Cheers Chats #8: Bar Wars

Welcome back to Cheers Chats! It’s now been a full year since we fell in love with the Cheers pilot and realized that we’d need to turn this into something more long-term. We’ve made it through six seasons of adoration (usually) for Sam Malone Dream Man, bemusement at Diane, and love for our best boo, Carla. But things sure have changed since Season 5, so let’s look at what’s happening at our favorite Boston dive bar, c. 1988:

Episode 6.23: Bar Wars

Originally aired: March 31st, 1988

Previously on Cheers

We’ve fast forwarded through an entire season again, including Sam and Diane getting engaged (because Diane basically sued Sam and forced him to marry her) in season five. And then almost getting married. Literally about to say their I Dos when they don’t. Diane’s ex-fiance Sumner shows up again and tells her he gave her manuscript to a publisher and now she has the opportunity to really pursue her writing “career”. Sam insists she should follow her dreams and lets her go so she can focus on her book. IRL, Shelley Long wanted to focus on her movie “career” and also motherhood.

Sam decided to take a sabbatical of his own and sells Cheers and goes off on a boat trip. Months later, he returns to find Cheers has gone all corporate and the person running the place is Rebecca Howe, played by Kirstie Alley. And just like Woody replaced Coach, we see Rebecca replace Diane as the object of all of Sam’s advances. BTW, Sam gets a job as a bartender again.

Elsewhere, Carla gets engaged to professional hockey player Eddie LeBec, Frasier gets engaged to Lilith, Norm fluctuates between jobs, Cliff continues to strike out with the ladies, and Woody is still a small-town simpleton at heart.

Netflix synopsis

The gang celebrates their second anniversary of beating Gary’s Olde Town Tavern in bowling, but Gary reignites their war by stealing the trophy.

What Had Happened Was

The gang has had a bowling rivalry with Gary’s Old Town Tavern and their record is 173 to 1.  Whilst celebrating the anniversary of their first (and only) win, someone steals the trophy and breaks it in half. Now Cheers wants to get revenge.

Sam and Carla show up to Gary’s and it’s already jarring because as I think I mentioned earlier in the Cheers Chats series, most of these are bottle episodes aka they take place within the confine of Cheers, and nowhere else. Anytime we’re brought out of that setting, it feels odd to me. They’ve been doing it more over the past couple of seasons, but it’s still weird.

Not to mention, since the show focuses on the characters’ lives AT CHEERS, it’s always weird how they have to bring up a plot point that’s been “happening all along” (like having a bowling team) but that somehow hasn’t come up.

Sam and Carla obviously are there to get back at them, and pretend they’re giving a peace offering with champagne but it turns out they hand out trick glasses and everyone spills it down their shirts. This is not a good prank.

“You know what gets me about this, Malone? It’s how weenie this stunt was. This is the best you could come up with? I am embarrassed, all right. Not for me, but for you.” Gary, speaking the truth.

Al: Pretty weenie.

Sam: Now I’m humiliated.

Two “pest control” workers show up to Cheers saying someone reported rats and obviously it’s payback from Gary. Come on. You should always be on the lookout if you’re dealing with pranksters. It’s like if you’re working with George Clooney (as you do) don’t be surprised if he lists your real phone number on a billboard on Sunset. EVERYONE IS SUSPICIOUS (Until a real customer is a real customer and not a prank).

Like the guy who just came and left the bar after explaining his wife is at the hospital and just had a double by-pass.

More people than could have possibly been at Cheers flee the bar wearing tweed suits because of rats. It never really struck me as the sort of joint where the clientele was terrified of rodents?

“Wait till he finds the prune juice in his Kahlua.” “Yeah, what about the sneezing powder in the ventilation system, huh?” “Yeah, Gary’s messed around with the wrong guys.” Ugh you barflies are idiots.

What next, a fake ice cube with a plastic fly in their drinks? A handshake buzzer? These pranks are elementary at best.

Gary shows up and calls another truce, this time with Rebecca. He asks her out for coffee. Just say no.

Sam calls Gary a rat. More tweed people exit.

Rebecca’s office is now full of sheep.

Carla goes undercover and rigs the big screen at Gary’s, where a bunch of folks are gathered to watch some big boxing match. Instead, a video of Cliff and Norm reading poetry shows up and for some reason it reminds me of Christopher Walken’s The Continental sketch on SNL (brilliant behind-the-scenes footage of this!)

Remember that episode of Saved by the Bell featuring the annual prank war between Bayside and Valley? Yeah, that was better than this. 

