Case Number 03090

CHEERS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

Paramount // 1982 // 539 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Elizabeth Skipper (Retired) // July 14th, 2003

The Charge

"Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name..."

Opening Statement

It took me a while to figure out the appeal of Cheers. Why do I always stop when I encounter it in my channel surfing? Why was I excited to see the first season appear on my review docket? There's nothing terribly unique about the series; it's a sitcom fueled by the sexual tension between the two leads and fanned by a well-rounded supporting cast, a portrayal of the attempts of a downtown boy to win over an uptown girl -- it's all been done before.

No, the charm of Cheers is not in its innovation; it's in its predictability and its comfort. Just like the patrons of the bar, when you watch the show, you know what to expect. Sam and Diane will bicker, Carla will bite your head off, Cliff will bore you to tears, Coach will amuse you with his befuddlement, and Norm ("Norm!") will ask for another beer. And everybody will know your name.

Facts of the Case

"Give Me a Ring Sometime (Pilot)"
How you doing, Norm? What do you know?
Not enough.

When Diane's (Shelley Long, The Money Pit, Troop Beverly Hills, The Brady Bunch Movie) fiancé ditches her at Cheers, Sam (Ted Danson, Three Men and a Baby, Made in America, Becker) invites her to stay and become a waitress.

"Coach's Daughter"
Gentlemen, start your taps.
Coach (Nicholas Colasanto, Raging Bull) doesn't approve of his daughter's fiancé. Diane draws caricatures of the customers.

"Sam's Women"
Beer, Norm?
I've heard of that stuff. Better give me a tall one in case I like it.

Diane ribs Sam for dating ditzy women. Coach tries to fill in and help a customer with his problems.

"The Tortelli Tort"
How you doing, Norm?
Cut the small talk and give me a beer.

Carla (Rhea Perlman, Sunset Park, Matilda) enters anger management therapy after attacking a customer.

"Sam at Eleven"
How's life treating you, Norm?
Like I just ran over its dog.

Harry (Harry Anderson, Night Court) hustles Coach and Norm (George Wendt, Gung Ho, The Naked Truth). Sam's interview with a local newscaster leaves him depressed.

"Any Friend of Diane's"
How's life treating you, Norm?
Like he caught me in bed with his wife.

Diane's college friend visits and tries to seduce Sam. Norm brings his new supervisor to Cheers to butter him up.

"Friends, Romans and Accountants"
How's life, Norm?
Not for the squeamish, Coach.

Norm's attempt to throw his company party at Cheers goes awry.

"Truce or Consequences"
How's it going, Norm?
Daddy's rich and Mama's good looking.

Sam forces Diane and Carla to sit down and work out their differences.

"Coach Returns to Action"
What's up, Norm?
My nipples -- it's freezing out there.

Coach is nervous to ask out his new neighbor. Carla tries to fix the plumbing in the men's room.

"Endless Slumper"
What's the story, Norm?
Thirsty guy walks into a bar...you finish it.

Sam tries to help out a baseball player in a slump.

"One for the Book"
Whatcha up to, Norm?
My ears.

Sam vies to be included in Diane's journal. A WWI vet waits for his fellow reunion attendees to show up.

"The Spy Who Came in for a Cold One"
What's new, Norm?
Most of my wife.

A man claiming to be a spy visits Cheers.

"Now Pitching, Sam Malone"
Beer, Norm?
Nah, I'd probably just drink it.

Sam becomes a commercial star, but at a price.

"Let Me Count the Ways"
What's new, Norm?
Science is seeking a cure for thirst. I happen to be a guinea pig.

Diane's childhood cat dies, and she asks for sympathy. An MIT genius gives Sam and Coach a hot betting tip.

"Father Knows Last"
Norm, how come you and Vera never had any kids?
I can't, Coach...
Gee, I'm sorry.
...I look at Vera and I just can't.

Carla announces the father of her unborn child, but Diane suspects a scam.

"The Boys in the Bar"
Oh, I see, you can spot a gay person?
A mile away.
And there are none in here right now?
Nope, looks like a straight crowd to me. Too ugly to be gay...too ugly to be out.

