Friday, January 4, 2013

Cheers Loses Focus (And Laughs) With Season Nine!

The Good: Moments of humor, Moments of character development
The Bad: Predictable, Predictable humor, No remarkable performances, Clip show finale
The Basics: In its ninth season, Cheers wanders until it ends abruptly with a 200th episode panel show that is entirely unimpressive.

When a series reaches its ninth season, an unlikely event for almost all television shows, it has to innovate or it starts to die. Unfortunately for Cheers, the show came out of the eighth season (reviewed here!), floundering. After a pretty successful run for Rebecca with Robin Colcord, the millionaire is reworked in the ninth season as a white collar criminal who Rebecca rejects because of his poverty. In addition to having numerous teasers that begin the episodes out on the street, as opposed to in the bar, Cheers in its ninth season adds a recurring adversary for Sam in the form of a new owner for Melville’s upstairs.

Largely episodic in season nine, the sitcom gets into a fairly banal routine with only minimal serialization of character aspects and even fewer plot references between episodes than in prior seasons. The season culminates in a clipshow that features the cast as part of one of the most unremarkable panel discussions of all time (John McLaughlin asks softball questions and neglects most of the cast and crewmembers, either out of ignorance, bad prep work or the unimpressive event being entirely unscripted by unwilling participants). Much of the season revolves around the main cast interacting with recurring characters as they return for the sake of plot convenience instead of fundamentally altering or enhancing the character relationships between the principle characters.

In the ninth season, the main characters are focused thusly:

Sam – Finally beds Rebecca, but has to keep it secret when Robin pops back up and she wants to make it work with him. He goes a bit crazy when a new owner buys Melville’s and starts exerting influence over Cheers. He helps Rebecca get out of her marriage to Robin and accidentally tells her he loves her. He goes on a Valentine's Day date with a woman who he has saved the day for the past twenty years. He takes care of Frederick while Lilith is getting an award. He soon becomes surprisingly obsessed with Frederick and bonds with the boy, leading to an audacious proposal at the climax of the season,

Rebecca – Shocked at Robin jumping bail for her, she keeps the relationship with him going despite him going to prison. She is shocked when Robin’s other mistress comes forward and gets media attention for her affair with him. She is excited when Melville’s is bought by a gourmet who will bring a classier clientele through the bar. She loathes the cow that Woody buys on the Home Shopping Network. When Robin gets out of jail, she and him prepare to wed. After drunkenly confiding in Sam that she only loved Robin for his money, she runs out on their wedding. She returns to Cheers after fleeing to San Diego to try to buy the bar back from Sam after he accidentally tells her he loves her. She becomes obsessed with buying Cheers after Robin leaves. She finds an unexpected ally in the owner of Melville's when she wants to buy the pool room and bathrooms. She reopens the pool room as a tea room, which is only successful when she gets Woody's chili to sell. She finds herself once again re-evaluating her life and its many failures,

Woody – Befriends Ma Clavin. He gets a new apartment, in a terrible neighborhood with cable and gets a commercial gig. He becomes addicted to Veggie-Boy after Frasier hypnotizes him and gives him a post-hypnotic suggestion. He becomes obsessed with the Home Shopping Network and buys a lot of crap online. When Kelly returns from France, she comes with Henri, whom Woody gets into a conflict for Kelly’s affections over. When Rebecca flees wearing his clothes, he ends up wearing Cliff's old clothes from the 1970's,

Carla – When Indian Summer hits, she fears getting pregnant again. As the season goes on, she starts feeling her age and realizes she needs glasses to do her job properly. She goes for the Miss Boston Barmaid title and, believing Cliff is a judge, is nice to him,

Frasier – Freaks out when Freddy is termed “normal” by a doctor when he does not speak his first word within a year. He tries to do hypnosis with Woody to train him to like Veggie-Boy after he feels like he lied for his commercial. To get the denizens of the bar into Charles Dickens, he begins making up plots while "reading" to them. He and Lilith bring therapy groups of dysfunctional men and women into the bar to mingle. He spends his birthday trying to get balloons into the bar while Lilith has erotic pictures taken of herself for him. He and Lilith become concerned when Sam begins spending a lot of time with Frederick,

Cliff – Tries to hold onto his bachelor’s lifestyle and rejects his mother as a result. He decides to have his head frozen after his death, which leads him to a surprising alliance with Frasier for a prank on Norm. He gets a whistle lodged in his throat when eating a kid's cereal. He fakes a list where he is a judge in the Miss Boston Barmaid Contest to get Carla to be nice to him. He brings Spotty, a Dalmatian who follows him around one day, into the bar as its new "bar mascot,"

and Norm – Tries to make an alternate door into the bar and gets stuck in the framework. He works at the bar for an hour so he can play on the Cheers basketball team. He becomes an agent of chaos, pranking around Cheers, by doing things like cancelling Frasier’s credit card while he is trying to impress his friends. When Vera loses her job, she starts working at the restaurant upstairs, which freaks him out. He is hired to repaint the Cheers office by Rebecca for a payment of 400 beers.

None of the cast gives noteworthy performances in Season Nine and there are no exceptional guest stars who visit this season. It is a season of decline and it is surprising that the show was renewed for two seasons more after watching the mediocre quality of this set of episodes.

For other ninth seasons on DVD, please check out my reviews of:
Frasier - Season 9
Friends - The Complete Ninth Season
The X-Files - Season 9


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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