I’ve recently been rewatching the sitcom “Cheers” on Paramount+, where the entire series is currently available. It’s easy for people under the age of 45 to not be aware of the show or how huge it was when it originally aired. Running from 1982-1993 for 275 episodes, and then occasionally resurfacing in spinoff “Frasier” crossovers which ran another 11 seasons, when the show finished in 1993 it was watched by over 90 million people in the US.
The show centred around Sam Malone (Ted Danson), a charming, womanizing, recovering alcoholic ex-professional baseball player who owned the bar, a below street lower middle class bar frequented by regular customers which provided a home from home for them. Whilst the initial seasons focussed on Sam’s relationship with haughty waitress Diane Chambers (played brilliantly by Shelley Long) the real source of the show’s eventual “Friends” like domination of the ratings was the ensemble cast, from kind but dim Coach and Woody, sharp-tongued waitress Carla, know-it-all postman Cliff and failed accountant Norm. When Long left after five years she was replaced by Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca Howe, Sam’s neurotic boss (he’d sold the bar) whom he constantly tried to bed.
Cheers is both genuinely funny but also charming, with a cast that regular viewers came to love as an extended family, all flawed but all lovable. Looking through today’s eyes Sam Malone would be a sex pest who would be either swamped with legal bills or long dismissed by his employer for inappropriate behaviour, but it’s fascinating to watch as a snapshot of the time, before mobile phones and social media, with plots based on misinterpreted phone messages and Cliff’s barside pontifications not being open to challenge (“You know Sammy, it’s a well known fact that…”)
One particularly interesting feature of the show is how female characters deal with Sam’s constant sexual advances. This was the post-1970s, where the “Women’s Lib” movement was petering out against the New Conservatism of Reagan’s America (Reagan was only 20 months in office when the show first aired) and the female characters tend to fend off his passes through sarcasm. Having said that, many of his lovers are as equally sexually aggressive and promiscuous as he is. You can’t help grimacing at his wandering hands, all the same. He’s never grabby, but can be overly touchy.
File under cosy stress-free nostalgic viewing, and keep an eye out for the many guest stars who went on to be much bigger, although none will be as big as Kate Mulgrew’s hair.