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Cheers: “The Tortelli Tort”/“Sam At Eleven”

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“The Tortelli Tort” (season 1, episode 3; originally aired 10/14/1982)

In which Carla manages her anger

Erik Adams: Cheers won’t leave the bar for a while, but “The Tortelli Tort” gives us a pretty good idea of the city in which that bar exists. Boston is a city whose pride is inextricably tied to its sports teams, and none inspire more wounded devotion than Sam’s old squad, the Boston Red Sox. At the time of Cheers’ debut, the woebegone Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1918, and Boston’s general proximity to New York City and the Sox’s frequent meetings with the championship-flush New York Yankees acted as a constant reminder of the team’s—and thus the city’s—perceived shortcomings. To be a Bostonian in the 1980s was to have a certain type of inferiority complex, one which could conceivably drive an already rage-prone waitress to physically attack a loudmouth New Yorker after a tough loss to the Yankees.


Rhea Perlman’s Carla is the perfect manifestation of that inferiority complex, and when she ends up mounting the back of boorish Yankee fan Big Eddy (a spectacularly obnoxious Ron Karabatsos), it’s hard to imagine it’s the first time she’s pulled such a move. “The Tortelli Tort” is not Perlman’s finest hour as Carla—her interactions with Big Eddy are a bit stiff, and she appears on the verge of breaking for the entirety of her anger-management-inspired moment of tranquility—but it does gives us a clearer view of the character, telling of a childhood spent as the runt/punching bag of a sizable Bostonian brood. Carla grew up tough, and she grew up proud, and while the events of “The Tortelli Tort” teach her there are healthier ways to channel her anger, she’ll be damned if someone walks into Cheers and insults her boss, her team, and her town.

That sense of loyalty is reinforced through the way everyone in the bar rallies around Carla in her big, climactic showdown with Big Eddy. After his initial run-in with Carla, Ed threatens to sue Sam for every dime he’s worth if Carla isn’t fired; Sam refuses to fire his friend and co-worker, but he works out a plan to keep Carla away from the bar on the day Ed returns to follow up on his ultimatum. It’s convoluted, “two dates on the same night”-style sitcom plotting, but Carla and Ed’s final confrontation ends with the heartening image of all the bar’s patrons rallying around the waitress as she keeps her cool in the face of the out-of-towner’s insults. It all ends happily, with the everyday, loser-loving people of Cheers finally getting one over a Big Apply braggart. And, in a show of ultimate Bostonian camaraderie, the episode ends with Ed receiving an implied beating from a Boston Bruin.


We’ve talked about the timelessness of Cheers, but do you think setting the show in a different city would fundamentally alter it? And what do you think of “The Tortelli Tort” as a showcase for Carla and Perlman? Was I too harsh on her back-and-forth with Big Eddy?

Ryan McGee: As the native Bostonian in this mix, I will tell you that this episode does feel like it’s from a parallel universe in some respects. I remember my father keeping me up past my bedtime during game six of the 1986 World Series. I also remember his constant apologies for that decision over the next 18 years. The Yankees still make me apoplectic… but in a more reasonable way. If that makes any sort of sense.

The true “Bostonian” aspect of Cheers is something I’m keen to keep an eye on as the show unfolds through this series. In some ways, the show’s setting is ornamental: the bar is a neighborhood one that happens to be in Boston. The perspectives aren’t exclusively ones indicative of the area. Much like the accents on display, there’s a diaspora at work here in which people from different parts of the country have migrated to this melting pot and all found camaraderie inside this bar. Some people might care that Sam Malone once pitched for the Sox, but just as many probably didn’t realize that a member of the Boston Bruins was in their presence. Friendships in Cheers start with a similar watering hole and work outwards from there.

Something I’d love to discuss with the rest of you: the live studio audience. It’s clearly a dying beast in today’s television landscape, though still present in certain shows. But I’m not sure today’s audiences at home trust those audiences on the soundstage. But when I watched “The Tortelli Tort,” the thing that stood out to me the most was actually the silence that met Sam’s confrontation with Carla in the wake of her attack. Not only did the show not mind going serious for a moment, but one can almost feel the studio audience’s investment in those small pockets of drama. Am I imagining this? Did anyone else get that impression?


