I feel like a zombie, just going through the motions. I wake up. I do stuff. I go to bed. Repeat. Where is the purpose? Where is the joy? Where is the contentment?
Yes, I have finally, regrettably finished watching all eleven seasons of Cheers. That’s 275 episodes, equalling approximately 110 hours or 6,600 minutes or about five entire days of watching nothing but Cheers. That’s infinite minutes of laughter, sadness, and feeling a part of an eclectic group of people who, on the surface, have very little in common except that they frequent a little bar in Boston called Cheers.
I know, I’m being overdramatic. I can watch the show again — syndication, DVDs, Netflix! I know. I know how lucky I am. I honestly do not know how people coped — what people did on May 21, 1993. I really do not know. How did they find the strength to get out of bed the next morning? How did they cope with this immense feeling of loss? This indescribable feeling of emptiness?
I know, I’m being dramatic again. Shows end. People move on.
But I really, really, really loved Cheers. There were fantastic episodes. There great episodes. There were good episodes. But there was never really a bad episode — even when Diane Chambers, the most annoying character in the history of television, made me want to pull my hair out as she prattled incessantly about something that nobody — except maybe Frasier and then only maybe — cared about…even then, Cheers was good. Sometimes very good. Sometimes the best.
The original cast of Cheers: Ted Danson (Sam Malone), John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin), George Wendt (Norm Peterson), Nicholas Colasanto (Ernie “Coach” Pantusso), Shelley Long (Diane Chambers), and Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli).
In the early seasons, Coach was my favorite. I thought that when he left, I wouldn’t like the show as much anymore. I was wrong. Oh, I was so wrong. As much as I loathed Diane, I thought that when she left, the show’s quality would decline. I was wrong. Oh, I was so wrong.
The cast during the second half of the series: Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli), Woody Harrelson (Woody Boyd), Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane), Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith Sternin-Crane), George Wendt (Norm Peterson), Kirstie Alley (Rebecca Howe), Ted Danson (Sam Malone), and John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin).
Despite cast changes, Cheers never felt stale. It never reached a point where I thought, “This is no longer enjoyable. This really isn’t that good of a show anymore. I don’t need to keep watching it.” No, Cheers always made me laugh, made me feel a part of something, made me feel grateful to be alive.
Diane’s saving grace: introducing Cheers — and the world — to Dr. Frasier Crane. When Cheers ended, only 1% of viewers surveyed voted Frasier as their favorite character on Cheers, with only 2% voting that Frasier should have his own spin-off.
While struggling to cope with this loss, I reached the episode in Frasier (thank goodness for Frasier) where Woody shows up.
Dear, sweet, dumb Woody. Every word out of your mouth is a gem.
Woody as Mark Twain? Unforgettable. Dear, sweet, dumb Woody. Every facial expression of yours is a gem.
Woody eating snowballs (which he hates)? Priceless. Dear, sweet, dumb Woody, you are a gem, and someday — someday soon — I am going to re-watch every episode of Cheers featuring Woody just so I can record every word that comes out of Woody Boyd’s mouth in a little journal because when Woody Boyd talks, people listen. And when I am sad and depressed, I can pull out this little journal and just laugh, laugh, and laugh. People will fight over this little journal when I am dead and gone. Believe me.
In “The Show Where Woody Shows Up,” Frasier and Woody reunite during Woody’s visit to Seattle. They swap stories about old times in Boston and laugh about Mr. Clavin and Carla and Norm and Sam. They have such a good time that they arrange to meet again. And again. And again — until Frasier is driven crazy at the thought of spending any more time with Woody Boyd, with whom he has nothing in common except their shared experiences in Boston — experiences and memories in which he has begun to feign interest and laughter. When Woody tells Frasier he has to leave Seattle early because of an infection his daughter has, Frasier is relieved.
But then he later sees Woody at a restaurant. Woody, embarrassed and ashamed because he has lied (Woody is a stickler for honesty, bless him), hides in the bathroom to avoid an awkward confrontation.
“Woody, come out of there please,” Frasier says, knocking on the bathroom door.
“No hablo Ingles,” Woody replies.
“I don’t understand this,” Frasier says.
“It means ‘I don’t speak English.'”
Love that Woody!
Woody and Frasier then admit to each other that their repeated reminiscences together became unbearable, and each felt the other was having such a good time neither one of them had the heart to break it to the other that he was no longer enjoying their time together.
Furthermore, Woody tells Frasier, he feels sorry for Frasier because he lives with his dad, spends most of social life with his brother Niles, and any other friends he has are kind of strange. Earlier, Frasier had been telling Niles how sorry he has felt for Woody because he’s been tending the same bar in the same town for the past 15 years. Instead of telling Woody this, however, Frasier realizes how lucky Woody is and tells him so. Woody is lucky, Frasier says, because he has found his place in life and he belongs there.
They share one last beer together, promising to reunite again in five or ten years (ten years it is, declares Frasier). “Cheers,” says Woody.
“Cheers,” says Frasier.
And I want to cry.
In the finale of Cheers, Sam reunites with Diane (gag me) and announces that he and Diane will marry and live together in California, denouncing his same old life tending bar in Boston. But by the end, he returns (without Diane, thank goodness). He shares cigars and beers with Norm and Woody and Carla and Cliff and reflects on the meaning of life.
“I’m the luckiest SOB on Earth,” Sam declares to a darkened, empty bar, pounding his fist on the counter, in the finale scene. A knock comes on the door, and Sam replies, “Sorry. We’re closed.”
What I love about this scene — and the scene in Frasier — is that both convey a level of contentment, a sense of ease with one’s self — what one has, the choices made, and where you are in life. It is a feeling I strive for, a feeling I have felt in those 6,600 minutes of my life watching Cheers, greeting “NORM!!!!”, rolling my eyes at Diane, wondering when Cliff would stop talking, rolling into a ball of laughter at the dim-wittedness of Coach and Woody.