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Paramount Studios presents
Cheers: The Complete First Season (1982-3)

Diane: If you are thinking about anything between us, it's out of the question.
Sam: No, I haven't.

- Shelley Long, Ted Danson

Review By: Jesse Shanks  
Published: June 04, 2003

Stars: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Nicholas Colasanto, Rhea Perlman, George Wendt, John Ratzenberger
Other Stars: Julia Duffy, Glynis Johns, Fred Dryer, Paul Willson, Alice Beasely, Barbara Babcock, Harry Anderson
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Nothing Objectionable)
Run Time: 8h:59m:12s
Release Date: May 20, 2003
UPC: 097360569247
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

There just doesn't seem to be much that can said about a show like Cheers that hasn't already been said. One of the most popular shows on television (although not in its first season) and a perennial in syndication, Cheers is certainly on a short list that could be considered the best of all time.

Few sitcoms had the technical level in direction and writing, combined with the acting quality of what is certainly one of the finest ensembles in television history. Although its network, NBC, was mired in ratings problems and Cheers finished 77th, or last, in the Nielsen ratings the week it debuted, programming wunderkind Brandon Tartikoff stood by the lowly-rated show and eventually saw it accorded 13 Emmy nominations and winning five, including Outstanding Comedy Series.

Ted Danson (Sam Malone), Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli) and Nick Colosantos (Coach) all received Emmy nominations. It is interesting to watch them develop their characters in that first season, from the over-acting of the early episodes to the confident delivery later in the season. Shelley Long (Diane) won both the 1983 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actressand the 1983 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. Diane had a lot to do with the success of the show and Long paved the way for a lot of female characters on other television comedies to come.

Cheers has it all—from pithy one-liners, cutting putdowns, outrageous setups, and rollicking physical comedy. There are moments of absurdity and poignant slices of life intersperse with interesting and compelling stories about funny people. The supporting cast and guest stars headed by George Wendt (Norm), a series regular, and John Ratzenberger (Cliff), a recurring character who became a regular in the next year, all contribute to the tapestry of activity in the place where "everybody knows your name."

Disc 1

Give Me a Ring Sometime 24m:55s
Airdate: Sep 30, 1982

Guest Stars: Erik Holland (Swedish customer), Michael McGuire (Professor Sumner Sloane), John P. Navin, Jr. (boy), Ron Frazier (Ron), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

The first episode of Cheers is such a nugget of television like a finely polished little diamond. The action is very much like a one act play right down to the "existential continuing present." Diane ends up accepting a job as a waitress at Cheers after her fiancée leaves her there while he picks up his ex-wife's wedding ring. Some of the actors overdo their characters a bit, but not Danson, who is as smooth in the first episode as he was to be years later in the final one. This episode got an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Art Direction for Richard Sylbert and George Gaines and won for Outstanding Writing for Les and Glen Charles. It's just a pleasure to watch and deserves five drinkies.

Coach's Daughter 24m:53s
Airdate: Oct 28, 1982

Guest Stars: Allyce Beasley (Lisa Pantuso), Philip Charles MacKenzie (Roy)

Originally the 4th episode to air, Coach's daughter Lisa brings Roy, an obnoxious salesman from her company and the man she plans to marry, to meet her father. In the threaded elements that made Cheers so rich, Diane is determined to do terrible caricatures of the bar customers. Things turn poignant when Coach puts his foot down against Lisa's marriage to Roy. Between the bits, the one-liners and the performances, this is just a funny, sweet episode and gets five drinkies.

Sam's Women 24m:53s
Airdate: Oct 07, 1982

Guest Stars: Donnelly Rhodes (Leo), Jack Knight (Jack), Donna McKechnie (Debra), Angela Aames (Brandee)

Diane begins a much seen theme as she mocks the intellectual quality of Sam's dates and he ends up trying to show her that he can attract smart women. Coach is front and center again as he deals with a customer who has relied on a previous owner of Cheers to help solve his problems. This one involves his relationship with his gay son and Coach applies his discerning capabilities to the issue. Look quick to see Keenan Ivory Wayans in the teaser as a customer. Not quite as funny as the previous two but still pretty good, it gets three and half drinkies.