Phil Nugent: One of my first big cultural discoveries, back when most TV comedies were “filmed in front of a live studio audience”, was that there were different kinds of reaction tracks for different kinds of shows, which threw off helpful signals if you were looking to cultivate your TV-snob side. The audience at Garry Marshall’s shows seemed to be encouraged to behave as if they were at a rock concert crossed with a 19th-century performance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin; they’d react to a regular cast member coming onstage as if they were witnessing the same-sex marriage of Elvis and Jesus, and hoot and cheer whenever some villain who had dared to question Fonzie’s coolness got his comeuppance. (The audiences at Norman Lear’s shows were a little quieter, but were still overeager to react audibly, with groans and cries of “Oh, no!”, to some dramatic development that they’d been primed to anticipate, such as the news that Jon Amos’ character on Good Times had died, rather than share another scene with Jimmie Walker.)

There are traces of that kind of thing here—you can hear a murmur of disapproval when Rob Karabatsos “goes there” with Sam’s alcoholism, and there’s a giddy undercurrent to the applause when it looks as if Karabatsos is going to be spending the rest of his evening having his ass kicked all over the parking lot by an affronted hockey player—but it’s folded into the texture of the show rather gracefully, and the interactive celebratory tone is closer to NPR than MTV Spring Break. I don’t know how much the noise at some of these shows was hyped up in the sound room, and how many times the audience at Cheers had mass seizures that were subsequently toned down by some technician, but the rule was that the MTM shows were almost always a lot less pushy than everything else on TV, which is one key to why I think they hold up so much better. I know for a fact that, even as a kid, it’s part of why I felt like less of a goon for watching them.


Noel Murray: It’s funny you guys mentioned the audience, because I thought about them in particular in the middle of this episode’s second act, when Sam and the staff go home for the night. As I recall, the first two episodes of the series follow a near-real-time structure; the time jumps ahead during the commercial break, but otherwise there are no time-transitions. In this episode, we jump ahead three weeks in the second act, signaled by a fade to an establishing shot. And the audience stays quiet through all that, which seemed weirdly unnatural. (If you were in a real audience, your first impulse would be to applaud if the lights went down and all the actors left the stage.) I’ve also noticed the unusual, un-Cheers-like angles that James Burrows has been using: shots from the opposite side of the bar; shots from low angles, et cetera.

If I’m over-stressing the formal aspects on this episode, that’s because I have a confession to make: I have a Carla problem. I don’t mind the character when she’s walking through the frame dropping insults, and I appreciate the occasional attempts the Cheers writers make to show her sentimental and affectionate side, but when she dominates an episode too much, I lose interest. She’s just too brash and mean for me to follow for an entire A-story. Perhaps I’ll soften on her during this re-watch, but “The Tortelli Tort” didn’t do the trick. (I did however like that when Carla gave her “I’m done with the Red Sox rant, even Diane deep in the background was saying it along with her, just like the rest of the bar.)


Donna Bowman: I admit it—I’ve never been a Carla fan. She’s just not someone I would have fun hanging out with, and so she intrudes, in a way, on my enjoyment of the company of the rest of the group. Her abrasiveness and volume and general unattractiveness didn’t mix well with what I wanted out of the rest of the group. It’s like she was a refugee from a different kind of sitcom, the kind that was more Honeymooners than Bob Newhart. (Nothing against The Honeymooners, which I adore—but as an audience, you have to get yourself braced for all that yelling.) And at the time, I remember her being a big deal because she had just married Danny DeVito, who was soon to become a movie star and director, having outgrown television. (Remember when television used to be a stepping stone to the movies, and anybody who successfully got out never looked back? Oh yeah, we all remember, because Shelley Long is going to make a leap for it in a few seasons.) They were America’s gnomiest couple. It’s like when Jennifer Anniston was briefly known more for being Brad Pitt’s wife than for being on one of the top sitcoms ever, except without the glamour. I fully acknowledge that my anti-Carla stance is more bias than reason, and I anxiously await the show leading me to care about the little scrapper. “The Toritelli Tort” almost achieves it when Carla pleads with Sam that she really needs the job. But if Big Eddie weren’t such a oafish bully, I’d have a hard time siding with Carla against him, Yankees-Sox feud or no.

