Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Final Episode of Cheers!

Twenty–five years ago tonight, Cheers! concluded its lengthy run on TV with "One For the Road."

The episode managed to tie up some loose ends rather nicely — and earned a viewership for a series finale that is still second only to the legendary final episode of MASH.

Even Diane (Shelley Long) came back — and it was truly clever the way the show's writers achieved it. Diane, a longtime barmaid and long–winded intellectual, was being honored for her writing by the Cable Ace Awards, and the males at Cheers were tuned in to watch for glimpses of the cleavage of attractive presenters. They were all stunned to see Diane win — especially her on–again off–again beau Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and Carla (Rhea Perlman), her nemesis at Cheers who could only live with what she was seeing by persuading herself that she must be hallucinating.

Subplots included the installation of Woody (Woody Harrelson) as a Boston councilman and Cliff's (John Ratzenberger) desire for a promotion.

Sam decided it would be a civilized gesture to send Diane a telegram congratulating her on her triumph, never dreaming that she would call to thank him for it. In the course of their conversation, Diane revealed that she was married with three children. Sam tried to top her by inventing a wife and four children.

Then he made his mistake. When Diane told him that he would like her husband, Sam told her to bring him by the bar if she was ever in Boston. He didn't think she would ever show up in Boston, but she did, and Sam had to persuade Diane's replacement, Rebecca (Kirstie Alley), to pose as his wife. It was the only time that Diane and Rebecca appeared together in a Cheers! episode.

It also turned out that Sam and Diane had been lying. Rebecca's former lover interrupted their lunch with a proposal, which she accepted; then they left the restaurant. Not long after that the lunch was interrupted again by the male lover of Diane's husband, who confronted him in the dining room and then stormed out. Diane's husband followed. After the alleged spouses had left the restaurant, Sam and Diane were free to explore the truth with each other — and they decided to get back together.

Their announcement of their reunion was not greeted with enthusiasm by the Cheers regulars, who remembered all too well how things had been when Sam and Diane were together before.

Sam and Diane had second thoughts aboard the plane when Sam thought the pilot was speaking directly to him over the P.A. system, and Diane likewise thought a stewardess was speaking to her. They had a change of heart as the plane returned to the terminal.

So Sam returned to the bar, and Diane returned to Los Angeles — alone.

At the bar, Sam had a memorable conversation with the Cheers gang about love and the meaning of life over some Cuban cigars. When I think of that conversation, even now, I remember Cliff and his assessment of what is really important in life — comfortable shoes.

But I also think of Norm (George Wendt), who told Sam after all the others had left that it didn't what or who one loved as long as it was an unconditional love.

That's an important point — that one must love whatever is most important unconditionally — that was made so effortlessly it took one's breath away.

Or maybe that was the result of uncontrollable laughter.