The Tortelli Tort 24m:54s
Airdate: Oct 14, 1982

Guest Stars: Ron Karabatsos (Ed), (Dr. Graham), John Fiedler (Fred), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

One of many great sports episodes. Few television shows have captured the quality of being a fan or essence of sports as part of life as Cheers did. As a loyal Red Sox bar, the patrons are mightily offended when Yankee fan, Ed, insults Boston, the Sox, and Sam Malone. Carla goes nuts and attacks him. Threatening to sue and take the bar, Ed will only be satisfied if Carla is fired. John Fiedler is a familiar face especially to Star Trek fans who will remember him as Mr. Hengist, who is possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper in the episode Wolf in the Fold. Hilariously outrageous and five drinkies.

Sam at Eleven 24m:54s
Airdate: Oct 21, 1982

Guest Stars: Harry Anderson (Harry "the Hat" Gittes), Michael Mann (Customer #1), Fred Dryer (Dave Richards)

Local newscaste,r Dave Richards, asks Sam to be an interview on his television show and Sam realizes how much he misses the spotlight of being a local celebrity. We learn some interesting information about Sam's career as a relief pitcher with the Red Sox. Harry Anderson is very funny as Harry the Hat in a couple of bits in the show. He was to make several subsequent appearances on Cheers to great effect. Later Anderson got his own show as the judge in Night Court. Diane is forced to admit that Sam is "unrepugnant" when she tries to steer him away from a potentially embarrassing situation in the interview. The relationship between Sam and Diane really starts here. Ensemble work and the writing tapestry on the show is really beginning to click, and the characters are less strained. Funny stuff gets four drinkies.

Any Friend of Diane's 24m:54s
Airdate: Nov 04, 1982

Guest Stars: Julia Duffy (Rebecca Prout), Macon McCalman (Darrell Stabell)

Diane's old friend Rebecca visits, on the rebound from an unhappy love affair, and is looking for a man who is of peasant stock ("tall, dark with hairy arms"). Diane becomes upset when Rebecca sets her cap for Sam. Meanwhile, Norm brings his boss by Cheers to butter him up, but doesn't want the gang to treat him like he is a regular. When Sam and Rebecca fail to hook up, Diane is forced to an unexpected solution to help her friend's self-esteem. Julia Duffy went on to join the cast of Newhart (the one in the New England hotel) as a ditzy rich girl. This episode has some funny bits and a great ending, but is a little plot heavy and gets four drinkies.

Disc 2

Friends, Romans, Accountants 24m:47s
Airdate: Nov 11, 1982

Guest Stars: James Read (Herb Sawyer), Peter Van Norden (Cymbals Player)

Barfly Norm solicits tips on planning an office party at Cheers and settles on a popular choice, a toga party. However, his accountant pals are not quite up to the frivolity and no one but Norm wears a toga. Worse, the gal he had lined up for the big boss doesn't show and Norm is forced to ask Diane to take her place. Sam and Norm both end up having an unexpected reaction to her helping out with the "old man" who turns out to be a young man. Cliff is seen moving toward rising out of his "guest" status to becoming a regular character in this episode. James Read appears as the boss, who later played a main character on Remington Steele and has made regular television appearances. Good Norm episode gets three and a half drinkies.

Truce or Consequences 24m:52s
Airdate: Nov 18, 1982

Guest Stars: David Penhale (Customer #1), John Ratzenberger (Cliff), Jack Knight (Jack)

In a kind of two-person play, Carla and Diane share drinks after hours and discuss their similarities and differences. Carla mixes a pitcher of her special Open Grave drink and shares a startling revelation about one of her children with Diane. Not to make a spoiler, but this is the first in a long tradition in the series. Three and half stars for good Diane vs. Carla action and a seminal episode of Cheers tradition.

Coach Returns to Action 24m:54s
Airdate: Nov 25, 1982

Guest Stars: Bill Wiley (Tour Guide), Julia Hendler (Girl), Murphy Cross (Nina), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

Coach and Sam become unlikely romantic rivals for Coach's new neighbor. After Sam is shot down all night long, Coach uses a tried and true technique of seduction to win the day. Murphy Cross (Nina) appeared on Taxi in two episodes as the blind girl who dated Louie Depalma (Danny DeVito). Cliff takes another step toward being a regular character by being called by name twice, answering a question with a "doozy" answer, and for the first time, we see Cliff and Norm side by side as a team. Not the best but not too bad: three drinkies.

