Sunday, November 27, 2011

Boston, Say Hello to Woody Boyd; Sam, Say Hello to Frasier Crane's Little Friend

As I've brought up numerous times, the major change on Cheers was Shelley Long leaving the show, with Kirstie Alley replacing her. The other change, as mentioned here before, was the addition of Woody Harrelson to the cast, replacing The Coach as the bar's main bartender and the show's resident dumbass.

Amidst the Sam, Diane and Frasier love triangle drama, Woody Boyd, a bright-eyed country boy from Indiana, walks into Cheers looking for Coach. Sam gives Woody -- and the audience -- the unfortunate news about the Coach's death. Woody explains he and Coach were pen pals, exchanging not letters but actual pens and the Sam pretty much hires the kid on the spot.

Not long after putting on his bartender's apron, Woody is met with his first rude customer, none other than Frasier Crane. With that wide, Midwestern smile, Woody asks this stranger "What'll it be?". To this Frasier, stern and collousing, replies "Just give me a whiskey, punk." He downs his shot and, just as coldly, asks "Where's Malone?"

Frasier finds Sam in his office and pulls a gun on Mayday. Much like Sam at the beginning of season 3, Frasier has gone off the deep in thanks to Diane's breaking his heart. But rather than turning to booze as Sam did, Frasier simply wants the man he blames for his trouble to be shot dead.

Even though Sam flew to Italy and ended up breaking into the wrong mansion in an attempt to stop the ceremony, the gesture was moot as Frasier explains Diane backed out of the wedding. Sam tries to get Frasier to calm down and realize Sam hasn't even spoken to Diane since the wedding-that-wasn't. Frasier eventually stops aim the pistol and goes from pissed to emo and has a heart-to-heart with Sam about his love for Diane. Having had to get over Diane himself, Mayday tries offering words of encouragement to Dr. Crane, resulting in this hilarious exchange:

Frasier: "I'll forget about her when the moon turns to ashes and the birds sing nevermore."
Sam: "Hey, there you go!"

Diane, meanwhile, has begun working in a nunnery, helping the sisters fold laundry and do other housekeeping things because, apparently, her years of post-graduate work have given her the ability to do little besides minimum wage labor whether it be in a bar or convent.

Even though Sam failed in his chance to be a hero and stop Diane's wedding to Frasier, he still has a chance, it seems. Naturally, he sneaks up on Diane, causing her to curse. A nun comes into the scene and Sam hides. She leaves and Diane convinces him to leave so she won't get into trouble. Diane goes on to ask the Almighty for sign on what to do with her love life and, right on cue, Mayday comes back into the shot looking for the john. Diane, naturally, looks up to God and sarcastically states, "Well, it's not the parting of the Red Sea..." And with that, the season 4 premiere comes to a close.

Not to be harking on Diane too much, but isn't it odd that season 3 begins with her seeking mental therapy (or as Sam, and 1980s society constantly refers to it, the "looney bin") and season 4 begins with in a similar physical place and mental state of mind? Had Cheers been a modern day sitcom, perhaps Diane's backstory would be coming to light at about this point in the series. She seems to have some deeply rooted issues with her parents that have caused her to not handle difficult situations without running away from them and seeking help from people older than her.

But hey, I'm no psychiatrist. Speaking of psychiatrists, Frasier's failed attempted murder attempt on Sam was just the beginning of his downward spiral. Tune in next time on "Every Episode of Cheers" to find out what happens next...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Season 4 Begins, Season 3 Ends, and This Blog Begins Again (...Again)

At this point it's a bit pointless to keep beginning my blog posts with an apology for not blogging more regularly. That said, I'm sorry for the extended hiatus from this blog. As is the case every fall, nearly all my reading and writing activities are devoted solely to my job as college English instructor. For that, I make no apology.

But I do apologize for not writing about the end of Season 3 as I watched it. The truth is, it hit a little close to home as I watched Mayday go out on a limb and roll the dice on winning over Diane.

You see, the premise was this: Diane was in Italy (with Frasier, of course) yet still had feelings for Sam. How could she not when she spent several episodes talking to Sam non-stop from her hotel room telephone?

And once she told Sam that Frasier has popped the question, she gauged his reaction as if her own acceptance (better yet, acquiescence) of marrying Frasier hinged on Sam's own motivations and intentions. As we get to the actual season finale, it becomes increasing clear Mayday is still "carrying a little torch" for Ms. Chambers.

But of course everyone, both the other characters and we audience, knew this all along. As Mayday begins to talk himself into taking off for Italia, everyone else tries to talk him out of it. As Norm sarcastically quips, "Now let me see if I can this straight, Carla. You think Diane is wrong for Sam?"

From there, the episode dates itself by having Sam rely on Cliff's travel agent friend in getting info on a last minute ticket to Italy. Furthermore, Diane is later seen calling Sam from a payphone with the hopes that he can't answer because he's on his way to disrupt the wedding. As I mentioned in a previous post, Sam (after some difficulty) installed an answering machine due to all his phone calls from Diane. This, of course, is unbeknownst to Diane so when she hears "Hi, this is Sam Malone" on the other line, she immediately hangs up and reveals her sadness to the audience but puts on a happy face for Frasier.

The irony (again, of course) is that Sam is indeed on his way to stop the wedding. This final scene of the season is where I applaud Cheers as the season comes to close with drama between Sam and Diane, but ends on a cliffhanger, unlike the previous two seasons. Plus, the stakes here are clearly higher, both for these characters and the show itself.

The very beginning of the first episode of Season 4 begins with Sam interrupting the wedding. As you can see in the photo above, Mayday is dressed to impressed with a burgundy blazer worn over a checkered button-down shirt and blue jeans. Fashion aside, it's a great scene because Sam puts his heart out on his sleeve and puts it all on the line for Diane. She's not only flattered, she's won over and lets her ex-lover/ex-boss sweep her off her feet and carry her back to Boston.

It's great dialogue (as there always is between S and D) and great writing in general. But, of course, it's all a dream. Sam is only a chivalrous hero in his mind while in reality he rushes from the flight to the villa where in the wedding is held only to be hours late. This is something I'm all to familiar with as I wrote a yet to be published novel entitled Greatness Escapes, which is taken from the inner monologue of my protagonist who laments that he's never able to be in real life the guy he is in his mind. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to speak of my own brilliance or anything like that, but isn't this a very universal theme? Don't we all fail to live up to what we want for ourselves?

Obviously I think the answer is yes. Cheers is often referred to as being if not the greatest sitcom in history, the show with the greatest cast of all time. Why is this the case? Because Cheers is a bar we want to be at. Norm is a lovable failure we want as a friend. We want our ear to be talked off by the annoying, yet enduring Cliff Clavin. We relate to these characters. That's why the show worked so well. It's universal.

And seeing the smooth, cool, and suave Mayday Malone try his best and lose makes him a bit more human. A bit more real. When we care about a character, we feel for that character.And at the end of the day, that's what makes this show so great when it's on it's A-game. (Even, if my consistency with this blog has been anything but as of late...)