TV Club: Cheers: "Thanksgiving Orphans"

I know that we said last week that we were going to be watching some Seinfeld, and believe me when I say we really wanted to, but sadly it is not available anywhere! And so rather than getting caught by the piracy-torrent police, we opted for a sitcom of equal value that encourages more drinking: Cheers!

It's way too early to be in the holiday spirit; however, we decided to go with the episode "Thanksgiving Orphans" from the fifth season. While this season overall isn't the show's best, it has some pivotal moments, the repeated proposal by Sam to Diane, Carla is introduced to Eddie LeBec the hockey player, and the eventual departure of Diane from the show.

In "Thanksgiving Orphans," much of the gang realizes that they have nowhere to be for the holiday and so it is suggested by Diane that they all gather at Carla's new house. Diane won't be joining them as she has been invited to the home of one of her literature professors. Sam, Woody, Cliff, Frasier, and even Norm who gets in a big fight with his elusive wife Vera over going to Carla's to spend the holiday, all gather for some turkey and football. Eventually, Diane shows up and the evening turns into a huge mess, literally.

ABBY: This show never fails to crack me up, even if this season was overall somewhat poor, this episode is filled with amazing one-liners. What did you guys think?

JEF: I'm just happy to see a Thanksgiving dinner without the word "Obama" thrown around. They could have eaten in abject, stony silence and would have called it a masterpiece of fantasy and wonder. But yeah, it was funny.

PETE: I only ever watched Cheers in syndication (it was "that show my Mom watched" when I was in high school). Every episode I saw, it always annoyed me that people constantly got up to leave the bar without finishing their beers.

ABBY: The relationship between Sam and Diane is odd at this point. If you recall, at the beginning of this season he proposed and she declined. He dates other people, she does and eventually he proposes again. But in this episode he is so nasty to her. It's an odd character choice, no?

JEF: Maybe it's because she's as annoying as athlete's foot? She micromanages people's personal lives, and then runs off to have a brain crush on an English professor. She's like some kind of hipster super-villain. I'm with Sam.

PETE: I've only ever proposed once, and she ill-advisedly said yes, but I can imagine being rejected - repeatedly - can sting, especially when the asker is a malignant narcissist like Sam Malone.

ABBY: Sam is not the only one mean to Diane, obviously Carla, but Frasier as well. She really gets dumped on this episode, but then, maybe she deserves it for being so obnoxious?

JEF: I did think that the abuse from Frasier was a little strange, considering how he starts the episode basically trying to ruin Woody's good time. I was kind of hoping Diane would shut that down. The least she can do with the faux-intelligentsia act is to give word-piledrivers to a shrink.

PETE: From my decade-old recollection of watching this show on hungover mornings in grad school, there was a serious tone shift in the way Diane was treated, possibly owing to her diva-ish behavior on set. Obviously, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

ABBY: It never made sense to me why Diane works at Cheers.

JEF: According to Wikipedia it's because she doesn't know much about life outside of books and wants to mingle with the common folk to gain more experience. Because in this world bars aren't an escape from the crush of reality like they are out here in Meatland, apparently. She should have done what the Dandy Warhols suggested; get a couple of piercings and decided maybe that she was gay. At least there would be a post punk soundtrack.

PETE: Well, we didn't have your fancy online knowledge repositories back in my day, but having been to a few bars in Boston, I doubt she would've lasted one post-Red Sox home game shift.

ABBY: Have either of you guys worked at a bar and was it at all like Cheers? I waited tables at a country club restaurant/bar throughout college and the only regulars we had were Hasidic guys who wouldn't sign their credit card bills on Saturdays nor tip you because it was the Sabbath but they would drink and watch football.

JEF: No, but I was costumed entertainment as a Dickensian street urchin for a Christmas party once sort of like Diane was going to be at her professor's gathering. I just wandered about saying, "Powerful big rats in the streets, mister." Easy money, child.

PETE: No (and that Sabbath thing is kind of fucked up). I don't know if they're still around, but there used to be Cheers bars in airports. They had the décor and - worst of all - animatronic representations of Cliff and Norm that would periodically shift position and spout one-liners. Just the thing for catching a bleary red-eye out of Vegas, let me tell you.

And shouldn't it be, "Powerful big rats in the streets, *guvnah*?" Tighten up. ABBY: One of the best parts about this episode is that their thanksgiving turns into a giant food fight. Did you feel like they were overreacting just a little bit?

JEF: All I know is this, the last time anyone threw food at a holiday gathering in my family they got smacked so hard they lost several phone numbers permanently from their memory.

PETE: For some reason, I thought the Thanksgiving food fight episode took place during the Kirstie Alley years. Maybe that's just a manifestation of my desire to see Saavik covered in gravy.

ABBY: Cheers was one of the longest running sitcoms, 11 years, what made it so successful?

JEF: It's easy. No really, that's it. It's the kind of show you can just fall right into and have little moments. Like Married With Children. There's so much of us represented in the show that it reaches you.

PETE: It tanked in its early seasons, but NBC literally had nothing else to work with back in the early '80s. It won some Emmys, then they put The Cosby Show ahead of it, and the rest is Must-See TV history.

ABBY: I recall watching Cheers every week as a kid as young as the age of five. Not that there's anything risqué about the show but it is about a bar. Would you guys let your little girls watch it?

JEF: Well, my daughter knows the concept of "grown up drink," so she's actually really good with such boundaries. I wouldn't show it to her on purpose, but I wouldn't turn it off if she entered the room while I was watching it either.

PETE: Cheers is a bar like Dunder-Mifflin is a paper company. You had fewer fights or vomiting patrons over the course of 11 seasons than the average bar sees on a Thursday night.

ABBY: The biggest punch line in the episode is that Norm's wife Vera shows up at the end and this is the first time we have ever seen her on this show, and she gets a pie thrown in her face so we really don't see her anyway. Brilliant?

JEF: In my head, there is an HBO spy series that stars all the characters from the '80s and '90s that we never really see. Wilson from Home Improvement, Vera, Peg's mother from Married With Children, and Tino from My So-Called Life. Together they are a shadowy agency that maintains order in the television world through espionage, wetworks, and other dirty deeds. They're never seen, but from the shadows they protect all.

PETE: Don't forget Maris Crane and Carlton the Doorman (from Rhoda, Christ I'm old).

ABBY: Last question: Coach or Woody? I'm going Woody. I love him.

JEF: Woody. The world needs more goodhearted dumbasses in my opinion.

PETE: Coach. Harrelson needs to pay for the "Kelly song."

Next week, Jef insists we watch Beakman's World, Season 1: Episode 15 "Vaccinations, Beakmania & Friction." I know, it's weird. Watch along with us on Netflix and tell us why this show was even made in the first place.

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