Endless Slumper 24m:57s
Airdate: Dec 02, 1982

Guest Stars: Christopher McDonald (Rick Walker), Anne Haney (Miss Gilder), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

Sports are front and center again as Sam loans his lucky bottle cap to a struggling young Red Sox pitcher. Things go badly for Sam when his own luck deserts him and he is desperate to get the cap back. The bar patrons have good-natured fun running pools as to what disasters will befall Sam next. But, the situation is more serious than they realize as Sam confronts a demon from his past. Familiar television little old lady, Anne Haney, appears in the teaser as a potential tutor for Carla's kids. Pitcher Rick Walker is played by Christopher McDonald, who has had a successful career as a supporting actor with appearances in Grease, Quiz Show, The Perfect Storm and a recurring role on Veronica's Closet. Andrew Chulack got an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Film Editing for this one. This unusual episode is a good showcase for Ted Danson and gets four drinkies.

One for the Book 24m:25s
Airdate: Dec 09, 1982

Guest Stars: Ian Wolfe (Buzz Crowder), Boyd Bodwell (Kevin), Frank McCarthy (Mr. Phillips), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

While Diane keeps notes on bar conversation, Sam struggles to throw off a witty phrase worthy of being included in her notebook. Meanwhile, a novice comes in for one final fling before entering a monastery and finds he might not be worthy. A World War I doughboy shows up for a very small reunion in a very poignant moment reminiscent of a M*A*S*H episode. Actor Ian Wolfe, the doughboy, is a very familiar character actor who had a 60-year career in Hollywood. For the first time, Cliff takes his place at the far end of the bar next to Norm's corner as the gang watches a Celtic game on TV. This very dense episode covers a lot of ground and a full range of emotions and gets four and a half drinkies.

The Spy Who Came in for a Cold One 24m:57s
Airdate: Dec 16, 1982

Guest Stars: Ellis Rabb (Eric Finch), Robert Evan Collins (chauffeur), Kurtis Woodruff (sailor), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

The gang all enjoys the stories of the mysterious gentleman who claims to be a secret agent, except spoilsport Diane. When he re-appears claiming to be a poet, she is enchanted but goes too far. Interestingly, this episode has only one storyline, with very little in the way of side bits. After previous appearances as Customer #1 and Customer #3, Paul Vaughn makes his first appearance as the recurring wannabe barfly, Paul. Not the strongest episode, but a memorable one: three and a half drinkies.

Disc 3

Now Pitching, Sam Malone 24m:12s
Airdate: Jan 06, 1983

Guest Stars: Barbara Babcock (Lana Marshall), Luis Tiant (Himself), Richard Hill (Tibor Svetkovic), Paul Vaughan (Paul)

The sexy appeal of agent Lana Marshall lures Sam into the glamor of the public spotlight as a TV pitchman. Carla likes her style but Diane is not impressed. His first commercial is with Luis Tiant, a well-respected major league pitcher who won 122 games in 8 years with the Boston Red Sox. Despite Sam's success in "show business," something seems to be bothering him about his new career and agent. Diane feels she must intervene and sees another side of Sam as he struggles with a different kind of relationship. More personality (and morality) emerging for Sam and some great one-liners gets three and a half drinkies. Unfortunately, no information on who won the ugliest tongue contest.

Let Me Count the Ways 24m:11s
Airdate: Jan 13, 1983

Guest Stars: Mark King (Marshall Lipton), Steve Hanafin (Steve), John Ratzenberger (Cliff), Alan Koss (Alan)

Computer genius Marshall finds a relationship between the Boston Celtic won-loss record and fluctuations in the Van Allen radiation belt. Sam and Coach go against bar tradition and bet against the home team. Of course, they have to keep this secret from the gang. Then Diane looks to her friends for comfort when her cat, Elizabeth Barret Browning, dies and no one pays her a bit of attention due to the exciting game. Finally, Diane corners Sam for comfort and they end up in their first knock-down-drag-out fight. Top-notch sports humor and some funny sadness gets three and a half drinkies.

