Thursday, April 28, 2016

Should Sam & Diane have gone off together in the end?

There’s been a lot of great debate lately in my blog about the Sam & Diane ending of the final episode of CHEERS. Check the comments section from last Friday’s post. Even the great Steven Moffat (SHERLOCK, DR. WHO, COUPLING) weighed in with a CHEERS-related opinion.

Quick aside: Steven’s sitcom, COUPLING, is my all-time favorite British sitcom. And you know how much I love FAWLTY TOWERS and BLACK ADDER.

But getting back to Sam & Diane, some readers felt cheated that they ultimately didn’t end up together. Sam & Diane clearly had a huge attraction for each other, and obviously loved each other. Satisfying endings of romantic comedies almost demand that the couple ride off into the sunset together.

Others felt that wasn’t realistic, and that for whatever love and lust Sam & Diane had for each other they still were not a good match.

The final episode was conceived and written by Glen & Les Charles. I remember discussions in the room about how to resolve the Sam & Diane relationship and if memory serves, there was never any intention of getting them together at the end.

And I must say, I agreed with that decision then and still do. (Sorry Diane D.)

Sam & Diane were so different. Their relationship (for comic and dramatic purposes) was fraught with conflict. Most of our time was spent devising new, funny, and fresh complications for them. Projecting forward, I believe they would driven each other insane had they gone off hand-in-hand – each with the best intentions, but ending with restraining orders.

A major research company conducted a survey just before the airing of the final episode. Only 21% felt Sam should marry Diane. (19% said he should marry Rebecca, which is just idiotic.) And 48% said Sam should stay single.  At the time of this survey no one on staff had read it or even heard about it.  Not that that would have made any difference. 

I loved how bittersweet the ending was. Has there ever been someone in your life you long for but deep down in your heart-of-hearts you know they’re wrong for you?

And in this case Sam really had to choose between Diane and moving to Los Angeles or his friends, his bar, and Boston. I believe his true love was the bar and as such it is a happy ending.

But the truth is, in whatever direction the Charles Brothers chose there was going to be a large segment of fans who would be unhappy. The safe move was to just not have Diane return at all. But that really would have been cheating. I applaud Glen & Les for taking a stand (and writing a beautiful script).  

And even though breaking up was heartbreaking for Sam & Diane, I’d like to think that over time they’d each be happier with someone else. But it would piss each other off that they were.

What do you think? Let the debate continue!

58 comments:

Carol said...

I think I'd have liked Sam and Diane together at the end, as I'm a sucker for happy-ever-after, but I agree that the characters were really not right for each other, and the ending of Cheers really worked.

(I'd have liked poor Diane to have a happy ending, though. Maybe because I identified with her character so much when I was in college.)

The Sam and Diane ending, regardless of anyone's feelings, is still better than the ending of How I Met Your Mother. Just putting that out there.

Oh, and I love Coupling, too. There's a great 'fan theory' out there that Sophie on Leverage is Jane from Coupling, and Jane was just a character in a long con. I love that idea.

And OMG I'm reading a blog that Steven Moffat reads! I'm two degrees away from Peter Capaldi! Woo!

Glenn said...

Norm said it best in the finale, "you can never be unfaithful to your one true love." For Sam, it was either Diane or the bar, and the bar was where his real passion lived. I don't think Sam could ever make a statement like "I'm the luckiest son of a bitch on Earth" if he had gone off with Diane.

BA said...

"We are friends," said I, rising and bending over her, as she rose from the bench.
"And will continue friends apart," said Estella.
I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.
Dickens had his audience to appease, too.


Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

It was a perfect ending the way it was. To have them end up otherwise = restraining orders, as you wrote.

I'm watching the episodes just about daily for a few minutes over lunch, and they're wonderful. Very comforting, actually, since working from home alone occasionally find me talking to the dog. Arguing, actually. !

Donald said...

While we're on the subject of roads not taken in the last episode, was there any consideration by the writers on whether to finally reveal Vera?

