Spiking this concoction is the palpable chemistry between Ted Danson's Sam and Shelley Long's Diane Chambers, fledgling waitress and self-described "student of life." The battle lines are drawn in the episode "Sam's Women": He's the "dim ex-baseball player" and she, "the post graduate." But, as Carla so indelicately puts it, they can't "put their glands on hold." In the first blush of lust, they were primetime's most potent mismatched couple until Moonlighting's David and Maddie bantered entendres. Here are little remembered facts: Sam was initially "an astute judge of human character." Guest stars Fred Dryer ("Sam at Eleven") and Julia Duffy ("Any Friend of Diane's") were among those considered for the roles of Sam and Diane. A pre-"Night Court" Harry Anderson stole his scenes in his recurring role as flim-flam man Harry ("Pick a Con...Any Con"). The lack of a commentary track is a disappointment, as are the extras that wouldn't fill a shot glass. Still, Cheers patrons can expect plenty of happy hours with this set. --Donald Liebenson
It was with rather guarded expectations that I picked up this first season as I really don't expect much from them. Usually the characters are yet undefined and I thought the storylines were written with "we may not be returning next season" in the background. The first seasons of Simpsons, Friends, even Star Trek TNG, for me, emphasized this point.
Fortunately, I was very very wrong.
The first season of Cheers was quite the surprise by offering a totally different type of experience that from the sitcoms that I had been used. While I view modern sitcoms as pure comedies (enjoyable, but far from moving), the first seasons of Cheers had a great balance of comedy and romance. While the latter seasons with Cheers was a great laugh, I don't think I ever pulled for any one character and simply enjoyed the stories for what they were worth. However, with the first season, I thought the Diane and Sam story line was done brilliantly and I actually found myself genuinely hoping that the two characters would get together.
The Diane and Sam story line seemed much more enjoyable... pleasant than latter stories between Sam and Rebecca. In my view, Sam and Rebecca was pure laughs and while I certainly did laugh at their various exploits, now that I have watched the first season, I definitely don't think it has the same sentimental value as the Sam and Diane storyline.
While I don't think there are too many people such as myself who jumped on the bandwagon late. But for those people, and I guess anyone, I would definitely recommend this DVD. It has certainly showed me that Cheers did not develop into one of the greatest sitcoms of our time, but it started out that way.
Looking back on the series as a whole it becomes clear that one inherent advantage for "Cheers" was that no matter what joke the writers came up with there was the perfect character to tell it. If you had a sarcastic barb then that went to Carla (Rhea Perlman), a dumb comment would come out of the mouth of Coach (Nick Colasanto), the arcane bar trivia belonged to Cliff (John Ratzenberger), the caustic non-sequiters and marriage humor was the province of Norm (George Wendt), the intellectual bon mots went to Diane (Shelley Long), and Sam (Ted Danson) played the Lord of the Come Ons. Equally as important, the bar where everybody knows your name was an appropriate place for all of these types of humor. As Diane says in the first episode: "Where better than here to study life in all its facets? People meet in bars, they part, they rejoice, they suffer, they come here to be with their own kind."
But the most important thing was that "Cheers" made the opposite attract concept work. Televison has a hard time handling romantic comedy. Making it work, like on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" is the exception; the rule is Dave and Maddie imploding on "Moonlighting." But Cheers managed to make the story of Sam and Diane with its on again, off again, really off, back on, never going to happen, then again who knows for several seasons. On the eve of her elopement Diane Chambers comes to Cheers and while sitting on a barstool sees her entire life crumble before her eyes. By the end of the night she is a barmaid and although Diane and Sam have nothing in common, they are doomed. At the end of the season when Sam's brother shows up to sweep Diane off her feet with an invitation to Paris, we know that Sam will finally confess his feelings ("Showdown, Part 2"), although Diane has to threaten to run her fingernails on the chalkboard to get him to stay. Then comes one of the great final clinches of all time.
I always say that I liked "Cheers" before Sam left the show, which confuses people since it was Shelley Long's Diane who left the show (but managed to return a few times). But my point is that the Sam of these early years, and the first season in particular, was a much different character from the show's second half. There was a pathos to Sam, which disappeared when the mental image of him dancing with Diane when they were old and grey from her final episode faded away. Sam the womanizer was a joke during those final seasons: but in this first year you can see how charming he can be: the point is amply proven when Sam tells Diane where he remembers seeing the same color as he sees in her eyes. There is also an edge to Sam as an ex-baseball player ("Sam at Eleven" and "Endless Slump") that disappears later on as it becomes one giant joke.
When you watch the complete first season again on DVD you will see that there is a serious side to "Cheers." Watch Coach's daughter (Allyce Beasley) try to explain to her father that she is not beautiful in "The Coach's Daughter" without crying. Of course that was the episode they showed to honor Nick Colasanto when he passed away. But there is also the choice episodes that feature quick appearances ("Sam at Eleven") and complete episodes ("Pick a Con...Any Con") focusing on Harry the Hat (Harry Anderson). Another thing that helps take the pressure off the Sam-Diane potential romance is the bumbling antagonism between Diane and Carla. This is a constant note that can pop up at any time during an episode, but sometimes Carla goes out of her way to play with Diane's mind ("Truth or Consequences," "Father Knows Last").
This is my favorite season of "Cheers" and I am willing to take on any and all comers who want to offer rebuttal to my claim that this is the greatest first season for any situation comedy in television history. "I Love Lucy," "The Honeymooners," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "All in the Family," "M*A*S*H," "Seinfeld," "Friends," all got a lot better after their inaugural season. None of them started as great as "Cheers" did, and if you want to discuss this over a drink I will have a cola with a couple of cherries in it, please.
1) You get to relive classic moments from this very memorable comedy with favorite characters Sam, Diane, Carla, Coach, Cliff and NORM! Read more