Father Knows Last 24m:09s
Airdate: Jan 20, 1983

Guest Stars: Mark King (Marshall Lipton), Herb Mitchell (Tom), Mary Ellen Trainor (Mary), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

Teaser features the first appearance of Sam's legendary little black book. In the main story, Carla reveals she is pregnant after several weeks of a somewhat obvious condition. Each member of the gang dodges the responsibility of talking to Carla about the situation. After Carla tells computer whiz Marshall that he is the father, he takes responsibility for the child. Of course, Diane pries into the situation and can't help but intervene. Although not much on the laugh meter overall, Cliff walking into the poolroom as Carla is demonstrating a kissing technique on Diane's ear is priceless. This episode gets three drinkies.

The Boys in the Bar 24m:05s
Airdate: Jan 27, 1983

Guest Stars: Harry Anderson (Harry "The Hat" Gittes), Michael Kearns (Richard), Kenneth Tigar (Ken), Lee Ryan (Bob), Alan Autry (Tom Kenderson), Tom Babson (Barney)

A controversial issue emerges as the Cheers' regulars fear the place may become a gay bar after an old baseball roommate of Sam's reveals his homosexuality in an autobiography. Sam is embarrassed when he finds out the truth during a press conference. However, once again Sam reaches deeper than even he expects when he refuses to turn on his friend. Then Sam's regulars get freaked out when they think that a suspiciously gay crowd begins to come in. Certainly not their finest moment as they become what Diane characterizes as "sniveling bigots." Alan Autry has had a good career in television with a recurring role on the sitcom Grace Under Fire and a role as Bubba Skinner on In the Heat of the Night. Funny, with an excellent job of finding the humor without going to far into exploitation. This episode earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for Ken Levine and David Isaacs. It also gets a fern and four drinkies.

Diane's Perfect Date 24m:05s
Airdate: Feb 10, 1983

Guest Stars: Derek McGrath (Andy Schroeder), Gretchen Corbett (Gretchen), Doug Sheehan (Walter Franklin), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

This episode starts off with very funny bit as Diane gets dropped off at a bar by a date (Doug Sheehan), who keeps stating how many letters in each sentence said to him. He had been doing this during their entire weekend and by now Diane has had enough. Sam and Diane dare each other to set up the other's perfect date. Sam thinks that Diane is planning to set him up with herself. The date Diane finds for Sam is played by Gretchen Corbett, who has had many television guest appearances and was a regular as lawyer Beth Davenport on The Rockford Files. At the last second, Sam is forced to pluck a date for Diane out of the patrons to hilarious results. Look for Derek McGrath to make later appearances on the series reprising his role as Andy Schroeder. This episode received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for David Lloyd. The joke is on Sam and this one gets three and a half drinkies.

No Contest 24m:08s
Airdate: Feb 17, 1983

Guest Stars: Charlie Stavola (host), Renee Gentry (Yvonne), Tessa Richarde (Bonnie), Sharon Peters (Jocelyn), Tip O'Neill (Himself)

Look for Massachusetts politician and one-time Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill in the teaser. Sam enters Diane in the "Miss Boston Barmaid" contest without telling her. Diane, of course, is against such competitions among women on principle. However, she decides to participate when she finds out the contest will have press coverage and provide an excellent forum for her to express her opinions and "bring this contest to its knees." Funny moments and a hilarious payoff get four and a half drinkies.

Disc 4

Pick a Con ... Any Con 24m:07s
Airdate: Feb 24, 1983

Guest Stars: Reid Shelton (George Wheeler), Stephen D. Lee (Leo), John Ratzenberger (Cliff), Harry Anderson (Harry the Hat), Alan Koss (Alan)

A card shark cheats Coach out of a lot of money and Sam is forced to bail local con artist Harry the Hat out of jail to get revenge. Really a remarkably well sequenced episode with the perfect combination of humor and suspense. Hard to say too much without spoiling, so I won't say more than: this one is just hilarious. Five drinkies.

