Monday, April 07, 2008

The five mysteries of CHEERS

TV Squad did a post Monday looking for answers to the five greatest mysteries of CHEERS. So as an insider I thought I’d take a crack at them.

What did Vera Peterson look like?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so for Norm I think her looks changed depending on the number of beers. I know that’s kind of a coy answer so I’ll just say if you’ve seen Maris Crane, she’s her twin but not as thin. People wonder if Norm really did love Vera. The answer is yes. You tell me a wife who’d let her husband spend his life in a bar. In one of the Bar Wars episodes I remember my partner and I had a joke where you went to Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern and off stage you hear “Afternoon everybody!” and everyone yells out “Vera!” but it got cut.

What exactly was Rebecca’s job?

Once Sam got the bar back he kept her on as a manager. Her chief job responsibility: sleep with Sam at some point. On numerous occasions when we were having a tough time coming up with a Rebecca line someone would say, “Wouldn’t Sam need another bartender more than a manager? Let him fire her and we won’t have to come up with this joke.” In truth, she did the accounting and ordered the liquor freeing Sam up to cut thousands of lemons an hour.

Why did Cliff wear white socks with everything?

It was a fashion statement. Not a good one but a statement nonetheless. Honestly, his fellow bar mates were just thrilled he changed them everyday.

When did Frasier have any time to see patients?

Usually in the morning before the bar opened. It’s the college courses he also taught that required a lot of juggling. But he wouldn’t be the first tenured professor who couldn’t stand up.

When did CHEERS close?

The standard 2 a.m. That gave Cliff a good two hours sleep before reporting to the post office. And Carla usually put her kids to bed at 2:30 a.m. so that schedule worked out perfectly.

I hope this solves the mysteries and I have fooled you into thinking I actually do know the answers to these questions.

There were some other CHEERS mysteries that I discussed about a year in this post.

Hopefully though, we made the show entertaining and funny enough that these inconsistencies didn’t bother you until the advent of the internet.


Anonymous said...

Ken, thanks for posting that. As I expected, your answers were much funnier than my questions. And, I think I may have subconsciously channeled your "mysteries" post when I wrote mine. At least I had good source material.

Anonymous said...

Here's kind of a Cheers mystery - when did Ted Danson start losing his hair and when did he start wearing something to cover the bald spot?

Anonymous said...

You can see Ted Danson's bald spot on Body Heat which he did before Cheers.

And the actress who played Vera in the thanksgiving episode is George's real life wife and she also played a fairy that danced with Cliff in one episode to 'Moonriver'

a said...

Here's what I'd like to know: Why was Cliff the only one in Boston with a passable Bostonian accent?

Anonymous said...

Here's another mystery: If Diane didn't take any money from her family, where did she get the money to pay tuition and live in a nice apartment -- were her tips THAT good?

Tom Quigley said...

A couple of the great moments in CHEERS for me that are related to your thoughts, Ken:

(1) The two times we actually DID see Vera; the first was in the Thanksgiving episode where she walked into Carla's house to be greeted with a pie in the face, and the time she sat on the outside steps of CHEERS crying. We only saw her from the shoulders down through the window. A couple of great sight gags that kept the "mystery" going.

(2) After the fire at Cheers, a bar patron asked Sam how it got started, and Sam called Rebecca out from the office and asked her to give the customer an explanation. She answered as if she had memorized it, with no feeling or expression whatsoever, "I burned down Cheers by carelessly tossing a lit cigarette into a trash basket. It was a stupid thing to do and I will be paying for it for the rest of my life." A bit later, another bar regular comes in and and asks Sam the same question. Same routine all over again. Hilarious!

Anonymous said...


These would be my speculations...

#1 - Vera looked like her father, but she had her mother's eyes.

#2 - Food and Beverage Manager (But it was really a bogus mob position).

#3 - Any other color made his ankles look too wimpy.

#4 - The patrons and staff of cheers were his "clients" (see #5 below).

#5 - It never closed. Cheers was actually Hell, Frasier was Lucifer. Actually, Lilith was Lucifer. She just let Frasier think he was.

Other possibility - Since characters from St. Elsewhere appeared on the show, it's logical to presume that everything about cheers happened in the mind of that autistic kid at the end of their run.

Possibility three - Bob Newhart had another weird dream.

Possibility four - Cheers is another Dharma station.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I can't tell you how great it is to see Joel's post yesterday followed so quickly by your answers today!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Cheers, I noticed that there's a Nicholas Colasanto Center in Alexandria, Virginia. I haven't been able to make a connection to "Coach," but regardless, I always think of him as I drive by it.

