Nov 30, 2012
I want to go back to that place 'where everybody knows your name.' Not that anyone there actually knew my name, but you get the idea.
Was it Ernest Hemingway who said, "Write drunk, edit sober?" I'm reading a novelized account of his relationship with his wife Hadley for book club. I'm LOVING it. But then I love most all historical romance. Who doesn't? The romantic fantasy was actually REAL. Sort of. Anyway, that thing about writing drunk and editing sober. I say one out of two ain't bad! Unless you're in school. Then that is bad. That's an F.
Speaking of school, I used to go to it, like most people. Waaay back in my younger years when I lived at home and it was mandatory. Back in those days, there was a little TV show that would be on late at night. Not M*A*S*H-late, but like after-TGIF-was-over-late. It was a bunch of boring adults talking about boring adult things in a bar. 'How very boring,' I thought as a child. I want cute surfer boys and girls who wear glasses and at least one school dance every few episodes. But no. I was stuck with Cheers. 'Don't these people have lives,' I wondered?
Little did I know that as an adult I would watch Cheers from beginning to end, and be forever changed. Forever changed in a 'that TV show meant a lot to me' kind of way, not a 'I'm going to reexamine my life' kind of way. Because really, the last thing Cheers would ever do is tell you to reexamine your life. You know what happened on Cheers when people reexamined their lives? THEY LEFT CHEERS. WHICH USUALLY ALSO MEANT LEAVING CHEERS. In other words, it only led to bad things.
I know that when I went through 11 seasons of M*A*S*H there was a natural withdrawal phase that was painful and sad. But at the end of the day, those people made it out of Korea! Out of the horrific hell of war, and back to their families and lives in America! To be too sad about that would make me a complete sadist. No, no matter how much I loved Alan Alda in army green, I could never wish another year, another month, another day of the Korean War on Hawkeye Pierce. I just couldn't.
The difference with Cheers is, there was nothing for the characters to gain by the show ending. I knew that they could have gone on with the usual hijinks and missteps and glorious times together, but the network or the producers or the cast or whoever just chose not too. But in the finale (spoilers) nothing happens to the bar! It doesn't close or burn down or get a new owner. I know you might think that made me happy, but it didn't! That's painful. It felt like my neighborhood bar had decided that instead of shutting down, they'd just ban me forever from coming inside.
So much happened in that bar. Weddings. Fights. Contests. Sex. Gambling. Singing. The creation and dissipation of relationships. Death. Birth. And a whole lot of drinking. Not to mention, this man, its owner:
Jesus Christ on a cracker. Yes, he was a horrible philanderer. A frequent cad. A legendary louse. And sure, the fact that he called every woman he interacted with 'sweetheart' or 'hon' or 'baby' instead of their real name should really offend me, as a woman, and as a feminist. And of course he has that weird, neanderthal brow that would give David Boreanaz a run for his money. And I suppose you could point out that he had no ass to speak of whatsoever. But my God, the way that man could drink a cup of coffee. Or chew a beer nut. Or wear a pink sweater. Or sexually harass a co-worker. I couldn't help myself. It was love. Pure, TV-character-love. The purest kind if you really think about it.
Sam Malone loved his friends. He looked after them. He'd do anything for them. And his adorable vanity and ignorance! Ted Danson (and his writers) made a character I should have loved to hate into a character I loved to love and love some more. It's...it's almost as if Hawkeye Pierce came back from the war, decided to give up alcohol (and medicine), turned into Ted Danson, and bought a bar. (Not really. Hawkeye would never leave Crabapple Cove.)
Of course when I tell people I watched all 11 seasons, the natural question arrives: who do you prefer, Diane or Rebecca? And my answer is complicated! Which is why it's the last question they ask me and try to breach a new subject as soon as possible.
(If you didn't know, the loss of Diane and gaining of Rebecca sort of mark the two separate 'books' (each season being a chapter in said books) of the show, much like Trapper John leaving M*A*S*H and the arrival of Bj. I promise to stop making M*A*S*H comparisons at some point. Though one went off the air right after another started!)