Keith Phipps: I don’t know if it was the Carla focus or not, Noel, but this episode felt a little off to me. We just met these characters two episodes ago and it’s already asking us to care a lot about whether not one of them sticks around. It played a little grave to me and, more problematic, it wasn’t all that funny, spending much more time on Carla’s fate and the pathos of Carla’s existence than any other aspect. It’s a story that might have been better reserved for a later season, once we’ve gotten to know everyone a little better and gotten a better sense of the softer sides of Carla’s personality. That said, it wasn’t a bad episode and I appreciated the lengths it went to establish local character. Maybe I don’t watch enough of them to judge, but I don’t think sitcoms really do that so much anymore. (Apart from Parks And Recreation, whose Pawnee feels like a real place.) Then again, most sitcoms now seem to be set in either New York or L.A., which don’t really need to establish local flavor in quite the same way.


Todd VanDerWerff: There was some discussion in comments last week about Carla, and I have to concur that she’s hardly my favorite character out of the bunch, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say I don’t like her or anything. What’s fascinating about this to me is that at the time, she was very much seen as the show’s breakout character. Critics singled her out in reviews, Rhea Perlman won boatloads of Emmys (though not one for the first season), and the show would often break out her one-liners in promos (many of which can still be seen on YouTube). I agree with Keith that this episode strains a little too much to make us worry that Carla might leave the bar forever. In the TV-writing game, that’s called Schmuck’s Bait, and it means any plot point that, if enacted, would change the tenor of the show. This is the sort of plot twist that might work for a brief arc in a show’s fourth or fifth season, but this early in the run, you’d have to be a, well, schmuck to believe it. (Sidebar: I’ll have more to say about the show’s direction in the next episode, but I love the way Burrows’ camera isolates Perlman in the scenes where Carla is trying valiantly to not blow her stack.)

Meredith Blake: I tend to agree that “The Tortelli Tort” is less successful than the last two, but I say that as a Carla fan. I like that she’s belligerent, blindly loyal, and more than a little rough around the edges. If there’s a character I’m not so sure about, it’s Diane, who twice corrects Sam for using a preposition at the end of his sentence. She’s basically insufferable. But that’s beside the point. The problem for me is how forced the premise isespecially on such a pleasantly low-concept show. For lack of a more precise term, it just feels really extremely sitcom-y. That said, I appreciate that “The Tortelli Tort” is an attempt to give us a strong sense of place, and to dramatize the tribal devotion of the Boston sports fan. Like Keith said, so many sitcoms these days take place in New York, Los Angeles, or some ersatz version of suburbia, so it’s nice to get some truly local color.


PN: The news comes a little late, but I’m still really glad to finally learn that I’m not the only person who wasn’t crazy about Rhea Perlman’s Carla. I wouldn’t place her in the same class as John Larroquette, as inexplicable multiple Emmy-winners go, but I never felt that she was a natural at making meanness funny—in the way that her husband, Danny DeVito, was on Taxi—and a lot of the time her performance seemed shrill and forced to me. (I thought she seemed much more at ease when she appeared on Taxi as Zita, the only “nice girl” that DeVito’s Louie De Palma ever dated.) Maybe that’s why she was never able to parlay all those years as America’s anti-sweetheart into much of a post-Cheers career. (Anybody remember Pearl, her single-season sitcom, where she basically played Julie Walters in Educating Rita to Malcolm McDowell’s Michael Caine?)

RM: All I remember now is the cinematic version of Matilda, so you know, thanks a ton for that.


DB: I enjoyed Pearl, actually, and was quite upset when it was cancelled. And I think John Larroquette is the pips.

“Sam At Eleven” (season 1, episode 4; originally aired 10/21/1982)

In which an old friend of Sam’s gives him one more shot at the bigtime

EA: Cheers is one of the greatest television comedies of all time, but its setting is one of fundamental sadness. Because, let’s face it—there’s a lot of fun to be had at a bar, but spending too much time at one is typically a sign that someone’s trying to fill a perceived whole in his or her life. There are obviously more depressing watering holes than Cheers—Harry The Hat (Harry Anderson) hustling Coach for a $20 bill is hardly Charles Bukowski stumbling through the door looking for a fight—but it is a refuge from Sam’s broken, major-league dream.


