The Good: Funny, Character development, Moments of performance
The Bad: Episodic plots are a little tired/humor becoming much more predictable.
The Basics: Despite many of the jokes becoming very predictable, Cheers Season Four allows Shelley Long to really explore her acting talents!
Every now and then, my memory is oddly corrupted. As I progress through the television series Cheers, I am getting to the point where I have seen the episodes, even if it was twenty years ago. I recall seeing the first episode that Woody Harrelson appeared on Cheers, in the fourth season of the show. Interestingly, I realized that my memory of the season premiere for season four was corrupted when I saw it recently. Knowing that actor Nicholas Colasanto, who died during the production of the third season, had died and was replaced by Woody Harrelson (as Woody Boyd), somehow I blended the fourth season premiere of Cheers with the fifth season premiere of NewsRadio, which began after the funeral of Phil Hartman’s character. The death of Coach, however, is treated as simply a single one line explanation, unlike my memory of the Cheers gang returning from his funeral.
Picking up where the third season (reviewed here!) ended, Cheers Season Four has a pretty familiar dynamic. In fact, Season Four is essentially Season One (reviewed here!) recast and with the inclusion of Frasier Crane. The jokes in season four are becoming more predictable, but otherwise, the season hits higher marks and more consistently develop the characters.
In the fourth season, Sam returns from Europe after failing to stop the wedding of Frasier and Diane. However, he soon learns that the two did not marry and that Diane spent a great deal of time in Europe whoring around after leaving Frasier at the altar. Rescued by Sam from a nunnery, Diane returns to Cheers where she resumes work while Frasier complains about her, Woody makes stupid mistakes, Carla makes verbal jabs at Diane, Cliff lectures, and Norm comes in to deliver a snappy one-liner.
The episodes are largely set in Cheers and based on a single, ridiculous, premise, with jokes that are increasingly obvious for those who have seen the prior seasons. As the season reaches its climax, it becomes obvious that the show is once more moving toward Sam and Diane actually having a relationship again. To throw off the seasoned viewers, the season ends in a three-part arc that features Kate Mulgrew as a city councilwoman who romances Sam, forcing the issue with Diane.
Like most good television shows, the fourth season of Cheers is all about great characters. In the fourth season, the principle characters are:
Sam - Having been unsuccessful in stopping the wedding of Diane and Frasier, he returns to Cheers heartbroken. After rescuing Diane from the nunnery, they begin their relationship anew. He lets Diane borrow $500 for a signed Hemmingway book, without any expectation she will pay it back, and falls in love with The Sun Also Rises. He dates another intelligent woman, who hits it off with Diane. He is hurt when his jersey he donated to PBS does not get bid upon. He gets a hernia when playing racquettball with Woody. He tries to become a host/manager of Cheers with pretty disastrous results. At the climax of the season, he becomes involved with a local politician,
Diane - After leaving Frasier at the altar, she spends months hooking up with people all around Europe. She returns to the States and joins a nunnery as the cook and cleaner as pennance for her wild lifestyle before returning to Cheers and Sam. She applies for a teaching position again. She has a terrible nightmare about Andy (the guy who tried to kill her) returning. To save the bar from humiliation from Gary's tavern, she goes bowling and helps the team win. Her paper on Sam's sexuality gets her published as she works for her Master's in psychology. With their on-again, off-again relationship reaching troubling new levels, she becomes protective of Sam when he becomes involved with a local politician and that forces her to act,
Carla - Irked to have Diane back, she gets used to her latest baby. She tries to use Sam to convince her son, who is interested in a girl his age, to play the field instead of marrying early. She uses Cliff to get a VCR when she agrees to go to the Postman's Ball with him!
Cliff Clavin - Gets new neighbors and furious when the father who abandoned him shows up at Cheers. He cheats at word games with Woody and sets up a greenhouse where he grows a potato that he claims resembles Nixon. He briefly becomes obsessed with making a world record, including walking backwards for days on end. He finds himself in a jam when both Carla (whom he bribes) and Diane (who he wants to go with) agree to go with the Postal Ball with him.
Frasier Crane - At his lowest point, he draws an unloaded gun on Sam and starts doing janitorial work at Cheers. He returns to form to help Diane evaluate her dreams and nightmares. On his way out of town, he annoys Diane by stopping into the bar and pointing out the mistakes she makes in a night. Diane gets him back into psychology by having Sam pretend to be depressed.
Woody Boyd - A pen pal of Coach's, he takes over as a bartender at Cheers. His old girlfriend from Indiana is brought out by Sam and the gang and Frasier quickly discovers they overeat when they are together. He refers to a mysterious bowling accident and freezes up when he comes to bowl with the bar. Against the advice of Sam, he bets $1,000 after he's had a good round of luck betting in the bar. He takes on Sam in raquetball, injuring the pride of the older man.
and Norm - He continues to go to the Hungry Heffer, which gives him heartburn and one-liners. He worries that Vera might be having an affair on him. He gets swindled by Cliff to paint his house. He gets flustered when Vera's exhibitionist sister visits for a while.
The acting in the fourth season of Cheers is good and Woody Harrelson easily gels with the more seasoned cast of the show. The real standout for the season, though, is Shelley Long. Long actually manages to make the annoying Diane empathetic at key moments in the later part of the season. There, she expresses emotional pain perfectly and it wrenches the viewer in a way she has never managed to do before.
Ultimately, the fourth season of Cheers is funny, with characters who actually develop beyond the bounds they have been stuck in for the prior three years.
For other works with Woody Harrelson, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Hunger Games
Friends With Benefits
No Country For Old Men
A Prairie Home Companion
Frasier - Season 6
For other television reviews, be sure to visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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