Saturday, September 22, 2012

The CHEERS intelligence graph

Compliments of
As someone who wrote these characters for nine years, this would be my order:

(now comes a big drop)

Sam was dumbed down over the years but at least during the first few seasons he was very smart and savvy.  So if you average his IQ over the seasons he still comes out way ahead, certainly better than Cliff.

I can't believe they put Cliff anywhere near the top.

Why Coach over Woody?   They were both pretty addled.  But you figure that before he was hit in the head by too many fastballs, the Coach was probably smarter.  Although, now that I think about it, how intelligent do you have to be to just get out of the way?  


That Neil Guy said...

I miss Coach.

How hard was it to go on without him?

Ane said...

Lilith on top, yey!

Anonymous said...

So the same, but you'd swap Sam and Cliff? I agree. Cliff wasn't smart, he just thought he was.

Anonymous said...

Norm was an accountant so he should be fairly smart.

pumpkinhead said...

I always felt that Norm was kind of quietly and secretly the smartest person in the bar... a lazy-ass loser, yes, but not dumb.

Sara said...

Coach was in fact a genius sabermetrician who knew the value of OBP way before Billy Bean started doing his thing, but he pretended to be stupid so he wouldn't get scoffed at like Bill James. The HBPs were all part of a master plan.

That being said, Woody had occasional flashes of brilliance -- or at least, flashes of ordinary intelligence that seemed like brilliance within the context of his usual remarks. It's a toss-up for me.

Susannahfromhungary said...

Why Frasier above Diane?

Stephen said...

As someone who recently watched through Cheers for the first time, I agree with you shifting Sam up as he is definitely the smartest of the non-egghead characters. That being said, I think Rebecca should be a little lower, definitely below Carla and maybe even below Norm on the list, as over the last few seasons of the show her character got a lot dumber for some reason and increasingly became the butt of dumb jokes.

ajm said...

I remember in one episode, Norm said that he'd graduated fifth or sixth in his high school class.

One of my all-time favorite CHEERS lines, as Sam's desperately studying at the last minute for his high school GED exam.

Sam: Carla, you know anything about geography?

Carla: I know what creek you're up.

DavidZ said...

Ken, This brings up a question. It always bothered me that Sam got increasingly dumber as the seasons went on. He was much more interesting in the earlier seasons, where Ted Danson conveyed a quiet strength and dignity. But as the years went on and he became increasingly buffoonish, I felt the show lost something. Danson did it brilliantly, but I still missed Original Sam...

This happens fairly frequently on sitcoms. Sometimes it happens so gradually, I almost don't notice. Then I'll catch an earlier episode in syndication, and the character is barely recognizable. It can go the other way, too. Over time, the writers and the actors can begin to find nuances and layers to their creations. But more often, the arc seems to veer in the other direction.

Why does this sort of thing happen? Is it that actors begin to mug more as the seasons go on? Is it just easier to go for goofy jokes than more complex, character-based humor? In the case of Cheers, was it a conscious decision to broaden the tone of the show over time? Or was it a natural change influenced by the cast changes?

I'd love to read your feelings on this.


Jim, Cheers Fan said...

Carla is the one that throws me (and Cliff smarter than Carla? Those people never saw the show!). She obviously wasn't book smart, but she could twist Frasier in knots, from zingers to the Ludlow episode, and go toe-to-toe with Lilith, whose final kiss off to Carla (I've endured your insults for a number of years now, you hideous gargoyle..." was one of my favorite rants on the series, capped by Carla's "Well! That was just plain rude!".

I get why people are bothered by Sam's intellectual decline, but it was part of the show's evolution. I always think the Diane years and the Rebecca years are almost two different shows, and I thought broader, loopier Rebecca years were balls-out hilarious

Matthias said...

Coach showed flashes of intelligence, at least in one episode — I've always remembered it because I loved that the writers allowed him that. It was one of the first(?) times Sam and Diane were about to split up. Coach told each one, separately, and not entirely truthfully, that if they left, the other one would collapse. It worked. It was lovely to see Coach have a moment of shrewdness — motivated by pure decency, of course — and it added to the sense that there was more to Coach than his addled brain.

So did the episode where he took a fall down the stairs to win a lady, now that I think of it — one of the best Coach moments ever, and equally hilarious. These are the kinds of reasons that Woody rarely seemed like much more than a cardboard substitute to me, as good as he was.

Debby G. said...

But Cliff was on Jeopardy!

Eric J said...

"Coach was in fact a genius sabermetrician who knew the value of OBP way before Billy Bean started doing his thing, but he pretended to be stupid so he wouldn't get scoffed at like Bill James. The HBPs were all part of a master plan. [Sara]

Huh? First time I've had to use google to read Ken's comments. OK, sabermetrician...something baseball. Good, I can skip the rest.

Ya gotta warn us about baseball related stuff like Ken does so we can skip over it right away.

David said...

At first glimpse, I thought to myself, "I don't remember Pee Wee Herman" being on "Cheers."

Phillip B said...

IMHO Cheers was Sam's story - told from his point of view - so when he got dumber so did the whole world around him.

Always found it interesting when Sam got involved with an intelligent, composed intelligent woman - Kate Mulgrew, or Barbara Feldon in a memorable cameo. He was a recovering alcoholic still looking for meaning, and I always thought that was why all the other characters were so loyal to him.

Hundreds of goofy guys run bars, but Sam was special and so was Cheers.

VincentS said...

I like your order better, Ken. I wouldn't put Cliff anywhere near the top, either. As far as Coach, he did have flashes of brilliance. Like the time he got Diane to come back to work in the bar.

