Judge Adam Arseneau took to this review like a fish takes to beer.
Our reviews of Cheers: The Complete First Season (published July 14th, 2003), Cheers: The Complete Second Season (published March 8th, 2004), Cheers: The Complete Fourth Season (published February 9th, 2005), Cheers: The Complete Fifth Season (published July 6th, 2005), Cheers: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 10th, 2005), Cheers: The Complete Seventh Season (published November 15th, 2005), Cheers: The Complete Eighth Season (published June 21st, 2006), Cheers: The Final Season (published February 12th, 2009), Cheers: The Ninth Season (published April 23rd, 2008), and Fan Favorites: The Best of Cheers (published March 8th, 2012) are also available.
"What's new, Normie?"
Paramount has picked up the pace on its Cheers DVD release dates, and this can only be a good thing; but if you own the previous two seasons, there are no surprises this time through. Cheers: The Complete Third Season is virtually identical to its predecessors in every way, but still manages to bring the laughs into your living room with proven ease.
Facts of the Case
Cheers: The Complete Third Season contains all 25 episodes in their splendid, 1984-era glory. On this disc, you will find:
• Rebound (Part 1)
• Diane Meets Mom
• King of the Hill
• Cheerio, Cheers
When I was a teenage hellion, my friends and I developed a particular piece of vernacular slang that, were you to examine the linguistic habits of the entire world as a whole, it would be doubtful that you could find it reproduced anywhere else. For absolutely no reason, the phrase "Ted Danson" became an adjective to describe a sense of compliance, of positive acceptance or approval. For example, if someone were to ask, "Hey, do you want to go to the movies tonight?" and you were in agreement, you could reply, "Sure…I'm Ted Danson."
On a completely unrelated note, as a child, Cheers was my favorite show. Also, it would seem that I was the originator of the phrase within my group of friends; or at the very least, became associated with it the most. But I am sure these things are coincidence. The point, if there is one, is this: Cheers is a show that immediately inspires a sense of comfort, of relaxation, of good-natured easygoingness unrivaled for a great many years on network television over any other show, save perhaps the recent competition of heavyweights like Friends, whose fans are loyal, ravenous, plentiful in number, and would easily tie you up in a carpet and throw your bloated corpse off a bridge for saying unkind things about their show. This happened once to someone, I think. But then again, I think a lot of things.
Comfort television, thy name is Cheers. And in splendid fashion, Paramount has been doing an excellent job of bringing the show to DVD simply and unobtrusively. No surprises here if you are purchasers of the first and second season on DVD, for Cheers: The Complete Third Season is exactly the same this time around; at least, in terms of disc design. Each disc contains the episodes in question, an ultra-simplistic navigation, and nothing else. The last disc in the set contains the additional content, with a minimum of bells and whistles. From packaging to menu design, this is streamlined efficiency at its finest.
Though the DVD presentation is almost identical to previous seasons, Season Three did bring some serious changes to the show itself and on the set, the most noticeable being the untimely departure of Nicholas Colasanto, who passed away late into the filming of the season. In one of the weirder decisions ever made by producers of a major television show, clearly not sure how to handle this unexpected tragedy, the network simply plowed along as if nothing had happened. To cover up the fact that one of their stars had shuffled off the mortal coil, they simply edited together old outtake footage of Coach into the remaining episodes, giving the awkward illusion that nothing was amiss, and that Coach was still around. After a few episodes of this workaround, network scribes hastily and clumsily wrote Coach's "vacation" into the storyline to explain his prolonged absence, and simply left it at that. In fact, producers waited until the start of the fourth season to write into the continuity that Coach's character had passed away at all.
Not surprisingly, when the cat ultimately tore violently out of the bag, the show was criticized rather heavily for having exceptionally poor taste in handling this matter. A lot of fans felt hurt, not only because this was disrespectful to the memory of Nicholas Colasanto, but also the failure to be properly open about his death robbed fans their opportunity to properly and respectfully mourn his passing. His death, both as a real-life human and as a beloved sitcom character, was only weakly addressed in the start of the fourth season—one of the only truly disappointing moments in the history of the show.
