Synopsis: It’s the cozy little Boston bar where everybody knows your name…welcome to Cheers – the Emmy Award-winning smash-hit television series that kept the laughs uncorked for 11 years. In Cheers: The Complete Fifth Season, Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long) make on-again, off-again wedding plans – including a marriage proposal that ends in an assault and battery charge! Not to be outdone, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) move in together; Woody (Woody Harrelson) finds himself abruptly engaged; Carla (Rhea Perlman) falls for a hockey goalie; and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) gets bitten by a dog…and becomes smitten with the dog’s owner. Will Norm’s (George Wendt) new job pan out? Will Carla get “birdzilla” cooked in time for Thanksgiving dinner? Will wedding bells finally chime for Sam and Diane? You’ll find all the answers – and unending laughs – in all 26 hilarious episodes of the season that marks the farewell appearance of Shelly Long as Cheers regular “Diane Chambers.”
Cheers: Season 5 7.75
As a total teetotaler who doesn’t ever frequent bars, it may seem a little unusual that I am a fan of ‘Cheers’. But I am. A BIG one.
The thing is, the writing in this show can be SO good that it’s hard to not like it. At its best, it offers scintillating, if not stimulating, exchanges between its characters. At its worst, like any sitcom, it falls prey to corniness and contrivances in lieu of wit.
Season 5 is a minor step up over Season 4. While it starts off a little wonky, trying its best to wedge a Sam and Diane romance back into the mix, for lack of new tricks, it eventually serves up some finer slices along the way.
My favourite episodes were:
Episode 4: Abnormal Psychology: This is the second encounter between Frasier and Lilith, and it’s SMOULDERING. It’s raunchy and hilarious. Without a doubt, my favourite of this season and one of the best of the series so far.
Episode 16: Never Love a Goalie: Part 1 + Episode 17: Never Love a Goalie: Part 2: I really loved seeing Carla win for once, and actually seeing her happy. She’s brilliant as a venomous character, but the way she and Eddy played off of each other was magic.
Episode 19: Dog Bites Cliff: Cliff may be a real pest, but if you understand the reasons why he is one, you can’t help but wish some happiness on him. While it was to be brief, I was happy to see him mature a bit, for him to be a more “whole” person.
Episode 21: Simon Says: Diane is in her insufferable mode here, but John Cleese makes up for all of it. There are quite the funny bits here as he tries to endure her annoying presence.
Episode 24: Cheers: The Motion Picture: I really liked the concept of this one, as simple as it is. I thoroughly enjoyed each home movie that the folks at Cheers made to convince Woody’s dad that he should stay in Boston. Fun!
The following were notable, if not memorable:
Episode 3: Money Dearest: Classic Cliff sleeziness, but at least his mother and her suitor showed a lot of grace and were quite likeable. His mother is played by the inimitable Frances Sternhagen. What a great casting choice!
Episode 25: A House Is Not a Home: Not such a great episode, but it has a sequence in which Sam daydreams about his future with Diane. This, is the real clincher.
Episode 26: I Do, Adieu: If only because it’s an emotional episode. The rest is pure contrivance.
My least favourite episodes were:
Episode 5: House of Horrors with Formal Dining and Used Brick: Give me a break! None of this would happen. This was just a way to play with characters other than Sam and Diane. But how lame! These characters deserve better.
Episode 7: Young Dr. Weinstein: See Episode 2.
As per usual, the worst episodes are always the ones when the characters are taken out of the bar. Perhaps the writers were bored, or maybe they simply got lazy – it can’t be easy to fit all the stories in only one setting and invest everything in the dialogues. Sadly, the situations are almost always irredeemably unrealistic and the wit vanishes when they’re not in Cheers.
As strange as it may seem, my favourite characters in Season 5 were the Frasier and Lilith duo. Perhaps this is due to their limited screen time. Mind you, Frasier had been a regular for years now and he’s always quite strong (even when he has no lines, Kelsey Grammer makes Frasier multidimensional). With Lilith to riff off of, he’s even better! They’re quite the pair.
Meanwhile, Woody finally got many of the best lines! As a mere replacement for Coach, he had been funny, but not nearly as endearing (which was Coach’s strength!). Now he got many of the zingers and quite a few important moments too. He came of age as a character, finally.
My appreciation of this season may be buoyed by the knowledge that it was Shelley Long’s final season. While the dynamic between Diane and Sam was simply electric the first season and still quite good in the second, it had grown stale and there were very few new avenues to explore. So, if I had thought that yet another season like this one was in the offing, perhaps my impression would be different.
But, as it stands, this season ended the Sam/Diane era a tad late, but (thank goodness!) not TOO late. As irritating as Diane could be, her character was essential to the mix. It was time to move on, though, and, as we bid “Adieu!” to that character, I couldn’t help but feel a slightly melancholic. It won’t be the same without her.