Judge David Johnson wishes that the studio would dig up the lost episode where Cliff Clavin and Ted Kennedy get busted for a DUI.
Our reviews of Cheers: The Complete First Season (published July 14th, 2003), Cheers: The Complete Second Season (published March 8th, 2004), Cheers: The Complete Third Season (published July 12th, 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 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.
"Who are…three people who have never been in my kitchen?"
The beers keep coming in this four-disc set of one of television's biggest comedies. Sam (Ted Danson), Woody (Woody Harrelson), Rebecca (Kirstie Alley), Norm (George Wendt), Cliff (John Ratzenberger), Carla (Rhea Perlman) and Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) are back to down a couple and let fly the one-liners in season eight—and welcome a new face that just may be the gold mine Rebecca's been after for so long.
Facts of the Case
Season Eight begins like this: Sam still doesn't own the bar and is desperate to find a way to reclaim the only thing he ever loved, Rebecca is still prowling for the one-way ticket to wealth and fending off Sam's predatory come-ons, and Norm hasn't moved from his stool. Several things change this season, and they will have repercussions to the characters we've all grown accustomed to for so long.
The first major addition is the semi-regular appearance of Roger Rees as arrogant and sleazy mega-billionaire Robin Colcord. Much to Rebecca's delight, Robin strikes up a fancy with her and the two begin a rocky relationship that transverses the entire season. In fact, it is the main arc of this run, as it draws in both leads, Alley and Danson into the story; Rebecca is blindly smitten and Sam is blindly jealous.
Perimeter storylines include the death of Carla's husband Eddie (Jay Thomas, who took off to do his own show), Frasier and Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) giving birth to their son Frederick and Woody solidifying his relationship with Kelly. Also: Cliff goes on Jeopardy! and gives a pep talk to Alex Trebek, Norm struggles with an overly-amorous receptionist and a the gang still can't find a way to best their arch-nemesis Gary.
The biggest beef I have with this season is the total emasculation of Rebecca Howe. Yes, she's always been a gold-digger, but when the writers finally matched her up with the gold that she's been digging for, a once-great character shriveled up into a whiny mess. I like Rebecca. She had sass and her relentless stonewalling of Sam's advances gave her an edge. While she retains a moderate amount of that bite, whenever Robin Colcord makes an appearance, Rebecca turns into a blithering, idiotic pain in the butt. Robin himself isn't a bad character, and Rees injects a lot of fun Eurotrash slime into the mogul, creating a nice rivalry with Sam that's milked throughout the season, but the harm Robin does is by turning Rebecca into a wimp whenever he's around. Is it consistent with her character? Maybe, sorta. But it doesn't make her simpering any less annoying. It all comes to a head in the two part season finale with Rebecca wailing away when she discovers Robin's true agenda, culminating in a (yes, satisfying) cliffhanger. Still, it's a lot of irritation to sift through to get to the payoff. Bottom line: I miss the old smart-ass Rebecca, and the season suffers because of her disappearance.
Season Eight is also hampered by a few really horrendous episodes that scream "Help, we're running out of ideas!" These better-left-forgotten shows employ the tired gimmick of an outlandish scenario or set-piece to compensate for a breakdown in story and character. The most blatant offender is "Sam Ahoy," which finds Sam captaining Robin's yacht (?!?) with Norm and Carla, and the three discover a ticking bomb in the fridge (?!?x2). I was expecting Bruce Willis to swing in on a fire hose and carry them off to safety. Then, upon escaping the detonation (it never occurred to them to toss the bomb overboard), Sam rejects Robin's sympathy offering of $10,000, money which he could have used to buy the bar back. He gives some big speech about integrity and what not, but why would he turn down the money? It makes no sense. We've already established all Sam wants is to own Cheers again! Oh wait, they did it to set up a recurring theme in the series of Sam standing up to Robin's checkbook. In the end it's just a contrived smoke-and-mirrors episode that traded cheap laughs and ridiculous scenario for the show's typically strong writing. Then there's the laser beams when Sam and Rebecca trip Robin's penthouse defense system. But we'll end the gripe session there.
All that said, guess what: I still laughed a lot. Despite the dissolution of the character of Rebecca Howe and a handful of broken episodes, this season still proved to be enormously entertaining, often delivering truly brilliant writing. Despite its hiccups, Cheers shows yet again why it such a hallmark of American situation comedy. The actors know their roles so well it feels like 20 minutes with these characters is indeed a visit to a place where everyone knows your name. My favorites: "Two Girls for Every Boyd," guest-starring Lisa Kudrow, and featuring a panicked Woody trying to reconcile his real girlfriend with his stage one; "What Is…Cliff Clavin?" sports the classic Cliff Final Jeopardy answer "Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?"; and "Severe Crane Damage," a Frasier-centric episode (always a good thing) and Bebe Neuwirth looking foine!
Paramount continues its bare bones release of the series. No bonus materials, 2.0 surround and a full frame presentation that is uneven in quality.
Solid comedy straight through (aside from some speed bumps) often highlighted by truly masterful bits of comic writing. Cheers is probably my favorite "traditional" sitcom ever.
Not guilty. Pass the beer nuts.
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