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May 4, 2015

Five biggest Cheers mysteries

by Joel Keller, posted Apr 7th 2008 1:02PM
Cheers logoI was looking over a "Where are they now?" feature our friends at AOL put together on the cast of Cheers, and a few of the mysteries of the long-running sitcom classic came to mind. These were head-scratchers big and small that made me wonder if the writers are the most clever geniuses ever to man a word processor (it was the '80s, after all) or, like in most sitcoms, consistency of story was the first thing to go if a good joke came up in the writers' room.

I guess I should just go over to Ken Levine's blog and ask him, since he wrote for the show for many years. But if I did that, I wouldn't get paid for it. So, after the jump are the biggest Cheers mysteries, starting with the biggest and most obvious one:

What did Vera Peterson look like? For eleven years, we heard Norm talk about his battle ax of a wife. Or at least that's the impression he gave of her. After a while, though, we started to realize that either Norm was just a lousy, inattentive husband that sat on his corner stool at Cheers all day, or he loved Vera and was devoted to her more than he let on to his boozing buddies. Either way, we never really saw what she looked like. Oh, she showed up on-camera once, in the classic "Thanksgiving Orphans" episode, but mashed potatoes covered her face after the hunger-induced food fight the gang got into at Carla's house. In that episode, Vera was played by George Wendt's real life wife, Bernadette Birkett -- she's on the right in this recent picture -- so that may give you an idea. My feeling was that she was much more lovely than Norm described. Oh, and she was the most patient wife on the planet.

What exactly was Rebecca's job? I'm not talking about when Ms. Howe first got to Cheers; I'm talking about what she did after her "sweet baby," Robin Colcord, skipped the country after framing her for embezzling the funds of the bar's corporate owners. After Sam got the bar back as a reward for turning Robin in to the corporation, he took pity on the oft-rejected Rebecca and gave her a job. Ostensibly it was as the bar's manager, but we know that Sam was in charge. So, for the last three years of the series, all we saw Rebecca do was walk around with a cigar box full of receipts, if that. Every so often, one of the characters would ask what Rebecca did around the bar, and no one would know how to respond. If they didn't know, how were we ever going to figure it out?

Why did Cliff wear white socks with everything? The short answer, I guess, is "because he was a dork who had no idea how to dress." But, come on... the guy would wear white socks with a suit! I even think he once wore them with a tuxedo! Of course, for extra funny, he'd always wear the cuffs of his pants at "flood" length, showing everyone a gleaming view of his sweat socks. But even the biggest loser knows that you don't wear white socks with a suit... am I right?

When did Frasier have any time to see patients? Remember, the Frasier Crane of Cheers was in private practice. And, instead of sipping sherry with Niles in his apartment every night, he hunkered down three stools over from Norm with either a beer or a scotch in hand. He seemed to be there only slightly less than Norm, and even more than other stool jockeys like Paul. So, here's the big question: when did he ever get time to see patients? And, when he did see them, weren't they dismayed by the scotch that was perpetually on his breath? Maybe Lilith was the one who made all the money in that household...

When did Cheers close? Think about it: it was a huge bar in the heart of downtown Boston. It more than likely closed at around two in the morning almost every single day (at least that was the way it was until recently in Boston, from what I've read and heard). We often saw Norm, Cliff, Frasier, and company stagger out of the bar after Sam or Coach or Woody told people that it was last call. So riddle me this: did these middle-aged men have such severe drinking problems that they stayed at a bar until two in the morning instead of going home to their families or, God forbid, getting some sleep before going to work the next day? I can barely last past midnight most nights I'm out, and I'm still in my thirties. It leads me to believe that Cheers closed at a more human hour of 11 or midnight, but that might have cost them a lot of business.

Any other mysteries you can think of? Let me know in the comments.

(UPDATE: Ken Levine has taken up the challenge and posted very funny answers to these mysteries on his blog.)

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On the episode "No Rest for the Woody" Sam asks Woody: "you're going to go work another job after you leave here at 2:30 in the morning?" So they closed around then apparently!

October 27 2011 at 2:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jonathan Gibson

What about the timeline of fraizer, in cheers his mother was a prominent psychiatrist. -In fraizer -she -was -dead?

In both shows was not his father dead?

May 10 2008 at 6:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Did they ever say what Norm's bar tab was and did he pay it?

April 12 2008 at 1:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the blond was probably a script writer or tech that was used as an extra, then agreed to appear regularly... some shows do this just to avoid hiring extras,
wouldn't you want to appear in an episode you helped write? perhaps Ken Levine could give us some insight...


April 11 2008 at 9:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I found her, but since only one episode, she didn't get a mention on IMDB

Miriam Flynn played Phillis Henshaw, in an episode called "Love Thy Neighbor", and was one of four women who were ultimately rejected by him, since he deep down loved Vera

April 11 2008 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I almost thought the gal who comforted Norm during an episode was Vera, but it was the wife of a friend, when they suspected Vera and the friend were having an affair
so they decided to have one too.... sorry , she would have made a good Vera...... I can't find the episode synopsis anywhere, and she isn't credited on IMDB either

anyone remember her??

April 11 2008 at 8:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How did Cheers survive? The bar was seldom crowded and cash almost never crossed the bar let alone the processing of credit cards. Did everyone run a tab? Also, did they really need two waitresses for a few tables? Did Sam, Woody, Coach and Rebecca work all the shifts, opening to closing? Did any customers use the pool room? It was always empty. Why did Sam need such a disproportionately large office (and washrooms) for such a small bar?

April 10 2008 at 6:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

On the Melville's/Cheers relationship:

The Bull & Finch pub on which Cheers was based had (and has) a fine dining establishment above it called the Hampshire House. The now-wife of one of my roommates was a hostess there. I always assumed that Melville's was based on the Hampshire House, although in real life the two establishments have the same owner.

April 10 2008 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Max Fry

There was one regular cast member on Cheers that never gets talked about that I have heard; and I have always been curious about her. There was a woman (blonde, middle-aged) who appeared briefly in nearly every episode, possibly every episode. She never spoke; but there always seemed to be a directive that she was to appear, however briefly, in every episode. Who was she? Why did they have her so reliably show up, when none of the other else did?

April 10 2008 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Max Fry's comment
Tim Jones

I know this thread is nearly four years old, but it's the only reference I've found to this woman. I've been curious about her for years--particularly when I discovered she's as ubiquitous on Frasier as she was on Cheers. Who the hell is she?

January 12 2012 at 12:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The characters weren't there to get "wasted". They were there to hang out. They'd sip their drinks and always seemed alert and in a good frame of mind.

Sam hated computers, and had brought Becks back on to maintain the bars finances. Plus in the fire ep, he mentioned his gratitude toward her for hiring *him* when he returned with nothing in '87.

Cheers closing times varied in spoken dialogue. Once it was 2:00, another time it was 2:30 (in an ep where Woody went to dig graves for extra $$).

"Vera" (or the actress that played her) was actually glimpsed in an early Halloween ep as another character whom Cliff had a crush on.

Everything else was a stretch for a joke's sake :). And even I can't stand being around my favorite friends for more than maybe once a month, hehe.

Yes, I'm a Cheers nut.

April 10 2008 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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