The Cheers baseball team has lost the latest in a long string of baseball games to a rival bar – its owner is a boorish blowhard who never misses a chance to gloat over a victory. Trying to muster up a sport they can win at, Carla suggests bowling – and bowling it is, especially when Carla detects they have a pro in their midsts: Woody. Only problem is, the Woodman can’t set foot inside an alley, owing to a freak accident in which he maimed a maintenance man. Nothing can change his mind, and so the match is on! It looks pretty bad for Sam and the boys, until Diane arrives with Woody who, despite a valiant attempt, freezes up on the strip. It turns into 2 out of 3, with Diane as part of the spoils for the victor, but her participation turns out to be the winning card – ah, the sweet smell of success, or is that the bowling shoes?
Great to see a location change – the big bowling game is all on-camera, onlocation at the alley – and if you can tolerate looped dialogue, it’s fun to watch our favorite barflies outside their element. Sitcom aficionados may recall a similar plotline in M*A*S*H, in which the 4077th challenges a rival hospital, and also includes a last-minute entry by a surprising female ace: Margaret Houlihan! I also admired how it didn’t fall for the predictable – having Woody as the ringer to the rescue. Probably wouldn’t have been a bad way to go, but Cheers knows that the key to exemplary comedy is surprise, and not necessarily the kind we always want to see.
Extra points for Sam and Duane’s flirty volley of subtle insults at the end.
Cold open: Cliff enters Cheers wearing expensive Italian sunglasses, much to the derisive delight of his bar pals. Carla notices they’ve given him courage, and dares him to prove it by asking out a woman at the bar. He walks up to her, she reacts excitedly, then checks her lipstick in the reflection.
Norm’s opener: Norm’s already at the bar.