Someone Single, Someone Blue 24m:07s
Airdate: Mar 03, 1983

Guest Stars: Glynis Johns (Mrs. Helen Chambers), Duncan Ross (Boggs), Dean Dittman (Harrison Fiedler), Paul Willson (Gregg), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

Diane's mother turns up at Cheers. She tells Diane that she must marry before the next day or her mother will lose her share of Diane's father's estate. Of course, Sam seems to the almost perfect candidate to serve as a groom. Sam agrees, and they they decide the ceremony should take place in Cheers. And then? Paul Willson makes his first appearance on the show as a bar patron (named Gregg in the credits but called "Glen" by Coach), who knows all the words to the Bonanza theme song. Willson would play Tom in the next season before settling into the recurring role of Paul Krapence, the fellow who always gets left out of the hijinks. This episode is a little plot heavy and some of the jokes are a bit labored, so it gets two and a half drinkies.

Showdown (1) 24m:08s
Airdate: Mar 24, 1983

Guest Stars: George Ball (Derek Malone), Deborah Shelton (Debbie), Paul Vaughn (Paul), Alan Koss (Alan), John Ratzenberger (Cliff)

In the first of a two-part season finale, Diane's fascination with Sam's older brother Derek brings their long simmering relationship to a boil. When Derek asks Diane to go to Martha's Vineyard and starts dating her, Sam is forced to confront his feelings. This is episode won an Emmy for Graphic Design and Title Sequences for James Castle and Bruce Bryant. Only middling funny, and serving mostly as a set up for the second part, this episode gets a couple of drinkies.

Showdown (2) 23m:58s
Airdate: Mar 31, 1983

Guest Stars: Lois De Banzie (Lady #1), Helen Page Camp (Lady #2), Peggy Kubena (Cindy)

The bar tries to get back to normal after the excitement of Sam's brother's visit. The subject of Derek and Diane is the source of much interest in the bar's conversation, much to Sam's disgust. Diane visits the bar, troubled by both Derek's offer to fly her to Paris and her attraction to Sam. Will they or won't they? This is episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for James Burrows. Much funnier than part one and containing some absolutely classic bits, this episode gets four drinkies.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: As expected, the presentation is television full-frame from the original airing. The video is quite crisp and there is nice color and contrast, escpecially fleshtones. In the first season, Cheers is almost 90% in the bar area with only occasionally forays to Sam's office and the pool room. It is fun to spot the details on the walls in the various scenes. Definitely superior to the grainy versions you see in syndication.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio track is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and there are several moments of nice stereo separation. A couple of times shouts from the pool room sounded very much as if they came from another room. The music of Cheers is such an important aspect of its atmosphere and it is nicely displayed here.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. It's a Little Known Fact..." Cheers Trivia Game
Extras Review: The set includes several "extras" that are not much beyond first blush. It is surprising that there is no commentary available on any of the episodes. Otherwise, there is a good interview, trivia and some clip collections.

Setting the Bar: A Conversation with Ted Danson (8m:06s): Nice little interview with Ted Danson with illustrative clips. He has some good things to say about co-star Shelley Long, and the rest of his castmates.

The extras also include three clip featurettes, which are okay as far as they go. Would serve as a nice warmup, maybe:

Love at First Fight: Opposites Attract (3m:59s): Some of the funny bits featuring sparring between Sam and Diane.

Coach Ernie Pantuso's Rules of the Game (4m:15s): Some of the best of Coach's non sequiturs.

I'll Drink to That: Stormin' Normanisms (4m:22s): Probably the funniest of the clip featurettes, we see George enter the bar again and again with his classic lines in response to "What's up?" "What's the story?" and "How's life?"

It's a Little Known Fact... Cheers Trivia Game: Lord save us from these hard-wired trivia games. If I have to pay one more penny because someone put together some trivia game for a DVD, it's too much. How about a web site with some real trivia? Of course, I have learned that it is in the nature of makers of DVDs that they have trouble combining DVD and the Internet and we are all the poorer for it.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

The parade of televisons series on DVD continues with a candidate for one of the best single seasons of all time from Cheers with their first season. Thirteen Emmy nominations and situation comedy of the highest order. Recommended for its consistent hilarity and humanity.


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