Terence Towles Canote said...

The Cheers finale is one of my all time favourite series finales and it is because it is realistic. I honestly don't think Sam and Diane were suited to each other. They were just too different and wanted different things out of life. As my mother said after the finale, Sam's true love is Cheers! He simply couldn't leave it.

Andrew said...

Yeah, I agree. A perfect ending to an already perfect series.

This post reminded me of another bittersweet episode, I think it was the fifth season finale. That was the one with a brief, imaginary clip of Sam and Diane in their old age, enjoying their home together. Beautiful and painful.

Justin Russo said...

Rhett & Scarlett. Rick & Ilsa. Tony & Maria. So many of the great love stories and the protagonists end up apart, except in "An Affair to Remember" and poor Terry is crippled!

I don't think it necessarily comes down to realistic or not but rather what's correct for the characters. Sam and Siane's heirs apparent to the great sitcom "will they won't they" debate Ross and Rachel wound up together-because it suited the series and the characters
story arc. At the end of the day, "Cheers" was about the home these characters shared and their stories rather than the groups' relationships. Whereas a show like "Friends" was all about the bond they all had (which is why a spinoff like "Frasier," talent aside, worked so well versus a crapfest like "Joey;" Joey wasn't whole without his comrades while Frasier could easily have his own show).

Ultimately Diane was always too egocentric to truly give part of herself to love, even though she liked the idea of it. Sam was too much of a narcissist. Like the great lovers of romances, they belonged separated.

Kate said...

What's puzzling to me is how some of the best writers in the business, working on one of the best shows on TV, could all have been so collectively misguided as to think keeping Sam and Diane apart was the right thing to do. Some sort of bizarre mass delusion at Paramount that year.

Covarr said...

After several years apart, for Sam and Diane to get back together in the end would've felt out of place. Even if you think they belonged together, that would've needed rebuilt over several episodes, not just thrown into the finale.

H Johnson said...

I'm with most of the others. I think the ending was perfect. Life doesn't always go the way you want, but most of the time it's for the best.

Aloha

Max Clarke said...

A fairytale ending would have been cheating.

The ending of Cheers was fine, and it holds up well. Sam's one true love, as Norm put it, was the bar. It's funny that in the first episode of the series - still maybe the best pilot I've ever seen - Sam told Diane he bought the bar when he was a drunk, but now he held on to it for "sentimental" reasons.

Besides, in season five, John Cleese explained to Sam and Diane why they should not only not get married, they should never see each other.

Cheers remains my all-around favorite sitcom.


Greg Ehrbar said...

Much as we all might have wanted to see Sam and Diane stay together, it would not be true to the show, for many reasons stated above. They were attracted to each other--even in a chaste way, since they were evenly matched and also loved the good sides of each other--but both were repelled by the narcissism they saw in each other and wanted someone that put them first.

The dream episode about them as an old couple was a nice gift to viewers, just like when Clark Kent would tell Lois and Jimmy he was Superman, then make them forget with a convenient spray product.

Even though there was never a successful American version of Fawlty Towers, in revisiting the show currently I am struck by how it comes closest to being like Fawlty. Frasier is a pompous windbag eager to impress in high society and some of his mishaps are painful yet hilarious. Both are highly polished farces with casts that work together like a symphony orchestra or jazz combo.

And if you are indeed reading this, Steven Moffat, when will we see an episode of Dr. Who in which Capaldi's pal Craig Fergusion crawls out from inside a Dalek?

SharoneRosen said...

I teared up at their final split, 'tis true. Had they stayed together (in real life), they'd have killed each other. Had they stayed together on the show, it could have devolved into a bitch fest... yawn.

It just had to be... have a good life <>

Mike Schryver said...

The Season 5 finale is the best take on Sam and Diane, I think. A happy ending for them can only be a fantasy.

Shea Griffin said...