Anonymous said...

I kind of hoped that, back in the early seasons on "Frazier", that George Wendt would have had been asked to make a special appearance, so that we could have had an episode of something like Norm winning a contest to see a Mariners-Red Sox game in Seattle, and he's forced to take Vera along because Cliffie's somehow gotten arrested back in Boston, and she and Maris hit it off, much to Niles' horror.

Anonymous said...

Wendt was on Conan last night, and they showed a clip of his current gig, singing and dancing on Broadway as Edna Turnblad in "Hairspray." At least I think I actually saw that. Or maybe I just shouldn't eat whole jalepenos so close to bedtime.

Anonymous said...

In the last season there were a couple of "what does she do around here, anyway?" jokes that were great.

The one thing that didn't make sense in Cheers, much as I loved the character, was Lilith hanging around, drinking coffee and writing in a tiny notebook. I always thought, give her a glass of chardonnay and maybe a paper she's revising as she sits there.

Best minor Lilith plot line: Her being the only one who thought Cliff was funny ("Did you know she can also hear a dog-whistle?... Isn't Zeppo hysterical? The way he just stands there without expression or reaction. Boy! That cracks me up!")

Anonymous said...

Actually, it was these exact inconsistencies that made Cheers hilarious to me.

Alicia said...

Ha ha! When I saw the headline on TVSquad, the first thing I did was head over here to see what you said.

As always Very very Funny Mr. Levine

Anonymous said...

Here's what I'd like to know: Why was Cliff the only one in Boston with a passable Bostonian accent?

He may have been the only one who attempted a Boston accent, but calling it "passable" would be a stretch. Whenever an extra would attempt a Boston accent I would cringe.

ajm said...

Why was Cliff the only one in Boston with a passable Bostonian accent?

Because John Ratzenberger's a New England native.

But that's nothing -- everyone on LAVERNE & SHIRLEY sounded like they lived in the Flatbush section of Milwaukee...

Cap'n Bob said...

I hate to sound practical, but white cotton socks are a good choice for someone who walks as much as a mailman does. They reduce one's chances of getting athlete's foot.

I thought Rebecca was there to prove Sam could lust for an ugly woman.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca did nothing at the bar, they should've kept "Earl" instead of hiring Rebecca back. Earl rocked and had a sweetness to him like the Coach.

Anonymous said...

I have a spec question I was hoping you could answer. How should you handle characters who have been in the show before, but only briefly? Do you need to remind the reader how they fit into everything, ie:

Jason Street walks over to Erin, the waitress/one-night stand who is now carrying his baby.

Should I try to find a way to fit it in the dialog? What if I can't naturally do that?


By Ken Levine said...


Refreshing the audience quickly in stage direction is the way to go. Best of luck with your spec.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken. Just read Jefferson Reid/AOL=link to Joel Keller=link to you. Hope this finds you well and in good spirits. Loving your blog.
Gosh. Perhaps Jefferson Reid has the CHEERS hangover which he ascribed via his pithy bon motts(AOL. April 7, 2008) to the lovely Kelly Gaines Boyd aka actress Jackie Swanson. His own laziness or even arrogance is heir apparent...The plain fact is that Jefferson Reid didn't do his homework-- beyond, oh, say two strokes of Google. The scant credits he attributes to this actress? Wrong and um, not. Jackie Swanson has numerous National Network Ad Campaigns to her credit including both Hummer and Ford Explorer which was directed by Eric Saarinen, son/grandson of two late greats Eero and Eliel Saarinen. Additionally, she has another major campaign for Broan/Nutone directed by Joachim Back and filmed by Pawel Edelman, cinematographer for the Academy Award winning film The Pianist.
She also has yet another major National Network Ad Campaign for Orville Redenbacher directed by Zach Math which is running all over NBC currently. NBC was home to our beloved CHEERS. Plus, she appears in a PSA for Partenrship For A Drug Free America, entitled Orphan, wherein she is unrecognizable in her portrayal of a Meth addicted Mom. She also has a cameo role in the film Charlie Wilson's War directed by Mike Nichols and filmed by cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt with whom Jackie worked some 20 plus years ago on her feature film debut Lethal Weapon. She also shot yet another extensive ad campaign for Toyota wherein she plays the wife of Jim Belushi. She recently tested for HBO/Louis CK show entitled Lucky Louie. She is currently working on a documentary film involving music programs in the Grand Rapids, Michigan Public Scool System--namely elementary schools. She is also campaigning for Barack Obama. Not even close to verging on a Cheers hangover. On the contrary. Sounds like Jefferson is the one nursing a hang-over of sorts. Perhaps that explains his lazy faux freelance journalism junk. If he's not careful, Kelly will send Woody for a word. Fade Out.... Cut to Woody singing his beloved Kelly song.....
K-E-L-L-Y. Kelly my darling, you are my sunshine.
Here's to CHEERS! And here's to you, Ken! Love your blog and am happy to have happened upon it and you, even if some feelings were hurt in the process. XXOOKelly
ps: I may or may not have a framed photo of Andy Kaufman on my bedsie table. Andy has my back. Peace Love and Laughter. Aalways.

