TV Club: Cheers: "Thanksgiving Orphans"

Categories: Film and TV

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.

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Olivia Online
Olivia Online

I was never much of a Cheers fan, but I think I recall seeing an episode where Diane goes to work at the bar because taking drink orders is the only practical skill she's capable of. She's going on at Sam about something, Carla yells a complicated drink order at Sam, Sam says, Wait, repeat the order and Diane, in an "Oh, can't you do anything?" outburst, repeats the order word for word. Everybody's stunned and she gets the job. 

Does any of that ring a bell?

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