The reliever-turned-bar owner spends some part of “Sam At Eleven” feeling like a has-been, but it’s not a particularly maudlin episode. (Though the clarinet refrain from Craig Safan’s score does suggest we should feel a little wistful about the proceedings.) At the request of a former teammate and current Boston sportscaster, Sam accepts an invitation to be interviewed for the evening news. Carla discovers that Sam wasn’t the first (or the second, or the third, or even the fourth) choice for the slot, but the entire bar is abuzz with excitement for Sam’s big TV moment. Everyone but Diane, that is, as she’s worried Sam’s going to come off looking like some wretched “ex-jock strap” trying to recapture his glory days. Her prediction comes true, but not quite in the way she anticipated—there’s nothing sad about Sam’s recounting of his double-header face-off with Baltimore Orioles slugger Boog Powell. Ted Danson puts a spark in Sam’s eyes as he tells the story, and Diane notices it. And we notice it, too, which is why it’s such a letdown that John McEnroe’s sudden availability leaves Sam in the middle of his Powell story with no TV camera to capture its conclusion. Sam’s come a long way from his hard-drinking, “two young—dollars” days, but the media’s always more interested in a young hothead than a retired vet who righted his life’s course.

When Diane ultimately becomes the audience for the end of Sam’s story, “Sam At Eleven” is lifted out of its temporary melancholia. She has to deliver one additional blow to his ego—by jiu-jitsu-tossing Sam onto the pool table after he attempts to kiss her—but the episode ends with Diane showing her boss that an audience of one engaged listener is sometimes better than a thousand people staring blankly at the retired hurler on their TV screen. I don’t mean to cut Todd off at the James Burrows pass, but the director makes the bold choice to leave the pool room mid-conversation and take the camera down a track that lands on Harry’s latest scam. It’s a brilliant contrast to Sam’s story in the episode—he’s the guy who always sees through Harry’s bullshit because he has no delusions about his place in life, and no intention to better that position with the help of a less-than sincere partner. Cheers is his place, and there’s nothing sad about that.

Were you all on Diane’s side—were you worried Sam might embarrass himself during that interview? How important is it to Cheers that its main character maintain some sense of dignity? And how funny is it when he gets knocked down a few pegs by someone like Diane?


RM: My first memories of Cheers take place when Sam’s office (which eventually turned into Rebecca’s office) was the place of refuge for the show. Scenes in there contrasted the public space of the bar with the private space of the office. Early on in the show, however, either the writers hadn’t conceived of this office as a viable alternative or simply didn’t have the budget to create yet another set for the show. As such, the billiards room serves as the de facto place for intimate scenes to unfold.

It’s a touch silly, in a way, because it’s not private. It’s just a room in a semi-crowded bar that no one happens to be using at the moment. In the series’ second episode, Cliff and another bar denizen happened to be using it. Here? Free and clear. Is this realistic? Perhaps not. But I’d like to think no one came into this space during Sam and Diane’s long scene due to an unspoken rule amongst the Cheers community that the back room serves as sacred space for those in need of it. Just as everyone shares in Sam’s pride at being interviewed, so too do they share in his embarrassment when it all goes awry. Leaving the pair alone is as much for the bar as a whole as Sam and Diane themselves.

Or am I reading too much into the collective psyche of this bar?


DB: I loved this episode for the kindness it showed to Sam and Diane both, and for giving that sportscaster the derision he deserved. Diane is right that Sam shouldn’t rest his self-esteem on being able to relive past glories, but she’s wrong that his stories are self-indulgent at best and craven begging for attention at worst. They’re stories, first and foremost, as we see on the unintentionally rapt face of the interviewer and on Diane’s face, too, as she listens. And Sam tells them masterfully, though he himself doesn’t understand their power for anyone but him—when Diane asks him “what happened to the Boob person,” he gives the outcome of the play (“he grounded out to third”) as if that were the point. It’s nothing like the point. The story is about psychology, tactics, situation, and gladitorial combat, within an arena of fierce observer identification. If it weren’t, then we would never tell these stories—we would just point to the ESPN BottomLine score ticker. Diane doesn’t have a clue about baseball, but I don’t think she asks what happened just to be nice to Sam; she wants to have the arc drawn, completed, and made meaningful. And this episode sketches an intriguing contrast between our sports stories—bounded in time and space by scoreboards, clocks, and stadia—and the stories of our lives that stretch on indeterminately, without a whistle or umpire to put a period on them and wave us on to the next encounter.

