Cheers - Season one Review

Sam Malone (Danson) a recovering alcoholic baseball player has invested in a bar (not the smartest of moves if you ask me!) and with the help of diverse members of staff, fill the glasses of the regulars that drop in as they exchange witty comments about drink, work and love (in that order).

Despite narrowly escaping cancellation in its first season, Cheers became NBC's biggest success of the eighties running for over a decade and even spawning an spin-off in the shape of Frasier. Though technically a situation comedy, the creators managed to mix in soap opera elements whilst keeping it relatively tongue-in-cheek. It remains that it was the ongoing on/off relationship between failed baseball star Sam and Diane (Shelley Long) that kept the series afloat for the first few seasons with the first season using it as the end of season finale.

The first season is a little hit-and-miss with the writer's trying to come to terms with the characters. Unsurpisingly Frasier, Woody and many other iconic characters were added later on the series, probably in part to add some spice to the cast. Strangely, social comment seems to be taboo despite most regulars coming from diametrically opposed social classes - though it comes to the fore in some episodes, such as Diane's attempt to educate the bar about the joys of Wagner's Ring Cycle, the writer's don't have the confidence to do anything more than an easy joke about the masses appreciation of high art (i.e. it sucks).

To be fair, despite some severe shortfalls, the first season is quite watchable 20 years on - of course, many jokes would not be deemed politically correct these days and the general pacing of the program seems quite slow compared to the likes of Frasier or Will and Grace but, at the same time, it's nice to see that there is a market for nostalgia and hopefully we'll be seeing more Cheers boxsets in the near future.

The following episodes are featured on the DVDs:
Give Me a Ring Sometime
Sam's Women
The Tortelli Tort
Sam at Eleven
Coach's Daughter
Any Friend of Diane's
Friends, Romans, Accountants
Truce or Consequences
Coach Returns to Action
Endless Slumper
One for the Book
The Spy Who Came in for a Cold One
Now Pitching, Sam Malone
Let Me Count the Ways
Father Knows Last
The Boys in the Bar
Dianes Perfect Date
No Contest
Pick a Con, Any Con
Someone Single, Someone Blue
Showdown Part 1 and 2

The DVD:
We sadly only received two out of the four discs but, if we manage to get the rest of them, we'll be updating the review accordingly.

The image:
Thanks to having been shot on film, the image is much sharper that I would have expected. The colours seem to have been well balanced and artifacting is minimal. That said, the image does retain a certain lack of contrast in certain scenes but I expect that's part of the original material's flaw.

The sound:
Though this was billed as stereo, I didn't notice much use of stereo effects but the soundtrack is clean and crisp though you can sometimes notice some difference in levels (possibly due to overdubs) but that's a pretty minor issue.

The extras:
First up we have a recent interview of Ted Danson (7 mins) who is very nice about the other members of the cast especially Shelley Long who according to him was the reason he got hired to play Sam. To illustrate anything he says about each cast member, they have edited in an excerpt from the series which starts out as a nice touch but rapidly becomes annoying.

We get three themed compilations of clips from the series - this is basically an edited together "greatest hits" of Sam and Diane's confrontations, Norman's opening comments and Coach's best moments - a rather bizarre feature which seems to be a stipend for sitcoms on DVDs - I doubt anyone will watch it more than once.

Finally, there's a 15 question long quiz about Cheers - annoyingly the DVD takes a few seconds to access each answer, making it into a rather long winded process. If you get it wrong, a clip from the series will tell you so; if you get it right, you get shown a clip of where that information is imparted. Worth a one-off try too I suppose.

Generally speaking, the image and sound are very good considering the age of the series and, though not the best season, the boxset is very reasonably priced when compared to the likes of Will and Grace and should be worthwhile picking up for a trip down memory lane.

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