On a happier note, the best thing to happen in Season Three, of course, is the addition of one Dr. Frasier Crane, MD, to the cast. Soon, everybody knew his name, and nobody would be able to forget it for twenty-odd years (Frasier only recently having gone off the airwaves at NBC). But back in 1984, Frasier was cocky, bright-eyed, incredibly youthful, and had a lot more hair on his gigantic forehead. His awkward integration into the tight-knit group of friends was the subject of many an episode this season, as he stuck out like a gigantic tool. By the end of the season, though, he ceased to be the nerdy kid nobody liked, and fit in with the gang like a glove.
To me, this was not the best season of Cheers, but it certainly was not the worst. Ratings were on the rise, the cast had settled into a wonderfully comfortable routine with one another, Cliff had graduated from a mere supporting cast member to a full-fledged cast member with his own storylines, Frasier joined the festivities, and while the unfortunate departure of Coach shook up the show quite profoundly, it did clear the way for another well-loved cast member, Woody, to emerge next season. Season Three had some elements that worked—some interesting storylines focusing on Norm and Cliff and the addition of Frasier—but also some that did not—the handling of Coach's death and the majority of the Sam and Diane romantic storyline, for two examples. The latter in particular is especially disappointing. With Frasier in the picture, the idea seemed to be that Sam and Diane would have this smoky sexual tension going betwixt the scenes, but alas, it never seems to materialize as it did in the first and second seasons (or indeed, the fourth). Perhaps it was just a slow year in the romance department; I was awfully young in 1984, and can't remember seeing a lot of people making out in the streets.
As the show progressed, so progressed television recording technology; as such, Cheers got better and better looking as the years went on. Compared to the last two seasons, the third season of Cheers is the most handsome of the bunch, with nary a scratch, water spot, dirt molecule, or blurred edge in sight. The transfer is as tight as the purse strings of your thrifty great Aunt Stella come your birthday. Colors are solid, with a favoring toward yellows, browns, and reds. Black levels are deep and respectable, considering the show's age. And, like the video, so progressed wonderful advancements in audio recording technology (well, after the 1980s, anyway). The peculiar cavernous echo that plagued previous seasons has diminished slightly, and overall the soundtrack seems better preserved, with a higher fidelity. Dialogue is clear and crisp, and the laugh track and music are well balanced and clean. Suffice it to say, the third season of Cheers sounds better than its predecessors. This bodes well for the fate of the show on DVD, since Paramount had already done a fantastic job preserving the quality of the show thus far. With the inevitable chronological improvement of the source material, there are great days in store for Cheers fans.
The extras are on par with previous season offerings. These have traditionally consisted of a few featurettes comprised of footage from the show surrounding a central theme (Virtual Vera, Carla's Whipping Boy, Shrink-Warped: Introducing Frasier Crane), and a modern interview with cast members discussing a particular aspect about the show they remember fondly (in this case, Nicholas Colasanto: His Final Season). Though the Colasanto feature is touching, as a whole these are rather mundane supplementary features, especially since most of the footage is simply recycled from the show. However, the addition of the Cheers Bar Tour, a "virtual" tour through the bar, is a nice touch, allowing the user to click on certain aspects of the bar in order to see/hear various aspects about the set, the props used, and more. Cheers fans will no doubt get a kick out of this, but the more diehard of the bunch will probably already be familiar with the information herein. However, it is a break from the previous traditional offerings, and that is a good thing indeed.
By this point, it is clear that Paramount has the Cheers-on-DVD formula down to a science. As stated before, Cheers: The Complete Third Season is virtually identical to the previous two releases, save, of course, for episode content. Therefore, all of the things that were good about the previous releases—excellent audio and video quality, strategically placed chapter stops, simplistic navigation, and so on—are good this time around. Likewise, all the things that needed improvement—a "play all" feature, more interesting supplementary content, subtitles, a director's commentary, et cetera—have yet to materialize.
So, for better or worse, it seems very unlikely that we will have any variation from this point on. Luckily for all of us, these are excellent DVDs. And the promise of more, more, more down the road should make even casual Cheers fans (i.e., everyone) salivate like Pavlov's dog.
Cheers on DVD is as Ted Danson as you can get. Not guilty!
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Scales of Justice
• Featurette: Virtual Vera
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