PN: I know I’ve seen this episode before, probably when it was first broadcast, because I vividly remember Sam’s remarkably sensible plea for his right to a little self-pity—“Tomorrow I’m gonna feel better, but tonight I’m gonna feel bad”—but I’m not sure I’ve seen it since. I’m actually pretty sure I haven’t, because if I had, I think I’d have been less surprised to see Fred Dryer in the bar. (And according to IMDB, it was a recurring role: he even showed up once in 1987, long after he’d become Hunter.) Rediscovering it now, it reminds me of having once been young enough to look forward to someday having a past that I could have bittersweet regrets about, in part because of things like this gem of an episode, which made being past your prime and haunted by memories that won’t turn you loose look kind of romantic. Now, of course, I’m old enough to recognize what an acting feat it was on Danson’s part that he was able to make Sam’s feeling of being washed-up come across as touching, and by God, yes, sexy, instead of pathetic. (I also think it’s amazing how much more a moment like Diane’s claiming to be interested in what happened to ol’ Boob seems to matter than all the moments other people have singled out where she just seems snooty. That’s a tribute to Shelly Long, too.)


KP: Here’s a terrific episode after the small letdown of “The Tortelli Tort.” Harry Anderson wasn’t far away from a starring role on Night Court when he did this episode, but I don’t think he ever found a showcase for his talents than his Cheers appearances as Harry, the likable, but unrepentant con man. He fit into the episode thematically, too, tricking Cheers customers into falling for his illusions just as Sam fell for a chance to go chasing at a sliver of his old fame and glory even though he knows those days are over. Once again, I’m struck by how mature of a character Ted Danson makes Sam this episode. He, as Erik puts it, knows his place in life. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to forget it once in a while. He even forgets that his considerable charms on women have their limit when he kisses Diane. And where I think a younger Sam might have slinked away at her rejection, the older Sam has discovered that it’s sometimes worth sticking around and talking to people. And, following up on what Phil said, it’s also a tribute to Long that she can seem like such a compassionate character at the end of the episode after beginning it as a (very funny) caricature, sure that everyone will be relieved that she’s finally had a breakthrough in her understanding of impressionism (which, it should be noted, also fits into the episode’s theme of illusions since it foregrounds the notion that we don’t always see things as they are but they as they make us feel).

NM: “Sam At Eleven” is the first episode written by the Charles brothers since the pilot, which may partly explain why it’s the strongest since that first one. Even though it wasn’t intentional, I saw a lot of this episode as a corrective to “The Tortelli Tort,” inasmuch as it uses Carla the way she’s best used: to wander through the background of a shot and make a cutting comment. Plus it brings the Sam/Diane relationship back to the foreground, even though the episode isn’t really about the two of them when it starts. There’s some big doings on that front, too, with Diane admitting that in the right light, Sam isn’t “un-repugnant,” and Sam kissing Diane for the first time (however briefly).


Erik, I was glad you mentioned that lovely last shot, away from the pool room and back to the bar. I’m wondering how long into Cheers’ run these kinds of visual flourishes will continue; I can’t say that I noticed them when I watched back in the ’80s and ’90s. As for Harry Anderson, I seem to recall that I’d seen him do stand-up on Saturday Night Live prior to his Cheers appearances. At the least, I remember hoping he’d be a Cheers regular, and being somewhat disappointed that he didn’t appear too many other times. He is a major player in one of my favorite Cheers episodes of all time, coming up at the end of this season. So there’s something to look forward to.

MB: Phil, you took the words right out of my mouth when you called this a “gem of an episode.” We get to see Sam, decked out in his finest brown velvet blazer, recalling his glory days as a pitcher. It’s the most vulnerable we’ve seen him, and, not coincidentally, also the most charming. But what I love the most about this episode is the somewhat unexpected turn to romance in the third act. Obviously the Sam-Diane tension has been there since the first few seconds of the series, but I was still surprised by Sam’s kamikaze kiss. Diane’s pep talk was sweet and surprisingly heartfelt, especially considering her track record as a grammar scold. Naturally, she starts out a little awkward (“Would you like me to share an experience from my life when I was horribly defeated and humiliated?”) but she quickly gains her footing, ensuring Sam he has many reasons to be proud of himself. Then, just when it threatens to become schmaltzy, Sam pounces, and the conversation shifts.  “How long have you wanted to do that?” Diane asks, having reflexively flipped Sam onto the pool table. He pretends it was a spontaneous gesture, she pretends she hated it, and you know it’s going to be a while before they both give in. Dare I say, the whole scene was actually pretty sexy. Then to top it all off, you’ve got that wonderful tracking shot out of the game room and into the main bar. As Erik wisely pointed out, it’s a reminder of just how much Sam has going for him in his post-baseball career—or, to paraphrase Diane’s pep talk, how much he has to look forward to.