You see, Diane was a brilliant feminist! She was basically the female Frasier (which is why they were so perfect for each other, if not for how alike they were...). Diane was a kind of Elizabeth Bennet. A horrific snob, but a well-intentioned one. With her impeccable taste, extensive education, and total belief in herself, she also possessed a darling desire to see other people succeed and achieve happiness. HOWEVER.
Diane would constantly, CONSTANTLY, make fun of Sam's intelligence. He deserved to be teased for many, many things, but his intelligence was not one of them. Or at least shouldn't always be one of them. I'm glad that Sam--who seemed to only be interested in vapid women with weak personalities--would try so hard to be with Diane, ever proposing to her, what, 5 times? I liked that he enjoyed her kind, if misdirected, attempts at interfering with other people's lives for their 'betterment' and wasn't put off by her extensive vocabulary, extremely modest clothing, or impossibly high standards. BUT. Shelley Long, bless her soul, left Cheers. Hell, she left Sam at the altar! And that, coupled with her often too-cruel jabs at his lack of intelligence, keep her from being my preferred female protagonist.
Then we have Rebecca. Rebecca is easy to poke fun at because she's a total gold digger trying to gain money and status above all else. In many ways this makes her Sam's equal: he's shallow enough to hit on anyone in heels, she's shallow enough to hit on anyone with a yacht. She depends more on Sam than Diane ever did in terms of moral support and consolation. She makes fun of Sam, but more about his womanizing than his brain, which I prefer. His dim-wittedness is one of his greatest charms! God, what's happened to me.
And this is to say nothing of Norm or Cliff (who I fear I resemble in almost every way except gender and occupation), not to mention the incredible Carla. CARLA! Rebecca may be my preferred female lead, but Carla is my preferred woman for Sam. I know this could have never been, as she so smartly stated: "I always thought I would be the woman you cheated on your wife with" and not his actual wife. But I loved their dynamic so much! Compared to Carla, Diane and Rebecca sex drives' combined would amount to Liz Lemon's (which is to say, hardly one at all). I felt that she could match Sam's...um...appetites. Not to mention that she was gutsy, conniving, hilarious, and supportive of Sam in almost every way (excusing his dating Diane). Every time they touched or had a sweet interaction, I got all nervous and couldn't look straight at the screen. THAT is an otp.*
Anyway, I've been watching Frasier, in part because that's the natural progression after Cheers, in part because so many of my friends have been watching it or have recently watched it, and in part because I can't fucking get over Cheers, and spending time with even one of its characters is better than none at all. But the problem is Frasier moved. He's not in Boston. He doesn't come into Cheers with Lilith and order Brandy. Now he drinks Sherry. He doesn't give free psychology advice to his friends on barstools, he gets paid to give it out on the radio. Frasier feels different as a character. It's not the same. I suppose that's necessary if you're going to turn a supporting character into a lead for their own show, but it's weird.
And tonight in an episode SAM APPEARED. And hearing him talk and seeing him walk and hug Frasier and flirt with Daphne and talk about baseball with Marty...it was too much.
I miss Gary Portnoy's inviting, pathos-filled voice. I miss Coach and Woody and Paul and Robin and Rebecca and Henri and Kelly and Diane and Lilith and Harry the Hat and even Vera. Now I try to find solace in the fact that I have a sunken living room and Cheers was a sunken bar. And that I heard somewhere that Ted Danson has the bar set in his home, and it's a working bar. God, I almost wish it was destroyed so I wouldn't have to know it still exists somewhere I can't reach or see it. And what happened to going into a bar and saying 'I'd like a beer' and just being handed one instead of a 100 title long list of different microbrews! I want beer that looks that sparkling cider! And I want it in an impossibly short mug! And I want Ted Danson to pour it all over my body and--this took a turn. You get the idea.
I'm sorry Frasier friends. I think I need to re-watch Cheers again as I cuddle with my kitten, Norman Peterson.
*One True Pair.