Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cheers 1.16: The Boys in the Bar

Airdate: 1/27/83

An old baseball buddy of Sam’s, Tom Kenderson, stops by Cheers to promote his new autobiography. Ignoring Tom’s advice to read it first, Sam acts chummy with his old pal for the reporters, until he discovers that in one of the chapters Tom comes out of the closet. Diane privately encourages Sam not to let it affect their friendship, but Norm and the rest of the regulars fear that this kind of publicity could turn Cheers into a gay bar. When two “ambiguously gay” patrons arouse suspicion after Diane announces that there are two gay men at the bar, pressure mounts for Sam to throw them out, which he almost does. After Norm and the others plot a ruse to evict them, the egg ultimately lands on his own face when the true gay men were standing right next to him all along.

Cheers broaches the still somewhat taboo subject of homosexuality, and in its first season no less. Because the show was so intelligent and ahead of its time, it’s barely dated, although some of the homophobia seems more monstrous now than it did then. Still, Diane as the voice of reason ultimately wins out, and even so the witch-hunting hysteria that overtakes the ostensibly sound-minded everyman in the second act will be with us always.

A nice two-act structure episode, with either act standing notably well on its own.

Cold open: Harry the Flim Flam man swindles Sam out of the bill by getting Diane to miscommunicate that she has it “covered,” referring to the pool table.

Norm’s opener: Norm’s already at the bar.

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