TV: One of the things that struck me while watching this episode is that while we’ve been saying Cheers is timeless all this time, it’s not, not really, and it’s that vague melancholy for a world that’s disappeared that animates a lot of this episode and makes it as good as it is. Though Cheers is based around characters and situations that still mostly feel fresh, it’s also rooted in the old movies that the Charles brothers, James Burrows, and the other writers were so familiar with. Sam and Diane’s relationship is pure Hepburn and Tracy, for instance, but we’ve also got a world that’s based in types that aren’t really present in pop culture anymore. When’s the last time you ever saw a charming, high-class con man like Harry The Hat? That type has been so thoroughly displaced by the Harrison Ford-esque rogue that Anderson’s character here could have easily stepped out of a movie from the ’40s as a sitcom from the ’80s. Or look at the show’s history for Sam. Baseball’s still an important fixture in the American landscape, but it was already on its way down in relation to the NFL in 1982, and if you made a show about a famous baseball player now, I don’t know that he’d come with the same mystique that “Mayday” does here. As Diane says in the final scene, the future’s still out there, and these guys are still young, and there’s plenty still to come. But the past will always be waiting there to capture them in nostalgia. And the best way to combat that is to give in to it for a little while, then realize the present—where you own an awesome bar, taken in entirely via tracking shot—can be pretty darn good, too.

Stray observations:

  • RM: Back to timelessness again: Television is a remake-happy medium. But how could one ever remake Cheers in a day and age of smartphones? No one would ever talk to each other. They would be too busy scrolling through their emails to engage with the person next to them.
  • MB: Ted Danson is a good-looking guy, but I am troubled by his deep mahogany tan. Also, Sam must be the best boss ever, because Diane sure does get a lot of time to thumb through her IMPRESSIONISM book at the bar. When I was a waitress in college, the motto was always, “You got time to lean, you got time to clean.”
  • NM: In the restaurants where I worked, the saying was, “If there’s time to whistle, there’s time to Bissell.” (But that may have been just some smart-ass thing my buddies made up.)
  • PN: I’d just like to send a shout-out to John “Piglet” Fiedler, always one of my favorite character actors of the “living cartoon” variety, who brightens up “The Tortelli Tort” for a few minutes as the dude who’s in a great mood because his unloved rich relatives are dying off at a nice clip. I’d like to think the bit gains a little something when seen today, because of how much Fiedler looked like John McCain’s wussy little brother.
  • KP: I don’t know if I buy Diane ever being a cheerleader. How would she get her reading done?
  • TV: Harry The Hat is one of my favorite recurring characters the show ever came up with, and I like that in his first appearance, he does, indeed, get a beer and $10, even if he’s unable to take Coach for more because of Sam’s intervention.

Your thoughts:

Every week, we’ll go back and pick out some of our favorite comments from the week before from those of you who picked up on stuff we missed, offered interesting counterpoints, or just said something that made us laugh.


Prole Hole points out some of the pilot’s more… pilot-y moments that we glossed over in our rush to praise it: “I have to say, on the pilot I’m both amazed by how much is already in place (Norm!) and how much isn’t.  The building blocks are all there, but it seems very pilot-y to me - Sam is pretty much perfect, and Diane is nearly there, and there’s the barflys - but it struck me as just a bit clunky, in the way that pilots always are.  That the entire episode, and indeed season, takes place in one location might be something to do with it - it’s something it’s very hard to be attuned to yet helps make the “space” of Cheers seem so real but takes a little time to develop (for me).”

It had to be done, but Rollo Tomassi was the one to launch our very own version of the “sweatiest movie of all time” debate.


And ZeppoMarxist points out just how different early Cheers is from later Cheers (and kicks off a good discussion on the differences between the two): “I watched Cheers reruns sometimes in high school, but most of the episodes I saw in those days were from the Rebecca era, so going back and watching the first 1 1/2 (so far) seasons has been almost like watching a show I never saw before. That’s especially true in regards to Coach, who I always thought of as ‘that old guy who’s kind of like Woody in the weird early episodes.’ Now, he’s quite possibly my favorite character on the show. Like they mentioned in the review, he’s often given standard-issue ‘dumb guy’ material, but man - Nicholas Colasanto really makes it sing. He gives Coach an essential sweetness that’s missing from most characters of this type. Joey Tribbiani or whatever.”

In two weeks: Coach’s daughter comes by for a visit—and brings her new fiancé—and Sam is taken with one of Diane’s friends.