I thought the ending of Cheers was just perfect. I always felt Sam and Diane wanted to want to be with each other forever, but didn't want to be with each other forever. If that makes any sense. My "Friday Question(s)" would be these: Had Shelley stayed for season 6, how would their relationship have progressed? Marriage? Kids? Status quo? And could Cheers have carried on for 11 seasons with the Sam-Diane relationship as the cornerstone?

Stephen Robinson said...

I think Diane got her 'happy ending' when she appeared on FRASIER. I liked that Frasier was able to come to terms with both his major failed relationships (Diana and Lillith).

Igor said...

A Friday question:

About "Coupling", which I really liked. Great characters and casting. And as with Seinfeld and Curb, it always circled back around (in its own way) to cleverly bring everything together at the end. (Yes, the remake here failed quickly.)

Why do shows like that have to be remade for the US? Why not a sitcom that's set in the UK _and_ intended from the start to also play in the US? Yes, some jokes are "local", but (1) so what, and/or (2) could some scenes be shot twice, or do cut-ins?

British humor (mostly) works here. (And Downton Abbey sure works here.) I'd like to see a first-run British sitcom here w/ actual British actors speaking with their native accents. Can't happen?

(Yes, seasons have many fewer episodes there. And etc., etc. But still.)

Thanks.

VincentS said...

I think the final episode was terrific and you guys made the right decision for the reasons you stated, Ken.

Diane D. said...

Okay, this is the last thing I will ever say about this (I promise). First, I want to answer your question: "Has there ever been someone in your life you longed for but deep down you knew he/she was wrong for you." Yes, but I married him anyway, because I just had to have him. I'll spare you the story and just say, "it worked, everyone was wrong."

Well, I could give a long list of reasons why it is inconsistent with the story and the characters to have Sam and Diane parted, but I don't believe there is anyone who can be persuaded to change his/her mind so what's the point. Therefore, let me just say this: It is a Sit-com. It is fiction. You can do anything you want. Tragedy is inappropriate. And I will never believe that only 21% of viewers wanted them together.

I agree 100% with Kate's hilarious comment above--"some sort of bizarre mass delusion at Paramount that year."




Jerry Smith said...

Sam and Diane not getting together may have been true to the show, but it still sucked. I don't disagree with it, but it would have been nice if they could have walked off into the sunset together. They're fictional characters, would it have been so bad to give them (and the fans) a rare happy ending? It would have made me happy, anyway.

Mike said...

@Greg Ehrbar: I think Frasier is the nearest American sitcom to typical British sitcoms. In British sitcoms, the lead is a buffoon. In American sitcoms, the lead dispenses the wisecracks or, as Stephen Fry put it, "swings the biggest dick in the room".

When Moffat commented, I was tempted to post that he clearly had time on his hands, since he's passed Doctor Who onto Chris Chibnall.

Andy Rose said...

I was a bit too young when Cheers was on to really get invested in the Sam/Diane relationship, so I'll ask another final season question: Sam removing his hairpiece for Carla. The producers' idea, or Ted Danson's?

Rich said...

I one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made, "Roman Holiday," Gregory Peck walks away from Audrey Hepburn. He has to. It's the only logical ending, and it's completely satisfying.

Brian said...

Perfect ending.

Stephen Marks said...

The Odd Couple. Both equally as funny, intelligent (street smart and erudition), chemistry equal to the primordial soup that created life, both seemingly needing each other but also able to survive and prosper apart, but ultimately proving that two minds, and hearts, are better than one. They made us laugh, cry and hope that their names would be on screen the following week. They won awards and helped bring the sitcom to another level. Each enjoyed the other's passion, whether it was baseball, writing, or just getting off a really great one liner. Each showed in episodes of "Frasier" that their talents were not just confined to a bar in Boston. The "and" between their names being the bond that will never separate them, even though physically they'll drift apart to live other lives. Sam and Diane? I have no fucking clue, I'm talking about Ken Levine and David Issacs.

Is that called misdirection?

Donald Benson said...

