Paramount // 1993 // 648 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 12th, 2009
Sam: Thanks, Woody, you've given me something to think about.
Woody: Sorry, Sam. I hate it when people do that to me.
Eleven seasons later, the Little Bar That Could closes up shop. Paramount's four-disc set for the final season of Cheers sports all 28 episodes (holy crap!) and...well, nothing else.
For the show's swan song, the writers have packed this season with a flurry of character twists, cameos, and closure. A sampling of what goes down: Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) finds love with a plumber, Norm (George Wendt) scores a dream job as a beer taster, Woody (Woody Harrelson) finds himself entering the world of Boston politics, Carla (Rhea Perlman) makes cash hand over fist at a cheesy franchise bar and grill, the final Bar Wars between Cheers and Gary's Old Towne Tavern unveils a winner once and for all, Cliff (John Ratzenberger) strongly suspects Hitler may have moved into the building, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) endures six episodes worth of breaking up with Lilith, and Sam is faced with the biggest decision of his life: Should he get back together with Diane?
Ah, Cheers...they just don't make 'em like you anymore. I've been churning through a nice chunk of these season releases and have greatly enjoyed my return to the Boston bar. Finally, it all comes to an end with Season 11. The writing is just as sharp, the acting just as Emmy-caliber, and the beer just as sudsy as the seasons prior. Plus, the series finale is one of the best caps to a TV series ever.
Well, alright, I have a few gripes. One, there is entirely way too much time devoted to Frasier and Lilith's relationship. No doubt Kelsey Grammer is one of the most gifted comedic actors to ever grace the small screen, and Frasier is a legendary font of hilarious one-liners, but after like the eighth extended, melodramatic sequence with Lilith -- talking about their marriage, the affair, the divorce, the reconciliation -- I was ready to scan through anything with Doctor Crane in it. The almost-fling Frasier has with Rebecca is the only thing that gives the tired plot arc some juice. Second, there wasn't nearly enough Woody-centric episodes. I'm not sure what Woody Harrelson was working on during the filming of this season, but the guy is MIA in far too many episodes. No one makes me laugh harder than Woody Boyd. Third, speaking of overexposure, there were too many shows devoted to Rebecca's dead-end love-life, save for the satisfyingly ironic Tom Berenger plumber romance at the end.
That's all I really have as far as criticisms; a few clunker episodes, but name a series (besides Arrested Development and Airwolf) that sports flawless runs. A handful of iffy shows out of 28 isn't bad, and the majority of this season is funny. The jumbo-size finale featuring Shelley Long's return is a case study in how you wrap a successful show featuring characters the audience has formed a bond with. There are no cheap stunts, everyone receives a satisfying goodbye, and that final scene is goosebump-inducing.
Alas, Paramount has opted to send the DVD series out without much of a bang. Aside from the episode promos (big whoop) there are no extras. Really? How about all the hullabaloo that preceded the finale, or maybe a retrospective? A commentary? Bloopers? Anything? Nope. You're cut off. Perhaps we'll see bonus material in the inevitable mega-set complete series release that comes in a case shaped like a beer mug, but for the final season of one of the most beloved television shows of all time, to be this barren of supplements is a travesty. The tech specs: a full frame transfer that is mostly clean, but still plagued by the occasional grainy, low-res sequence that's been a trademark of the DVDs, and a 2.0 stereo mix.
If you can't recall how solid Season 11 was, and you consider yourself a Cheers fan or simply a connoisseur of consistently witty sitcoms, take my word -- it tastes great, and is filling. Too bad it's not filled with extras.
Not Guilty. Drinks on the house!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 648 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated