Saturday, July 08, 2017

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?  


VincentS said...

I think your order is more accurate, especially as regards to Cliff.

Robert David Sullivan said...

Why ia Norm so low on both lists? Unlike Cliff (and even Carla), he usually knew when he didn't know something. Asking questions, which he did a lot even if for expository reasons, is a sign of intelligence.

Boomska316 said...

You don't think Cliff was smart? I would actually put Norm higher because he was an accountant and would've been good at math.

Y. Knott said...

In the very earliest shows, Cliff's trivia knowledge was actually pretty accurate. Then it started slipping...

Coach, like Yogi Berra, was on a different plane of thought. He was simple, which was sometimes his strength...he could see things with a startling clarity.

And I'd place Norm somewhat higher on the list. He was clearly not an intellectual, but he had brainpower. Of course, a lot of it went to figuring out how to get maximum reward for minimum effort.

Hal Tepfer said...

Hi, Ken. Credit where it's due: Neatorama referenced other sites, and the original is on He's got some other good/funny stuff, too, it appears.

sanford said...

Cheers was great all the way to the end. However I kind of thought dumbing down Sam was wrong. Shouldn't there be on sort of smart character even in a comedy.

Andy Ihnatko said...

You've hit on why I didn't enjoy the later seasons of "Cheers" as much as I likedthe earlier ones: the characters went from "relatable people with their own peculiar blind spots and weaknesses" to being often depicted as "idiots and losers." The bar became a kind of a grease trap for deeply-damaged humans.

I understand the logic behind "someone winning and getting what they want isn't funny" but at the other end of the scale, I often found myself wondering just why I found these characters likeable to begin with.

Tracy M said...

Somebody must have thought Cliff's "little known facts" were accurate. They must have quite a collection of bridges.

I loved the Sam we saw in the first episode, which I caught the night it first aired and which made me a fan from the opening scene. I found the dumbed down Sam funny but missed the savvier guy from the early years.

Coach wasn't smart, but he could be wise. The scene where he speaks lovingly to his daughter about her and her mother's beauty went right to my heart. Coach had more depth than Woody did, and that's a big reason why I missed him after Nicholas Colasanto died.

Ann said...

I'd put Diane at the top, simply because Lilith had next to no social intelligence despite being a psychiatrist. It seemed like basic humanity had to be explained to her on a regular basis. And Frasier was repeatedly the biggest dummy ever where women were concerned. I'd say Diane, Frasier, Lilith for the top three, and then Norm just above Sam after the drop. I adored early season savvy Sam and missed him deeply in later years.

Matt said...

I think I would put Norm and Carla above Rebecca. Maybe norm above Sam. Norm was lazy, but I never got the impression he was stupid.

Arthur Mee said...

Sam was definitely dumbed down in later seasons, and I agree with the posters who feel that the show lost something because of it. It was funnier when Sam was actually somewhat smart, but he played it down because he was used to being in arenas (sports teams, bars) where being overtly smart wasn't cool. Which meant that it was great seeing Sam switch gears to try to keep up with Diane, and almost having the (very rusty) tools to semi-succeed.

Rebecca was even more dumbed down over the years, becoming almost painfully brain-addled by the series end. Smarter than Woody, maybe, but probably below everyone else. The character could still be funny, but Rebecca is -- for my money -- the character who could be most easily removed from the Cheers ensemble without losing anything.

Lilith of course, was smarter than any of them, which is why she was almost always the funniest.

MikeN said...

Actor wise Norm is #1, I'd take George over Ken's pick of Alan Alda in a Jeopardy contest. George did so well on Weakest Link, that the other contestants voted him off, and the host refused to insult him.

Johnny Walker said...

I still say Rebecca was smarter than Sam, especially if you're judging them by their intelligence when they first appeared.

Overall Rebecca was an emotional wreck, whereas Sam was stable. But Sam was always a bit of a airhead jock, while Rebecca had a degree. If not actually stupid, he definitely had his moments of stupidity from the beginning. I remember Carla having to explain simple things to him, and him struggling to remember the title of "War and Peace" (although he did subsequently read it, I think).

Mibbitmaker said...

Oddly enough, Diane and Cliff had one thing in common: they both thought they were smarter than they really were. Relatively speaking, in Diane's case. Her style being pretention, his being a "know-it-all".

Diane D said...

I agree with those who would put Norm a little higher on the scale.

I would agree with you on putting Coach above Woody, because although he never could figure out the correct antecedent to a pronoun (Coach to Norm: Where did you meet Vera? Norm: We went to high school together. Coach: We did? Got me every time), he was wise and had more insight than Woody. The best demonstration of that was when he told Diane, "If you walk out that door, Sam is back on the bottle in a week." Then when Sam asked him what he said to her, he said, "I told her if she walked out that door, she'd be back in that looney bin in a month." He knew they could not survive without each other---something even their creators didn't realize--Ha!!

I would agree with Ann about putting Diane on top for exactly the reason she said.

Arthur Mee said...