The Sam-Diane split was right. They were each on their proper track, and CHEERS had evolved from a romantic comedy to a show about a bunch of people. While Rebecca made her entrance as an obvious Diane replacement, she soon shifted from leading lady to one of the clowns. A sexy clown, but one who could go toe to toe with Carla and fit in with the gang.

I liked that Sam and Diane were given a decent parting. Annoyed when a character leaves a show, and there's a quick, out-of-character explanation (Lovers and spouses who were rock solid the previous seasons suddenly run off with a bimbo; a beloved coworker is "transferred" and nobody ever mentions him/her again; etc.). While MASH's background made it mechanically easy to change the cast, the show would always deal with the loss.

What I didn't like was that during Sam's visit on FRASIER, we're told that Cliff had gone over the edge (hiding from flesh-eating virus in his apartment) and that Rebecca was a pathetic loser, possibly an alcoholic. At least we got the episode where we saw that Cliff, Norm and Carla where almost exactly where we last saw them.

Ralph C. said...

I thought the Sam/Diane finale was handled very well. I liked that they brought her back. Perhaps, somewhat like an addiction, they fell off the wagon with each other, combined with no closure on their feelings for each other, and being in an uncomfortable place at that time in their lives. It took them almost running away together to realize what was right and true to them both. With their knowing, I like to think they decided what they were now, where they were now, reconciled that in their own heads, then we're ready to move on to the next chapter of their separate lives. A part of me wished to see and know what that next chapter was.

One of my favorite things in television history is the season 5 finale. Shelly and Ted were incredibly magnificent, the writing was superb, heartfelt. Sam saying "Have a nice life" to himself, his selflessness in that moment and the dream sequence afterward are together just amazing story-telling.

benson said...

Maybe it would all have worked out if Rebecca had worn more sweaters.

Klee said...

As much as I loved their turbulent relationship, everyone knows being so different from each other would only eventually end up in divorce, so why bother with bringing them together at the end. It was poignant and so right and unforgettable. They lived their happy and horrible moments together and it was clear from Diane's later appearances in Frasier she never really changed her personality nor Sam's.

Charles H. Bryan said...

What? That was the actual Steven Moffat? That is cool, cool like a bow tie.

Steve Bailey said...

Not related to Sam and Diane, but I think "Coupling" is one of the best sitcoms ever, and the episode "Naked," where Jeff finally hooks up with a great woman despite all odds, is one of the best pieces of TV sitcom writing and acting of all time. Just sayin'.

Diane D. said...

If even Charles Dickens had to write 2 endings for Great Expectations to appease his readers (see BA's quote above), surely the creators of Cheers….blah blah blah. I WILL shut up about this.

Rashad Khan said...

"Cheers" might have evolved over the years into an ensemble series out of necessity. However, your team, or NBC, sold it to us at the start primarily as a romantic comedy (albeit, one set within a neighborhood tavern populated by eccentrics who functioned as a family). For that reason ALONE, I feel "Cheers" should have ended with Ms. Long's departure AND with Sam and Diane married. (I say that, believe it or not, as someone who enjoyed seasons 6-11 as much as he did 1-5.) And even if "Cheers" DID go on, and Long DID return for the finale, I still say, yes, Sam and Diane should have married.

You see, it actually doesn't matter that Sam and Diane might not have been truly "right for each other." In fact, Sam and Diane could have stabbed each other on their wedding night and it wouldn't have made a difference (at least, not to me). "Cheers" was not about how Sam and Diane realized they brought out the worst in each other and decided to remain apart, but solely about, after several years and tons of fits and starts, finally made it down the aisle. Whatever happened after the "I do's," whether it be good or whether it be heinous, would have been for another time, and another series.

Again, you guys framed "Cheers" as romantic comedy; and according to both the conventions and history of romantic comedy, that meant the (ever-sparring) lovebirds HAD TO BE MARRIED at the end. Point blank, period, end of story. Otherwise, you know what you're saying? "Thanks for the emotional investment, sorry it was all for nothing." Which -- I am sorry to say -- is exactly what the Charles brothers told their audience, or at least the sections that actually gave a damn. (Perhaps, not as big of an f.u. as sending everyone off to prison, or killing off the mother after finally meeting her, but it was close.)