The “largest big-screen tv in the greater Boston metropolitan area” that they’re watching the fight (/poetry) on is literally smaller than the TV in my living room. The future is now.

Gary says he’s sending over Red Sox player Wade Boggs and the Cheers crew doesn’t believe him. They ran Wade down and pants him. It was the real Wade Boggs. They all feel humiliated. Except now they have Wade Boggs’ pants. They are ok to settle with this.

Carla’s My Boo

Cold open: “Eddie’s never going to cheat!” cue Carla saying they’re seeing Fatal Attraction. I fear their marriage won’t end well.

“I told you we should have fixed his brakes.” Carla ‘DGAF’ Tortelli, re: a failed prank

I know we usually address this in our fashion section – and we will – but the late 80s are here and Carla has the outfits to prove it. Her sassy jacket looks like something a comedian would wear in their instagram as a joke, or a fashion blogger would wear in their instagram as a plea for attention.

Little Ditty ‘Bout Sam and Becky

Diane’s Gone Now But We Committed To This Mellencamp Thing

Rebecca: I’m gonna get him. I’m going to rip his head off.

Sam: Aw, but he’s so cute.

Rebecca: And then I’m going to tie him up, and I’m going to take a lighter, and I’m going to torch him from the tip of his toes to the top of his head.

Sam: How come you never do stuff like that to me?

Becky with the Good Hair

Rebecca’s hair is at max 1988 with all this crimped hair

“There is one thing you can beat Gary’s Olde Town Tavern at – maturity.” Everyone starts making farting noises and sticking on their tongues and Cliff even scratches at his armpits like a monkey. Honestly I am more Rebecca than anyone in this bar how does she put up with this?

Woody the Simpleton

Sam tells Norm he shouldn’t go beat up Gary, says he’d rather take Woody instead – Woody in his acid wash jeans can barely jump over bar. It’s pathetic.

“Hey I thought it smelled like home” SIMPLETON/COACH


The moments that made us literally laugh out loud

Carla: Yeah, I’d like to do something to Gary and make him really miserable.

Norm: Why don’t you marry him?

Sam: Cute?! You think Gary’s cute?

Rebecca: Yeah, he’s got a real cool face and a nice body. He looks kind of like an athlete.

Sam: Hey, what am I?

Woody: Jealous.

Say It Again, Sam

(Memorable lines from the episode. Not exclusively from Sam Malone.)

“Two years ago tonight, we waxed your heiny in bowling!” Sam on beating Gary + co. in bowling last year

“Hey Al! Why aren’t you at Cheers?” Carla

“Holy mackerel! This isn’t Cheers?” Old guy Al (previously convinced Woody’s dad to make him stay in Boston :08

“Oh, so you’re the manager. Finally something in this place worth looking at.” Gary meeting Rebecca. MEN. UGH.

“Why don’t we sleep in tomorrow and have eggs benedict?” Not actually funny, but this sounds like a very 1988 thing to do, doesn’t it?

Cheers Queries

Why has the transition music turned more rock? Because it’s 1988? -T (Note: before I saw Traci wrote this, I was scrolling to this section to ask what TF happened to the background music. It sounds like it’s from an off-brand 80s cartoon about a mouse trying to make it in New York City. -M)

About 80% of the patrons at Gary’s are men. And there are two female waitresses. What is this place? -T (THE WRITER’S ROOM OF CHEERS, BASICALLY. -M)

Did Cheers always use words like “weenie” or “heinie” like the baddest boy in Sr. Mary Alma’s 5th grade class in 1962? -M

Barfly Fashion

Cold open: Carla’s leopard shirt, panda bear jacket & bow WOW

Rebecca’s oversized rose jacket is what I think all businesswomen in the 1980s looked like.


Rebecca’s honeycomb jacket

Woody’s suspenders are v simpleton and also, he’s grown his hair out a bit. It’s not very nice.

Not pictured: Carla’s undercover outfit includes black ski mask.

Gary’s popped collar(s).  I get why they want to prank him.

Sam’s ENORMOUS POCKETS on his shirt. Each could fit a full mini-ipad or a few kittens old enough to be separated from their mother.

Final Thoughts

The rest of this series is going to be struggle bus. – T

I’d quit now if we hadn’t committed to this. -M

Next Up: We are basing our watch list off of AV Club’s 10 Episodes That Show How Cheers Stayed Great For 11 Seasons. We’re going chronologically, so stop by next month when we’ll discuss season seven, episode seven, How To Win Friends And Electrocute People.