’s Florida slideshow was a nice way to start this second episode, but Coach’s diagram in last season’s finale had me in stitches…like most things Nicholas Colasanto did. They first did this, to some degree, in Season 1’s “Showdown,” but only at the very end with Carla asking Yaz to call her. Looking ahead, I see the next multiple part episode isn’t until Season 4…but it’s a three-parter. That should be a doozy.

– I love in the era of live studio audiences when actors would break down laughing. It happened in the aforementioned “Sinatra” moment, and I think it happens in the famous Thanksgiving episode. I enjoyed the opener to this season, where Coach makes his “my tie” joke. I’m assuming that joke was in there already, but the way Ratzenberger and Perlman reacted that his delivery was completely new. Or his enthusiasm is just infectious. Either way, I love seeing it.

– Diane’s flashback to the croquet game felt odd and out of place, although it was funny. I hope the show doesn’t go back to this device. It’s something a modern show does often, a cutaway gag, but seems wrong in 1984.

– A part of the show I continue to dislike is Carla’s hatred of Diane. I understand their rivalry, but Carla is over the top. Especially when Sam is in this state.

– I can’t stress how good Danson was in this episode. We should have all seen his fantastic performance in “Damages” coming.

– Best Joke — Carla: “She’s been locked up at a home for the silly in Connecticut for three months.” Diane: “I was not locked up, I could come and go at will. And besides, it’s not true. And how did you know about it?”

– Cliff’s Notes — Since Cliff is my favorite character, I’m also going to impart his best wisdom or anecdotes (usually made up) in each review. “And then after being in the Everglades a couple of days, the Seminole Indians found me and made me an honorary mail carrier of the tribe.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

My dreams were my ticket out

Posted by Mr. Feeny on October 17, 2013

Any TV fan worth his weight in remote controls knows the above title comes from the classic theme song to “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Since I actually wanted to title this post “Welcome Back, Feeny,” I figured diverging a little bit would be creative. In actuality, it’s just turned into an odd tangent that seems out of place and anti-climactic.

I guess I really am back!

For a few reasons, I decided to try returning to “Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set.” Of course now it’s just a lonely guy and a computer screen. Since I last blogged, Netflix Streaming has become an incredible force in the marketplace. It’s spawned many copycat services and now is in the original programming business. There are more TV shows than ever before, yet less subscribers to cable and satellite. People are now filling their nights with old TV shows that they missed (either meaning of the word).

This leads to my primary reason. I have always enjoyed going on TV binges, but now it’s easier than ever. In the past year, I have rewatched “Frasier” and “Scrubs” in order and finally welcomed “The Shield” into my life. For the latter, I followed every episode by reading a review from someone, whi

ch were sometimes difficult to find because episodic reviews hadn’t become vogue yet. For the sitcoms, though, I felt no need to do that. It’s just meant for humor, not deep thought.

That was not the case a few weeks ago, when I started

“Cheers.” Many consider this one of the best sitcoms ever created. I had seen a couple dozen episodes in my lifetime. I knew the characters, some storylines (thanks largely to my love of the spin-off), and some major episodes (Thanksgiving, of course). But I

Cheers

was looking forward to completely immersing myself in this classic. After watching the pilot, which is constantly cited as one of the best comedy pilots, I went searching for a review…and found one on the A.V. Club. Not only that episode…a panel of critics reviewed the first two seasons in 2011 and 2012. I was in heaven. I learned so much about the show. And more importantly learned the art of creating comedy by picking apart the episode.

Unfortunately, the A.V. Club stopped their “Cheers” reviews before the third season…and this was the one I was most looking forward to

. The introduction of one of my favorite sitcom characters, Frasier Crane. And I still have Woody, Lillith, and (I guess) Rebecca to look forward to in the coming years. How will I go on without their reviews?

So, I decided to come back to the blog. I might post on other topics. I won’t be reviewing each of this season’s new shows…I just don’t have the time to even watch them all anymore. I also mostly watch sitcoms because of how easy they are to watch in pieces. I don’t see any reason to do episodic

reviews of “It’s Always Sunny” or “How I Met Your Mother.” So we’ll keep it simple.

The other reason I decided to come back: I really enjoy talking about

P.S. — The first paragraph gave me a thought for an graphic. I need to figure out how to make it, but I want to do a graph plotting the correlation between a show’s theme song and it’s overall impact. For instance, the “Cheers” theme song would be high in the right corner, for being an excellent and significant show with a fabulous theme song. “Welcome Back, Kotter,” on the other hand, would be close for theme song, but much farther away on the show quality axis. We’ll see when I get to this.television…even if no one’s there to listen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »