Cheers: Toasting a Classic
I’m old enough to remember my mom watching Cheers. She always had a smile on her face when I’d walk by on my way out to find my friends, or if I happened to go upstairs to see what we had to eat. It’s definitely a show that leaves you feeling good more often than not. It has a certain warmth to it; not just from the writing and acting, but the set lighting, colors, etc. It feels like the kind of place you’d like to be. A place where everybody knows your name, I guess.
I don’t think I ever watched a full episode back when my mom watched it, but there were a few times in which I sat down next to her to find out what she thought was so funny. At the time I didn’t understand the humor but I liked the fact that it made my mom happy. Now, many years later, in a different era, I find my own comfort when watching these episodes on Netflix. Maybe it just reminds me of home and a 25 year younger self.
Cheers had a cast of characters that played very specific and often cliched roles: Sam is the owner of Cheers; he’s an old 80s jock and his goals in life are to fuck as many women as possible and have a nice car (this is not just a jock thing — trust me) Dianne is a very smart woman, or at least a woman that wants everyone to think she’s smart. She was always analyzing everything and overthinking every situation. Cliff is that guy that always embellishes his stories and always has something to say about everything. Norm is the barfly that’s been a Cheers patron since before Sam became owner of establishment and spends most of his time there to avoid his boring marriage. Carla was the waitress who never took shit from anyone and spoke her mind. Rebecca showed up after Dianne left. She wanted desperately to be recognized as an a modern, professional woman, or failing that, be married to a rich man. Woody is the dumb guy that’s not as dumb as he seems but always provide the dumb comic relief when all else failed.
The humor in this show is classic in the sense that when it’s at its most edginess, it’s making subtle hints of homosexuality, and it didn’t really start doing that until the episodes got into the 90s. The humor is all based on the stereotypes of each character. There’s a clarity and simplicity to the humor that doesn’t exist in most of today’s sitcoms. It’s not trying to shock you, but it’s not trying to avoid conflict either.
It sure feels a bit like things were simpler back then. Men were men and that’s the way it was, women fit a certain narrative and it didn’t seem to really bother anyone; the darkness of today’s human condition seemed only a vague threat somewhere off in the distance. What did we have to worry about then? We had the occasional serial killer to worry about every two years or so; they always made the news back then. We don’t have the kind of lurking-in-the-shadows serial killers we once had, because everyone in today’s world wants to be seen. The satisfaction is in the notoriety; it’s in the gratifying sense of validation people feel when they’re met with instant acknowledgement online.
We have serial killers today too, but they’re called Active Shooter Situations now, or as I like to refer to them: ASSes. These people generally kill as many (or more) people as your regular old 80s serial killers, but in a much shorter time span, and they usually post about it on Twitter or Facebook, or post a YouTube video beforehand. (sometimes during or after as well) It’s fucking fantastic.
But I digress. Cheers is clean, simple, fun humor that definitely doesn’t belong in this era. Every episode has something that would offend someone in today’s climate. People would be asking why the actors of Cheers would agree to represent such close-minded characters and they’d all end up having to Tweet apologies. The people of the internet would be up in arms. Twitter would burn with the heat of a thousand white nights, and the Antifas would protest in front of the producer’s house — right up until they discovered he was gay, at which point they would all implode on themselves and create enough mass to generate a small blackhole. Can you imagine the pandemonium? Every type victim known to modern society would be in overdriven trigger mode. Cheers could have singlehandedly destroyed the very fabric of the internet echo chamber if it had existed now as it did then.
We don’t like to laugh at ourselves anymore; probably because we’re not just random faces in the street like we used to be. Every comment and every post is recorded for all eternity. We’ve got everything in our lives all perfectly positioned, the angles are just right, and we’ve got everyone convinced that everything’s just perfect. But the scaffolding is rickety and everyone knows it. So we’re all silently agreeing to go along with everyone else’s bullshit story. Because if you start calling someone out, they might call you out, and then it’s just The Emperor’s New Clothes.
I’m not saying the world has going to shit in the last 30 plus years or that the 80s were any better than today. Just a few observations and a little melancholy, I guess.
But here we are. We’ve made it this far. So, cheers.