Plot: What’s it about?
It’s been a while since I’ve seen an episode of Cheers. Though it sounds a bit odd, it’s one of those shows that I grew up with, even though when it first came out, I didn’t get a lot of the jokes. In these days when syndication is dominated by more recent shows like Seinfeld, X-Files and Friends it’s almost a shame that we might forget about one of the greatest television shows of all time. That is Cheers. Set in Boston, the show never tried to make a statement; instead it just showed the funnier side of things that tend to happen inside a friendly little bar. Sam (Ted Danson) is the owner, an ex-pitcher and a recovering alcoholic. The rest of the cast is composed of his employees and the visitors who frequent his establishment. Norm (George Wendt) is perhaps the most recognizable member of the show, who must swilled down countless beers and his faithful cohort, Cliff (John Ratzenberger) the representative of the United States Postal Service who knows way too much about nothing. There’s also Carla (Rhea Perlman aka “Mrs. Danny Devito”), the snide waitress who is the yin to Diane (Shelly Long’s) yang. And that’s that. Amazing how much sheer entertainment we got out of these characters over the years, but it just shows you what good writing will do.
It’s been twenty years since the first episode of Cheers aired and at times, it shows. I noticed, in one episode, in which a friend of Sam’s has written a book and come out of the closet (i.e. “He’s gay”.). Sam reluctantly accepts the fact as the rest of the members of the bar try and get rid of the gay element that might possibly enter the bar. Just a mere twenty years later, gay characters on television are somewhat very mainstream. Television shows such as Will & Grace not only deal with the subject, but it’s one of the higher-rated shows on air. It seems odd that just a few presidents ago and a few decades ago, the world was such a different place. With clever writing and direction, the show took off almost immediately and it has inspired not one, but two spinoffs. Harry (Harry Anderson) played some earlier parts as a con-artist and was then more recognizable as the judge from a very successful show, Night Court. We’re also familiar with that of one Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) and though his character wasn’t present in the first season of this show, his character has a show by the same name that’s still on air today. So the ripples of Cheers are some twenty years old, but are still seen today. Fans of the show will love to pick this up and I found it a very impressive first season. And I get most, if not all, of the jokes now.
Video: How does it look?
To take a line from Casablanca, “I was shocked…shocked!” at how grand this transfer is. For a television show that’s some twenty years old, I was expecting what I might see on cable. Instead I was greeted with a very smooth-looking almost film-like transfer that I couldn’t believe. A few blips here and there were not a distraction as I watch Norm guzzle down his endless supply of beers and watch Sam hit on endless women. Yes, it’s really that good. The somewhat dark physical nature of the show (i.e. set in a bar) might give the transfer some reason to act up and show signs of artifacting. It doesn’t. Every episode is presented in a full-frame aspect ratio, but they all appear to share one common trait: they all appear much better than you might expect. Whatever Paramount did, I encourage them to keep it up. Excellent!
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio is a basic Dolby Surround mix, but like the video presentation, I was very surprised at how rich and full it sounded. The main title song does sound a bit lower (in volume) that the rest of the episodes (and I swear that it sounds as if Woody Harrleson sung it); but still sounds very good. The episodes are mainly dialogue-driven, but they sound very strong coming out of the center channel. Ambient effects, though few and far between, add to the depth of the soundtrack. Again, I was taken back, but still very impressed as to how good this sounds.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The disc comes equipped with several features, though nothing that’ll take up too much time. Four featurettes and a trivia game are included here. First up is “Setting the Bar: A conversation with Ted Danson”. The interview takes place on the set of his current show, Becker and he reminisces about how the show was cast and how he got the part (he credits Shelly Long as their chemistry was so good together). Next is “Love at First Fight: Opposites Attract” in which Sam and Diane’s characters are shown in a montage of scenes in which they bicker, slap and generally play hard to get. It’s not doubt that the bitter sarcasm between these two is what made the early days of the show work. Next is “Coach Ernie Patusso’s Rules of the Game”. Coach wasn’t the brightest of the bunch, and he was later replaced by a younger (and equally dumb and naïve Woody Harrleson) version of himself after his death in 1985. Again, a montage of scenes in which we see how stupid he really was that there was nothing to do but laugh. Next is “Stormin’ Normanisms”. Probably one of the greatest thing about the series was that Norm had something clever to say whenever his name was shouted out when he entered the bar “NORM!” This is a series of clips as to what he would say to that. “How’s the world treatin’ ya, Norm?” to which he would reply “…it’s a dog eat dog world and I’m wearin’ Milk Bone underwear”! Too funny. Lastly, a somewhat lame trivia game is include in which you select the answer to the question. You get multiple tries and when you finally select the right one, you get the clip that says the answer to your question. While I was impressed by the audio and video, I am more impressed at how this show has stood the test of time. An easy recommendation.- Matt Brighton