Raymond, an older man with just 6 months to live, drops by Cheers and rekindles his halcyon days when Sam lets him tend bar. After he leaves, someone notices he had left a will on a napkin, bequeathing $100,000 to Cheers in exchange for his great time. Only problem is that it’s unsigned; everyone votes to have Coach track him down and make it official. When he does, aggravated by everyone’s cattiness, he signs it over to Sam, who becomes equally disillusioned and burns it. In the office, Diane is impressed with Sam’s principles, until she realizes he switched it and now has the real thing. She is allured by the prospect of getting half, then hates herself for it, and asks him to burn it again. Another switcheroo? Yup, but Sam’s Diane-induced guilt forces him to burn it… for good.
Seeing these vintage early-80s Cheers episodes is great because it gives me a chance to see, sometimes for the first time, some of my favorite character actors in their prime. George Gaynes is one such example. A supporting player in my favorite comedy of all time, Tootsie, he has a small role here but he is achingly credible as a man nearing the end – an entire movie could be scripted and performed with this conceit – and most likely a poignant one at that.
I also like shows that serve as human nature parables, which this does in its second act. And to round out the bill, we get some great Sam/Diane mind games at the end too!
Cold open: Cliff can’t find his coat before leaving, so he borrows a fancy, frilly one.
Norm’s opener: Norm’s already at the bar.