Sam fears his association with an ex-teammate who's just revealed his sexuality will cause Cheers to become a gay bar.

"Diane's Perfect Date"
Beer, Norm?
That's that sudsy amber stuff, right?
Yeah.
Yeah, I've been hearing good things about it.

Sam and Diane set each other up on dates.

"No Contest"
What can I do for you, Norm?
Well, I am going to need something to kill time before my second beer. How about a first one?

Sam enters Diane in a barmaid contest, and she ignores her principles to compete for a free vacation.

"Pick a Con...Any Con"
Harry, here's the ten bucks I'm gonna owe you in about five minutes, all right?
Sam hires Harry to con the man who hustled Coach. Diane plays bartender.

"Someone Single, Someone Blue"
What'll it be, Norm?
Fame, fortune, fast women...
How about a beer?
Even better.

Diane and Sam consider a marriage of convenience to ensure her mother's inheritance.

"Show Down (Part 1)"
He got you a job tonight, after all the months you've been looking for one?
Not just a job, Sammy, he got me a great job. For the first time, I'm going to have my own parking space. I've got a secretary, I've got a window for water bombs -- all the perks.

Sam's overachieving brother comes to visit and asks Diane out.

"Show Down (Part 2)"
How you doing, Norm?
Coach, I'm on top of the world...it's a dismal spot in Greenland somewhere.

Sam and Diane finally break a season's worth of sexual tension.

The Evidence

Despite the lack of innovation I mentioned earlier, Cheers still ranks high on my list of all-time best sitcoms. It's got it all: smart writing, impeccable comedic timing, and amazing chemistry. Because I was a mere four years old when the series started and I've never watched the episodes in order, I assumed Cheers was like most shows and didn't really start to click until its second or third season. But I was wrong; Cheers was a quality show from its inception. From Carla's acerbic wit ("I love sailing. After seeing Ordinary People, I've been trying to get my kids interested in it.") to Coach's dim wit ("Is there an Ernie Pantusso here?" "That's you, Coach."), it never failed to entertain.

I'm obviously quite enamored of the show, so I was especially disappointed by this lackluster DVD set. To start with, the menus are ugly, boring, and actually a little creepy (characters stare at you as you make your episode selection). The extras reek of a last-minute job. Other than a brief (eight minutes) interview with Ted Danson and a 12-question trivia game, all we're given is three clip montages, of Sam and Diane fighting, of Coach being idiotic, and of Norm quipping. As all the clips are from the first season (of course), you won't get much out of the montages after having watched all the episodes. Fortunately, the interview with Danson is enlightening, but why couldn't they sign him (or anyone else) on for a commentary or two? And, why couldn't they give us more fresh material, such as outtakes or behind-the-scenes footage?

The sound for this set is rich and full of bass during the theme song and good enough elsewhere. With one exception, I could hear the dialogue easily and I was satisfied with the quality of the sound. That one exception is the episode "Pick a Con...Any Con." In this episode, the sound is distorted and almost metallic and the dialogue is often incomprehensible. The sound on the other four episodes on the disc is better but still not quite as good as on the previous three discs, so perhaps the disc itself is somehow defective. The full screen video is best described as adequate, as I saw nothing that stood out as either good or bad.

Closing Statement

As heartily as I recommend the show, I cannot in good conscience encourage you to buy this DVD set. The audio and video are only adequate, and the extras are barely worthy of being called such. Why pay for the shows when you can watch them in syndicated reruns with about the same quality?

Help Paramount learn the lesson that we're not going to pay for a show we can watch on network TV unless it gives us a good reason (such as commentaries or outtakes).

The Verdict

Paramount is found guilty of believing its customers to be uninformed chumps and is sentenced to pay our bar tabs until they give us what we want.

Case adjourned.

Review content copyright © 2003 Elizabeth Skipper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 80
Audio: 65
Extras: 35
Acting: 95
Story: 90
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 539 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* "Setting the Bar: A Conversation with Ted Danson"
* "Love at First Fight: Opposites Distract"
* "Coach Ernie Pantusso's 'Rules of the Game'"
* "I'll Drink to That: Stormin' Norm-isms"
* "It's a Little Known Fact..." Cheers Trivia Game

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0083399/combined