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May 1993


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Mary Jane Miller <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 18 May 1993 20:14:52 -0400
text/plain (86 lines)
Thought members of Screen-l in the US and overseas who would notsee
Toronto's The Globe and Mail, (the "paper of record" in Canada) might find
this preview/review provocative.
a la prochaine.
Mary Jane Miller
The following is the Globe review.
        CHEERS HAS CHANGED over the past 11 years and the changes have
reflected the social and political shifts in America. The one constant has
been Sam Malone-like a cartoonish American icon, he's all jock dumbness and
easily fazed by any concept more complex than getting the-girl. In fact,
Sam stands for sweet, dumb, sexy America itself. It's fitting that Sam
should close the bar for the last time during the first months of a new
political administration in the United States. As a TV show, Cheers is the
ultimate eighties emblem. It began when there was a frantic urge to forget
Jimmy Carter and ends when the dazzle of the Reagan-Bush years looks like a
fraud. The show's progress as a prime time political analogy can be charted
by examining the two great loves of Sam's life-Diane Chambers and Rebecca
 In its first few seasons Cheers was mostly about mocking Diane. She was
the precise personification of an element of America that was on the
wane-liberal, cultured and wary of machismo. Although she was a graduate
student and at once innocent and earnest, she didn't represent the
counter-culture of the universities. Instead, she was Carter-culture
 It was a long. slow dance of romance between Sam and Diane, but when it
happened it had the glow of true intensity There was a poignant air about
the affair because it was Sam who reluctantly adapted to Diane. Of course,
the romance was clearly doomed to failure.
The arrival of Rebecca Howe was a radical dislocation in the cozy Cheers
communily and it served to represent a sharp shift in America itself.
Rebecca's preening obsession with mbney and corporate manoeuvres and her
romance with the cold, amoral millionaire Robin Colcord were perfectly in
keeping with the late eighties love affair with greed and corporate
cowboys. The show itself became meaner. The jokes became cruder-without
Diane's commitment to some sort of refinement, the sensibility seemed
coarse, even grotesque. Sam's extended, calculated seduction of Rebecca was
a girly magazine fantasy given life, and the sniggers of the surrounding
barflies became the giddy giggling of small boys understanding their first
dirty joke.
As Cheers developed and changed over the seasons the roles of the
supporting characters also became clearer and more fixed. Carla, foul-
mouthed and fecund, stood for the vitality of America's immigrant,
multicultural lifeblood. Cliff symbolized the pedantic, obtuse character-
istics of all bureaucracy. Norm was the permanent, self-satisfied layer of
white, lower-middle class America, forever content with its basic comforts.
Frasier Crane came to illustrate the baby boomer generation in all its
neuroses and fads. These pieces of the American puzzle surrounded Sam
Malone as if he were the ultimate Uncle Sam, to whom they all pledged
It is fitting that Shelley Long should return for the final episode. The
show needs a little heart to help it depart with grace. All of the fringe
customers in the bar will be played by network executives, producers and
bean counters. Cheers has become theirs anyway and it leaves the air with
little cheer left.
By John Doyle
Cheers wraps up Thursday on Global at 9 p.m. 70440, NBC 8488
Broadcast Week, May 15-21, 1993"
Thus endeth the quote.
Mary Jane Miller
Mary Jane Miller,
Dept. of Film Studies, Dramatic and Visual Arts,
Brock University,
St. Catharines, Ontario,
Canada, L2S 3A1.
Phon;e (416) 688 5550 ext 3584, Fax: (416) 682 9020,
 e-mail: [log in to unmask]