IMHO, it would have been better just to leave Diane out and focus on the rest of the ensemble.

James said...

I love the first season of Cheers, but particularly the early episodes. Diane seems more bemused by life and the goings on in the bar. But by the end of the season (and I recently binge-watched it again, so it's fresh), she's starting to develop the whine, the pout, and perpetual hurt and haughtiness that flourished in Season 2 and beyond, and I hated her (the character, not the actress). I understood some of Sam's attraction to the firestorm that was his relationship with her, but I never understood what he saw in her. I was thrilled when she left.

But maybe that's just me. In Antony & Cleopatra, or even just the movie Cleopatra, I always root for Octavian.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

FWIW, Moffat is hardly a newcomer to online. I recall seeing him post on Usenet in the mid-late 1990s.

wg

Andrew said...

Ya'know, I always thought Casablanca had a lame and lousy ending. Messed up the whole movie. What were the writers thinking? Did they all go insane?!

Rick and Ilsa stay together, and Victor Laszlo boards the plane alone. Sam (not Malone) plays the piano at Rick and Ilsa's wedding, a happy jazzed-up version of "As Time Goes By." Piano turns into full orchestration. Fade to black.

elahtinen said...

Sam and Diane remind me of Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska from the Age of Innocence. They had a great passion and attraction but in the end that is all they had, it would not have been enough to sustain a marriage.

Pat Reeder said...

I can understand where James is coming from. I hadn't seen "Cheers" in a long time, but I've recently been catching up with it on the Hallmark Channel. I've noticed how annoying Diane became as the show went on, and her character became more and more self-regarding, pretentious and off-putting. I could see how Sam could be alternately attracted to and infuriated by her. Even when she was complimenting Sam, she had a way of phrasing it that made it clear she thought she was superior to him. Everything out of her mouth was a veiled or not-so-veiled put-down. You can tolerate a little of that in small doses from a casual acquaintance, but if you had to deal with it from a spouse 24/7, "til death do us part" might come a lot sooner than anyone expected.

Jason said...

The dream sequence in season 5 that everyone is referring to really blew me away when I saw it again recently.

Having been through a divorce, that scene almost brought me to tears. It was a perfect encapsulation of "what might have been, but never really could be."

Carson said...

As much as it would have tied the show up in a neat little bow, creatively I think the right choice was made to have Sam and Diane go their separate ways. To have them get married at the end would have been a lie to who the characters really were, and what they know about themselves (or, at least, what Sam has come to realize about himself).

A show that also handled the wrong-for-each-other ending of a series was Justified. ***SPOILERS*** - although the series was over last year, so if you haven't watch it by now, tough noogies - They had Raylan and Winona go off together to live in Miami as a family (with their baby daughter), but in the flashforward, they were split up, Winona was married to another man and Raylan was mostly fine with it. A realistic ending for a couple that decided to ignore their past and give it one more shot.

Both endings worked well.

Johnny Walker said...

I think Sam and Diane were chalk and cheese with a good sex life. Outside of the bedroom they clashed over everything. They were constantly trying to change each other. They had nothing in common.

I'm sure such relationships are pretty common, but I don't think they're built to last. I'd say they'd be much happier with someone else.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

The biggest calamity for the ending of CHEERS was not the Sam & Diane finale plotline.
In fact, the biggest calamity happened exactly 23 years ago TODAY. 4/29/93
Sam exposes his 'toupee' to Carla.
UGH. I hate that.
I've written that before. Like Fonzie saying he had someone turn off the jukebox when he hit it. Like the Lone Ranger saying that Tonto was a Jewish fella named Maury.


By the way, I saw Moffet's name last week and thought, "nahhhhh, couldn't be"
but now...WOW

Big Whovian here.