Anonymous said...

But that's nothing -- everyone on LAVERNE & SHIRLEY sounded like they lived in the Flatbush section of Milwaukee...

Or other than Andy and to a lesser extent Don Knotts were the only ones with Southern drawls on Andy Griffith.

Anonymous said...

I just ran across this on the Chicago Sun-Times website (QT column):

Lloyd Christensen, a Chicago reader, regarding Barack Obama's statement that he would select as a running mate ''somebody who knows a bunch of stuff,'' writes:

''From 'Cheers': Cliff Clavin for VP?''

Interesting choice. It was Clavin who once announced:

''If you were to go back in history and take every president, you'll find that the numerical value of each letter in their name was equally divisible into the year in which they were elected. By my calculations, our next president has to be named Yellnick McWawa.''


Good to have that settled.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the quick response to my question about rarely used characters.

Very appreciated!


Rob said...

Maybe I'm remembering wrong (it was college after all), but I think that Boston bars closed well before 2:30 AM. Seems like 1 AM was the cutoff for most.

It always seemed odd to me that there was very little open 24 hours in Boston except for an iHop where I saw a bunch of drunk college kids pissing in the sink because the toilet was clogged and there was only one urinal.

This happened about four hours before I served breakfast to David E. Kelley at a BU alumni breakfast.

What this all means, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

I'm in. I once saw David E. Kelley
buying a bottle of Kettel One Vodka
@ a liquor store in Santa Monica Canyon.
Right aroudn the corner form there, on any given day, you'll see a sweet man named Ice sweeping the sidewalks in front of restaurant row. He's been doing it now for as long as I remember....
I gave Ice a ride once over to the 7 Eleven near Lincoln and Wilshire.
It happened to be during the Thanksgiving holiday one year when my parents were visiting from the Midwest. My Mom was in the passenger seat so we had Ice sit in back with my Dad. My friend Ice chatted us up asking my Dad some questions and then out of the blue Ice told us he loved the character from Big Valley?! named Haus or is it Hoss or 'bout the word house spoken in a haughty manner?
I've never been to Boston. Faux Boston, yes. David E. Kelley smelled like cookies when I stood next to him at the counter. I didn't know he was BU alumn.

Anonymous said...

The bar closed at 2am.

There was an episode when Sam said it was closing time to Norm and Cliff. As they were walking out of the bar, I think it was Woody who reminded them it was daylight savings time tonight and to set their clocks back. Norm and Cliff both noticed that 2am became 1am, and asked Sam to set them back up.
Hope that helps.

Demolition Maan said...

In the first few episodes, Norm had a Bostonian accent. It soon disappeared.

I think my favorite character was Al. Everytime he had a part, it cracked me up.

Did anyone else get annoyed by Paul? Worst Cheers move was to let him speak.

Demolition Maan said...

Funny how a couple of Frasier regulars, got their "audition" on Cheers.

Martin Crane was Sly Flembeck, the ad jingle creator that Rebecca hired to advertise Cheers.

Roz Dole was a reporter for the Globe when Woody ran for City Council

Robert Cass said...

I've been watching a lot of "Cheers" reruns recently on the Me TV and Me Too stations in Chicago. I love seeing how well the 1989-'90 season holds up. And "Saturdays of Thunder," from the third season of "The Simpsons," is one of my favorites from that show.

Unknown said...

in which episode was diane writing 'little truths' in a notebook?

Anonymous said...

Of course the bar closed at 2AM, unless it was "Viva la difference day".

Anonymous said...

I believe you are thinking of "little snippets of americana" that Diane was writing in a notebook. It was Season One, Episode 11, named "One For The Book" -

Everyone she meets (including herself is quoted), but Sam is shut out all episode but finally makes it into the book with "What does a stuffed shirt know about blue collar poetry"

Unknown said...

Why did it change after the first season or two? It was less thick after that.