Paul Duca said...

Ane...would Lilith accept anything less?

Carol said...

Sorry - this isn't necessarily the place to do this, as I am mentioning MASH not Cheers, but I just want to tell Jeff Maxwell that I found and bought a copy of the book he mentioned on the post you'd don about Larry Gelbert -o Secrets of the MASH Mess, and he doesn't seem to have a blog of his own. (I suppose he might Tweet, but I tend to avoid that place!)

Anyway I just want you to know Mr Maxwell, that already love it to bits. It's so much fun, and the recipes are great.

So, thanks, and I recommend anyone who might find MASH stories and quotes in a cookery book try to find this book!

Johnny Walker said...

I thought that was Coach's batting style? Deliberately get hit in the head. Got to say that post baseball trauma I think he was a LOT dumber than Woody. Coach would forget his own name:


Coach: Cheers! Uhuh. (To the bar) Is there an Ernie Pantusso here?
Sam: That's you, Coach.
Coach: (to the phone) Speaking.

cadavra said...

Not only did Sam get dumber (and less successful with the ladies) as the show progressed, but so did Cliff. In the first season, all the facts he spouted were pretty much on the money. Then in subsequent years, he degenerated into a bullshit artist. I kinda liked the old Cliff, as the show really didn't need another "dumb guy."

Johnny Walker said...

Cliff was an insecure nerd or an obnoxious blowhard, depending on who was writing him. Sometimes his trivia was spot on, other times it was total nonsense.

For example, Levine and Isaacs gave him a tough time. In Frasier he was treated like a disease that the others couldn't get rid of. Dan O'Shannon and Tom Anderson tended to show the other characters liking him, and his trivia just being something that other people were bored by, rather than actively irritated.

kitty said...,85175/

recursiveness. They mention your "What the fuck is happening here" entry and agree with you.

Discountula said...

I so miss Cheers. Most of the shows nowadays are terrible. I propose a toast to Norm!

Ane said...

Paul Duca: Of course not ;-)

Bill McCloskey said...

I agree the show was two separate shows - Diane years and the Rebecca years. And yes, Sam got dumber. But for me the Rebecca years are my favorite because it went from being shackled to a relationship story and was able to move into comedy for the sake of comedy and it was hysterical. More like Seinfeld in that regard: no hugging no lessons. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

They really missed the point by putting Cliff that close to the top, lol.

Pam aka sisterzip

Barbara C. said...

Since the "professionals" can't actually agree whether intelligence is one thing (and which one thing: common sense, book learning, or critical thinking skills) or if there are in fact multiple types of intelligence, it's no wonder that there these such things are up for debate.

For instance, if one were measuring by Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence than Sam and Coach would probably come ahead of Lilith. But perhaps I am getting to philosophical about the whole thing. LOL

I discerned at a very young age, though, that sometimes there is a very thin line between genius and stupidity.

An (is my actual name) said...

I don't know why Diane would land below Frasier and Lilith. As goofy and pretentious as Diane could be, she had emotional intelligence in addition to her book smarts. Frasier (on Cheers) was interpersonally naive and an emotional train wreck-- how stupid do you have to be not to see what's going on between Sam and Diane?-- and Lilith was completely devoid of people skills, socially functioning on the level of a three year old. I think Diane wins the all-around most intelligent, then Frasier, then Lilith.

I would also move Norm way up above Rebecca, perhaps above Sam. Don't judge him by the company he keeps. I think Norm was as amused by the peanut gallery's antics as the rest of us. He also seems the most grounded in reality of anyone, and usually offered wry, yet dead-on insight into the foibles and follies of the gang at Cheers. Norm: (to Cliff) Just when I think I've gone completely off the deep end, I look over at you and there you are, diving off the cliffs at Acapulco.

I'd also put Carla above Rebecca. Rebecca was nearing Woody territory toward the end of the series.

Unknown said...

Good assessment. I was wondering how they put Cliff so high.

Ar said...

Coach turned out to be smart when he went back to school (Albania...). I think Cliff was actually the dumbest. Just a blowhard who got lucky on Jeopardy (for a while)

JT Anthony said...

Better served to have a few graphs that measure the different kinds of intelligence. Sam may have been smart or clever or witty--but his drinking got in the way. Diane may have been book smart, but she rarely got out of her own head to use it in productive ways--commercial or financial success, or to help humanity in any way. Lilith and Frazier--while deemed brilliant academically--had limited influence over big groups of people, only those wealthy enough to pay their high fees (theoretically speaking). Norm may have been smarter than some or most, but he didn't care to exercise it--too lazy--for personal or societal purposes. Carla was street smart, but myopic in life experiences most likely due to her over active libido early in her life. Too many mouths to feed, so needed a job to fill them. Cliff showed some potential for gathering useless facts, but could never synthesize the knowledge into anything productive. Woody seemed to be a naive rube from the Midwest and should remain at the bottom of the curve.

venkman71 said...

Hey Ken, big fan of your Blogs, big fan of your work. Your Cheers blog was one of the things that inspired me to transform my office into a mini-Cheers.
I would have sent you the link privately but it didn't seem to be an option. Swing by and give it a peek if you feel so inclined and thanks for writing such great stuff.
Thanks for all the great work!

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Storm said...

I loved Coach so much that when he passed, I honestly thought I might not like "Cheers" anymore. I felt like I'd lost a favourite uncle, it just floored me at the time. But then Woody showed up, all goofy AND hotter'n Indiana asphalt in July, and I was OK again. (Hey, I was, like, 15 or some junk, OK?)

@Venkman71: Whadda YOU supposed ta be, some kinda Coz-mo-naut?