Interesting to see the women's perspective -- that's two votes for Diane being smarter than Lilith, both from women.

I personally don't see it. Lilith is perhaps somewhere on the autistic spectrum, which could account for her difficulty with interpersonal relationships, but that doesn't affect her intelligence. She's far more focused, accomplished, and academically bright than Diane ever was. And Diane isn't dumb...not at all. But Lilith is *scary* bright.

However, what if we were rating the Cheers gang on an *emotional* intelligence scale?


Cliff is still near the bottom.

Norm might do reasonably well. He has his limitations, but he seems aware of them, and works within them.

Rebecca? Early on, pretty good. Later, a mess.

Frasier? Mostly pretty poor, all things considered, though there are flashes of real insight. Sam? Has his moments, but -- to be charitable -- mostly a work in progress. Carla? Sometimes savvy, but often her own worst enemy.

Coach and Woody? They're almost off in their own little worlds. How do you even rate this for them?

I don't know who would come out on top -- I'll have to think about this!

Andrew said...

One fact complicates this whole analysis:

Lilith was the only one who laughed at Cliff's jokes (in the episode where he tried to do stand-up comedy).

What's up with that?

Diane D said...

I think Arthur Mee's diagnosis of Lilith on the Autistic spectrum explains that---Cliff was doing Stand-Up so she knew it was supposed to be funny. She had to look for such clues, which is why she wasn't as smart as Diane, even though she was very bright and successful.

Interesting discussion---there is no end to the fascination of CHEERS characters. Will they ever be matched?

Andrew said...

Thanks, Diane! (D, not Chambers.) That's fascinating. I didn't expect that, but it actually makes a lot of sense.

Johnny Walker said...

I think this just shows how many different types of intelligence there are, and how fascinating the characters of Cheers were!

Jahn Ghalt said...

before he was hit in the head by too many fastballs, the Coach was probably smarter (than Woody)

I'd like to entertain the possibility that Coach wasn't so dumb. I'd guess that, like at least half of all position players, Coach was marginal talent-wise. Without his hit-by-pitch gift, he may have had to get a "real job".

Y. Knott said...

Wait a second...

Lilith ranks lower than Diane because being on the autistic spectrum somehow makes her less smart?

Lilith works in a field in which a tendency towards difficulty reading emotions would make things *more* challenging for her than for many others -- yet she succeeded and actually became renowned in that field. Yes, she has her blind spots, but she marshalled her extreme intelligence to storm past those barriers on a professional level. If Lilith wanted to turn her interests to computer science, or to being an efficiency expert, or to nuclear physics, she'd probably be a respected expert in those fields in a matter of a few years too.

Meanwhile, Diane, despite being given every advantage early in life, couldn't make it through grad school. Like Sam who was "almost as good-looking as he thinks he is", Diane is almost as smart as she thinks she is....but not quite. This is proven over and over again throughout her appearances on Cheers -- though Diane studies writing, she can't write her own material without being pretentious; her film is a derivative mess; her novel never gets published; her poems are continually rejected; etc. (And what glimpses we do get of her work shows it to be pretty bad...)

And as a waitress she's not great either! She routinely gets orders wrong, gives the wrong change to customers, and generally runs a poor second to Carla as Cheers best waitress. So she can't get a handle on the basics of what she does, OR of what she wants to do. Sure Diane's above-average smart, but she's not the kind of blinding super-smart you see when you're dealing with an active, respected research Ph.D.

For pure brains? Lilith. In a cakewalk.

(Not, of course, that both characters aren't brilliantly funny, and played to comic perfection by two extraordinarily talented actresses!)

Pallas said...

When people talk about intelligence, they usually aren't talking about emotional intelligence.

It's fine to talk about emotional intelligence, but I think that's really a different topic from what people are usually talking about when they mean intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Also laughed at his Tonight Show joke.

msdemos said...


What I find most interesting about this whole discussion, is that everybody is rating the "intelligence" of a cast of characters who aren't even real !!

REALLY speaks to how how well these roles were written, directed and acted, that we all feel like we knew them intimately enough to rate their intelligence, and just what kind of "people" they all know......if they had actually been REAL !! ;-)


msdemos said...


As some others have touched on here, there's different kinds of "intelligence".......being 'book smart' (i.e., IQ quotient) is one, and being 'life smart' (i.e., Common Sense) is another.

I've met plenty of people who were GREAT when it came to passing tests, and excelling in school, but NOT so great when it came to living life and/or having 'successful' relationships........and vice-versa.

Personally, I'd probably put Lilith at the top of the 'book smart' intelligence list, and Carla (though not blessed with the most brains, she sure knew (usually) how to work the system, and those in it) at the top of the 'life smart' list (and though her relationships with men didn't always work out, she was the only character in the entire Cheers cast (though Coach had a daughter, and Frasier and Lilith had their son who was introduced towards the end of the series), who had a REAL home life during the entire run of the series (i.e., one with a family, and children), as imperfect as that was at times (based on the little we learned of it by the time the show ended)).