That just makes me more in awe of you Ken.

Mike said...

I disagree with most of the commentariat in that the relationship was not a product of the characters, the characters were a product of the relationship.
The "will/won't" relationship was an audience draw and, as such, was intended to last throughout the programme's run. Which means "won't", because "will" ends it. So the characters were constructed or developed to sustain the attraction/antagonism, not the other way.
Frasier was effectively ended when Daphne/Niles coupled. And Daphne/Niles were a lesser component of their programme than Sam/Diane.
The finale continued the "won't" since the die was cast.

z said...

If my recollection is correct, on returning to Cheers, Shelley thanked the producer for giving Diane a chance to explained why it took so long to return, but nothing more. My impression was she was disappointed at the finale overall.

Maybe we should ask the question to Shelley and Ted.

Joe Blow said...

Hear Hear! Rashad Kahn!

Mike Barer said...

It's just a TV show! Both wound up guest starring on Frazier which had a great ending in my opinion.

mmryan314 said...

I`'ve held my countenance on this post until I`'ve begun to burst - so burst I will. The very idea that two people from different backgrounds, educational opportunities, passions, and similarities not making it in marriage is ludicrous. How many of us marry our mirror images? Boring to say the very least. They didn`t need to promise marriage to bring closure to fans, a simple " Let`s always keep on touch. I`ll call you next week" might have been enough. The ending was not good. Rashid said it best- it was a big F.U. to fans.

Marianne said...

I certainly feel that Sam and Diane should have skipped through a field of daisies together. I did not binge-watch the entire show in less than a month only to watch them separate. Luckily I wasn't even born to watch the finale - if I had been, I would have staged a protest or something.

Diane D. said...

Thank you, mmryan! In one short paragraph you said it all. I always just thought it was a big mistake rather than "a big F.U," but after all the conversation, I'm beginning to wonder.

Richard Rothrock said...

For me, CHEERS always ended after Season 5. Diane's original departure is one of the great episodes. Everything after that never measured up for me. Without Diane the show became just another sitcom. So I have come to regard CHEERS as 2 different series: before Diane's departure & after. I much prefer the former to the latter.

Anonymous said...

Ted Danson's daughter once asked him why his character was called Sam Alone. It does sound like that. I wonder if the creators conscientiously named him that for that reason. Always the womanizer, always alone.

Anonymous said...

I think Sam and Diane parting was true to their characters and relationship, though they should have left it at the season 5 finale. Bringing her back for the final episode tainted that ending. Didn't like how Diane was portrayed as a villain trying to take him away from his bar and friends either, although I guess that was true to the later years of the show and how she was referenced.

Anonymous said...

A recovering alcoholic copes with his addictions and shifts focus by enabling others alcohol addictions for a living, to make them feel better, was no one else perturbed by this? That's what he should've gone to therapy for in that 2nd to last episode! Then the bar is his true love? That's kind of sick.

Joe Blow said...

If CHEERS had ended the way it should have, the scene of elderly Sam and Diane dancing would always be heart-warming and bring a smile to viewers. With it ending the way it did, that tender, beautiful scene only brings pain to those fans who were emotionally invested. And don't all writers want people to care about the characters they create; shouldn't they return the favor?

Johnny Walker said...

Hmm. You know, I wonder if an older Sam and Diane could work. Once life has shaven off a few of their sharper edges, I get the feeling they might function. Sam matured, Diane less demanding. Maybe I'm just tired, but I can imagine it.

donald said...

Heh. I just lived through four years of that.

Diane D. said...

Sam and Diane reduced to "chalk and cheese with a good sex life." Man, that is harsh, Johnny Walker. I've never even heard that expression (must be a British thing). They were "lightning in a bottle" (James Burrows), they were Tracy and Hepburn, and they had much more than a good sex life. Half the people who said they should have ended up together (and even some who didn't) used the word "magic" in describing their relationship. You don't walk away from that and "end up much happier with someone else."