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July 29, 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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JosieWhales

2:30 am was announced as a closing time as others mentioned, but the actual day was never referenced. I always found it "odd" a postal worker would be up until 2:30 am. I know the mail sorters have to go in at like 3:00 am as a buddy's mom was one and was never up later than 6-7 PM. Granted actual mail delivers don't have to be there that early, but figure 6-7 AM.

Also, since the actual days were basically never mentioned, the show could have taken place every Saturday for all the viewer knows.

"Norm, Cliff, and eventually Fraiser, Paul", were high functioning alcoholics. Although they were almost never shown totally inebriated, given the amount of beer actually consumed (they used near beer in the show IIRC) by all of them, that's at the high end of an alcoholic's ability and would allow them to not sound totally wasted.

"Fraiser", like most counselors, psychiatrists, etc. usually stop seeing patients at 5 PM. So the times you see him, it could conceivably be 6pm or later and a weekend day.

"Cliff" was a stereotypical dork with an overbearing mother, and they dropped subtle hints (like Freudian slip joke where he says "mom") it might have bordered on inappropriate at times. I however missed when the mom moved back? They wrote her out mid series but she was back when they brought the love interest in (the girl that kept going to Canada). He also mimicked the mom's behavior with the trivia garbage, though it might seem the mom was less of a BS'r as "Cliff" was. Anyways, he wasn't what you'd call "well-adjusted", and it can be inferred he never actually lost his virginity, unless the Canadian chick was being truthful. Couldn't tell if they were making a joke about him blacking out off 2 wine coolers (wine coolers were thought of to be a "woman's" drink back then like Zima was vs. "beer" being a "man's" drink) or if she was lying to be nice. Basically he wasn't overly aware of social norms, hence always being in his uniform and white socks.

Rebecca was hired back out of pity, and to keep track of finances since "Sam" didn't understand how computers worked while lamenting about how "easy" it used to be to just write everything down once he got the bar back. She also planned/handled events like when they were trying to compete with "Gary's" TV commercials and went and hired "Fraiser" alumni John Mahoney from the agency as the $200 jingle writer that came up with a spin on "Old Mac Donald had a farm" misspelling "Chers".

I always wished they'd included "Vera" for a little extra comic relief. In fact, I'm surprised they didn't as it could have been used to great comic effect having her come in and drag "Norm" out or "hunt" him down, etc. I also found it odd they later portrayed her as some big mean ball-buster despite the Thanksgiving episode showing was slender, and only a really mouse of a woman would/could tolerate a husband like that.

May 20 2015 at 6:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JosieWhales's comment
JosieWhales

I also wanted to mention I'm surprised "Sam" wasn't shown falling off the wagon numerous times. He was apparently a bad enough drunk it cost him his pitching career, so you'd think it could have been explored more or shown him in a relapse, though that might have been too serious of a tone to tackle and might have cast a shadow over the regulars constantly drinking, so maybe they decided to ignore it. Since he was originally seen as such a womanizer, which Danson apparently wanted downplayed as he got older as he felt it was wrong for a 45 year old to be chasing like that ("Sam" mentions in the later seasons how he's changed).

A mystery you missed was if they opened at say noon or even 2 PM, everyone was working 12-14 hour shifts if they were still there at 2:30 AM. I'd argue having 2 bartenders and 2 waitresses (early on) would be OK per shift, but not for 12-14 hours or longer. It could also be assumed most scenes took place later, after dinner hours, so it'd be "quieter" with just casual after work crowds vs. more people at peak times.

May 20 2015 at 6:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
e-RoK

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
bob

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
dean

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...

please??

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

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
dean

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
mickey

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
Mike

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

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