I cannot say it enough: Cheers is arguably the greatest television show ever made. It had everything: memorable characters, witty dialogue, and longevity. This program had something for everyone and reached a large demographic of people. Although the show ended in 1993, it is still referenced frequently by several media outlets. Cheers changed the way Sitcoms are written today and will be remembered for influencing shows like Seinfeld. In addition not only was the original show a success, it also spawned two spinoff series (One being Frasier which also lasted eleven seasons.) The 1980’s were full of fads and one season shows, but there was one constant factor throughout the decade: Cheers. People loved this show then and it is still one of the most popular syndicated programs around. This show was special and one of the greatest due to the characters, the writing, and the setting.
First of all the statistics and rankings for this show speaks for themselves. For example, The Big Bang Theory averages around 18 million per week, which is tops on television. Now look at Cheers and the fact that by 1993 their number was a whopping 26 million per week! Those numbers are staggering compared to the current numbers. The ratings for it are absolutely fantastic as well. I researched several polls and articles online looking for The Top Television Shows of All-Time and Cheers was a consistently in the top ten, with several people having it has their number 1. To name a few, Time Magazine put Cheers in the top 100 (no order), Underscoop Fire ranked it number 1, and GQ named it “The best TV Show That’s Ever Been.” These numbers show a correlation between the shows success and format they used. It is clear that viewers loved this show and holds it in the highest regard.
The shows intentions were simple: make people laugh and sometimes think. The writers wanted to entertain their audience through classic bar talk/activities but with an addition to intellectual dialogue. The crew is goofy and foul-mouthed but at the same time can spin some witty conversations. Each character had their niche and the writers took advantage of it. Norm was a bar regular who was just an “Average Joe” who tried to get away from his wife. Cliff was the annoying mailman who everybody loved to hate because he was so opinionated. Carla was the spunky yet tough-as-nails waitress who seemed to yell at more customers than actually serve them drinks. Woody was the lovable, slow-minded country boy who was in amazement of the big city lights. Frasier was the intellectual psychiatrist who was at first enamored with Diane but by season four wanted her out of the picture. Diane was a pretentious bar maid, but had the respect of most her comrades (besides Carla.) She would drive people nuts but at the same time she was the mother of the group. Her on again off again love story with Sam is one of the most well-known TV romances of all-time. Lastly there was Sam; he was the glue to the show, a former Boston Red Sox pitcher whose career was ruined by alcoholism. Ironically he bought the bar after beating his disease and is as happy as can be. He is the classic jock, chasing skirts while not having a whole lot of book smarts. This cast was perfect for the show in every aspect. They were so believable for their parts. For example, Ted Danson is a handsome guy and could pass for a ball player but he is no Matt Damon. In addition (and no offense meant) but George Wendt who played Norm truly looks like a “run of the mill” citizen who enjoys his beer. The producers just did an excellent job casting each member for the right role. The characters appearance helped the viewers relate to the characters better and could accept the show as a reflection of reality.
If there is one thing the writers had for the audience, it was respect. Their refusal to dumb down jokes and lines brought in more highbrow viewers who enjoyed the interesting banter. The dynamic of the bar was so intriguing, for instance one moment Norm and Cliff could be discussing how many Cheetos they fit in their mouth but within a flash Frasier and Diane could be having a debate on Columbian art. The dialogue had something for everyone and was consistent. Most notably every time Norm would walk into the bar all of the patrons would yell “Norm!” followed by Woody asking him how we was. Norm would usually respond with a comical response. In episode eighteen of season four Norm walked in and was asked by Woody,
“How’s life in the fast lane Mr. Peterson?”
“It’s a dog eat dog world and I’m wearing milk-bone underpants.”
The writer’s did not rely on popular culture to help write their episodes, rather they used past experiences and creative thinking when pondering for ideas. They were also able to have two story arcs in one episode, even though the events would happen in the same setting. In the episode I listed above the first focus was on Frasier and his inability to forget his break up with Diane while the second story dealt with Norm and his job promotion. It is amazing what they could do in such a small place. The show also never shied away from interdicted topics, like alcoholism or homosexuality. In the 1980s these subjects were rarely brought up in the media, let alone a prime time award winning show. Cheers was unique in every meaning of the word.
Television shows are a dime a dozen, but Cheers will forever be a household name. Everyone involved was adept at their position, from the producers, to the writers, to the actors. It was a once-in-a-lifetime show that alter the way future shows have operated. The fans grew attached to the characters, welcoming them as part of the family. It is amazing to think that this show ranked last in the ratings after their first season (and almost being cancelled.) Even though I was around for the peak of this program, I am thankful that outlets such as Netflix exist. Cheers was amazing and had a welcoming feel to it. It was a place where everybody knew your name.