The Third Season
I could start this review off with some cheesy line that would include words of the show's catchy theme song, like "where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came," but I won't. Opps, I guess it slipped in? I was a wee lad when Cheers first began to air. This was unfortunate, because I never had the opportunity to witness this wonderful show as it aired. Fortunately, because of the show's popularity, I was able to live the experience through re-runs.
Cheers is a show unlike any other, which is mainly due to a wonderful mix of talent and writing. In the third season, the cast from the previous two seasons return to the cozy Boston bar. This includes the show's main focus, Sam Malone (Ted Danson), a former professional-baseball-player-turned-bar-owning-playboy. Along with Sam, friends Ernie "Coach" Pantusso" (Nicholas Colasanto), a former baseball player turned coach who is a bit dumb-to-the-obvious, Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), an upscale-wannabe-elitist-turned-waitress, Carla Lozupone Tortelli LeBec (Rhea Perlman), an ill-tempered straight to the point veteran waitress, Cliff Clavin, Jr (John Ratzenberger), a mail carrier who still lives with his mother, and Norman Peterson (George Wendt), a rather large guy who'd rather be drinking than working. In addition, Kelsey Grammar guest stars in season three, marking the birth of his long lived character as Dr. Frasier Crane. Together, the cast of Cheers provides a variety of unique and diverse personalities, each mixing together to produce a wonderful cast.
This season was the last time that this wonderful mix of personalities was together. During the third season, Nicholas Colasanto passed away. For the remaining seasons, Woody Harrelson filled the void for a dumb-to-the-obvious role as Woodrow Boyd. While in the later seasons, Woody brought the same kind of demeanor to the clueless role, Colasanto was simply wonderful at the way he executed.
Cheers, in supplement to a great cast, was one of the more fortunate shows to be excellently written. One problem that many comedies and other television shows face is repetitive content. This is the sole reason that most television series end, simply because there just isn't anything left. Falling along the same line, comparing one sitcom to another will result with a lot of similarities. The same kinds of comical approaches are taken, some focusing upon the funny outcomes from sticky situations and others solely upon the comic genius of a cast member or two. However, what really keeps each television series unique is the writing.
Each episode of Cheers is written in a way that you can watch just about any episode and still laugh just as hard if you had been watching the series in order. While there are some stories that span throughout the series, they're not overly complicated or difficult to infer in the later episodes, as you can pretty much figure out what's going on. For instance, one of the biggest stories of season three is the aftermath of the Sam and Diane break up. This story is introduced in the first two episodes, as the two-part episode "Rebound". It's a wonderful tale that introduces my favorite character, Frasier, and opens a myriad of hilarious jokes for the later episodes. Another great episode of this season is "Sam Turns the Other Cheek". This episode seems to play off of Sam's womanizing, as Sam gets in trouble with another man's wife. "Coach in Love" featured a two-part episode that was both funny and sad. It's a tale into the romantic life of Coach. Can Mr. Befuddled really get women? The other episodes in this season provide some great entertainment, touching upon a variety of subjects, hunting, dating, working, and even back to school. Each episode of Cheers is a clear indication of the series' high quality of writing.
Another supporting factor of this show's excellent writing comes from the little things that each cast member brings through their continually hilarious personalities. Some great examples of these tiny, but wondrous personality bits of season three include Cliff's remote obsession with Florida. Another great bit about Cliff revolves around the fact that he's a middle-aged man living with his mother. Season three setups this up, which proves to be the butt of many jokes to come in the later seasons. Norm has his reoccurring jokes of an unhappy marriage with Vera. Another great reflection of the writing that comes from Norm's character is his opening remarks. Each time Norm shows up at Cheers, he's greeted by everyone, where he returns the greeting with a catchy one-liner. These are just some bits and pieces of Cheers that make it an easily loveable show.
The combination of superb writing and acting are some of the things that make Cheers a great show. For the fans, you'll be overjoyed at the opportunity to relive the riotous lives of those that make up Cheers. As for the new fans, if you enjoy great comedies, Cheers will quickly grow on you. Either way, you'll find it difficult not to watch that next episode.
While some television show releases on DVD provide visual improvements, the third season DVD release doesn't look substantially better than what you would see in its broadcast/cable brethren. Cheers - The Complete Third Season is presented in its original television aspect ratio 1.33:1 full frame color. As I mentioned, the quality isn't top notch. The picture looks a little dirty, with a high trace of grain. This isn't a problem that is associated with video compression, but more or less, it's the fact it's old. This season was produced almost twenty years ago (at the time of this review). Overall, the quality isn't great, but it still shouldn't ruin your viewing experience.
The third season release of Cheers is provided with a very standard audio track, English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The quality is fairly good, providing the show with a relatively clear and crisp audio track. The audio is very flat, but that's mainly due to content, as the majority of the show revolves around dialogue. Overall, it does sound much clearer than what you could expect from broadcast/cable television. This release also supports closed-captioning.
The special features that are included with the third season DVD release of Cheers include five featurettes, with some that are pure montages of various clips from season three and some that also include interview from cast members. The first is Virtual Vera, which provides of a montage of clips from season three that have references to Norm's never seen wife, Vera. Similar to the last featurette, Shrink-Wrapped: Introducing Frasier Crane features a montage of clips that have references to Frasier. Clara's Whipping Boy presents a montage of clips that have Clara ripping on Cliff. The next special feature deviates away from the pure montage and includes interviews with Ted Danson and George Wendt. In Nicholas Colasanto: His Final Season, we're provided with clips of Colasanto from season three. Danson and Wendt talk about their impressions and the way Colasanto impacted their lives and the show. The final extra, Cheers Bar Tour, is hosted by art director Dahl Delu. It takes you to another menu and let's you hunt around a picture of Cheers, where you can find out interesting information regarding the selected item or the region surrounding it.
I really enjoyed the first three extras. The montages brought together some of the greatest one-liners and quick jokes of season three. The other two extras weren't really funny, more or less informative and the Colasanto extra was a bit sad. Overall, the extras presented were a nice touch, but it still doesn't change the fact they're a bit light. None of the extras supplied are extremely long. I'd love to have seem more extras pertaining to the nature of audio commentaries, interviews, deleted/alternative scenes, etc. It's too bad that Cheers is getting the skinny side of life, in regards to its extras.
Prior to the DVD releases of Cheers, I had never had the chance to sit through Cheers in its intended viewing order. While I have watched the series through re-runs, it was in an unordered fashion. Still, I loved every minute of it. Now that the entire series is being brought to DVD, the experience of watching the show in its intended order is even better. I found it mind-numbingly difficult to not watch just one more episode. I feel pretty good about giving this DVD release a highly recommended rating. The show deserves it, as it's a wonderful fix for a quick laugh. Fans and newcomers, if you enjoy great comedy, then you'll love Cheers.