Synopsis: It’s the cozy little Boston bar where everybody knows your name… welcome to Cheers – the Emmy® Award-winning, smash-hot television series that kept the laughs uncorked for 11 years. It’s an era of transitions as the gang at Cheers adjusts to new corporate ownership – a development that takes a hilarious turn when Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) discovers that Sam (Ted Danson) has been named the new manager of the bar. Meanwhile, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) have a dynamic new interior decorator – Norm (George Wendt)! Carla (Rhea Pearlman) faces an uncertain future with Eddie (Jay Thomas); Cliff (John Ratzenberger) decides to turn over a new leaf after a lonely hospital stay; and Woody’s (Woody Harrelson) bartending duties at a posh party lead to a fight with a guest at the soiree. You’ve got time for another round – it’s all 22 episodes of Cheers: The Complete Seventh Season on tap!
Cheers: Season 7 7.5
By this point in the series, ‘Cheers’ has gotten really comfy with its formula: not only are there fewer misfires, but there’s also a lot fewer risks being taken and far less character development than in seasons past. Aside from the Cranes being pregnant, and Woody having a new girlfriend, not much is new with the old gang – and we don’t get to explore their personalities or their past any further.
Rebecca is completely immersed in the gang’s dynamic now, effortlessly playing off of each other in ways that work, but are probably too cushy. Long gone are the incisive exchanges that Diane and Sam once had, traded in for less intellectual, but nonetheless funny, barbs. If one were to tune in to Cheers for the first time since the first season, one could hardly recognize the show, now over 5 years older.
This new formula works, however, and its creators managed to hammer out 22 episode that were and remain solid; none of them make you want to claw your eyes out like in years past. Conversely, none of them were fantastic. So, by the time I wrapped the season up, I was left with the impression that I just had some better-than-average junk food; it was pleasing while I had it, it was instantly gratifying, but it was wholly unmemorable.
My favourite episodes were:
Episode 3: Executive Sweet: Even though it was a Rebecca-centric episode, the struggle between her professional ambition and her lack of attraction to her flirtatious new boss was handled very well. And the bits with Woody are so absurdly funny – they’re perhaps the best of this particular season.
Episode 9: Send in the Crane: This episode brings Sam back to his full womanizing glory, which is the only way the character should be. And Frasier gets some terrific moments, constantly on the edge of humiliation but pulling through admirably. That is, until that one miniscule slip… )
Episode 14: I Kid You Not: It was really great watching the Cranes with Carla’s kid, who surprisingly has an intellectual bend. Woody also gets a few funny moments in conjunction with Sam.
These episodes could have been great, but…
Episode 18: What’s Up, Doc?: This one was just shy of being a terrific episode. Unfortunately, Sam lacked subtlety in his advances towards the gorgeous psychiatrist and then let some inexplicably sudden pride (after all, he doesn’t appear to have any with regards to Rebecca! ) get in the way of spending the night with her. It’s terribly out of character. Too bad, though, ‘cause the mix might have been perfect if Sam had been penned correctly.
Episode 21: Sisterly Love: This one started off excellently, despite a few unsubtleties from Sam, but the ending destroyed everything. While it was a funny gag, there is no way that everyone would gang up on Sam. Not only did it serve no purpose other than to humiliate him, they all jeopardized their friendship with him for it. This was the sort of thing they’d do to Cliff, not Sam.
Episode 22: The Visiting Lecher: I adored how they dealt with sexual harassment here, how all the characters minimized Rebecca’s concerns even though she was right in thinking that something was amiss. I wished that she had been better able to express herself, however, and I wish that a stronger resolution had come of it. After all, harassment should not be a taboo subject; even if proving it is not always self-evident, awareness is an essential ingredient in preventing it.
The following were notable, if not memorable:
Episode 2: Swear to God: This one’s mostly notable for the dilemma that Sam faces and for seeing the pride and relief in his eyes when he claims to have won the battle.
Episode 6: Norm, Is That You?: I loved that they tackled the subject of homosexuality and peer pressure fairly maturely – it could have turned into a farce or gone ugly.
My least favourite episodes were:
Episode 8: Jumping Jerks: The boys go sky-diving because they are too proud to ignore Carla’s taunts. This scenario is clichéd as heck, and even Sam comes off looking like a loser (which is not how he should have been written – he should have shown them how it’s done).
Episode 12: Please Mr. Postman: I adore that Cliff found a partner who loves the post office as much as he does. But I hated that he and she went completely off the rails afterwards; this felt forced and out of character. In fact, based on their passion for and commitment to the USPS, they would not have allowed things to get out of hand as they did – nothing would have gotten in the way of their respective duties.
Thankfully, the sexual harassment that Sam dished out to Rebecca in Season 6 was pretty much stamped out in this one. Similarly, Sam (mostly) stopped being such a sap – he still chased her, but he no longer stooped as low as he did, being a schlep of the Cliff Clavin variety. He got back to his old habits, which helped to bring balance to the times when he made stupid attempts to trick Becky into bed.
Beyond this, there’s really not much to discuss. This season has the warm, comforting feeling of an old shoe. It was fun enough to want to watch more of it, but not enough that you’d want to watch an episode a second time. In truth, another season of this very average calibre will convince me to take a short break, before seeking out Seasons 9-11 (which, amazingly, I do not yet own).
Post scriptum: Season 8 is apparently one of the show’s peaks in viewership, and it’s the strongest of the Kirstie Alley years. Season 9, while dropping significantly in numbers, was the highest-rated of the show’s whole run (which I suspect means that the competition wasn’t very fierce!). I’m actually kind of curious to see what lies in store…