Cheers” shut its door with a too-long finale made up of three half-hour segs seamlessly joined to outline the future of some principals, accept what’s sure to happen to others and conclude that 11-year offbeat fandango — with six years off for bizarre behavior — between Diane and Sam. Final program, written adroitly by Glen Charles and Les Charles, directed by James Burrows, creators of the enormously successful series, danced wittily and gracefully away.
The Boston bar’s habitues gathered per usual. Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) was tied up in matrimonial confusion with plumber Don (Tom Berenger), and Woody (Woody Harrelson), married and elected to the Boston City Council, had new responsibilities. Even Norm (George Wendt) found himself with a city job thanks to his new council connection.
Carla (Rhea Perlman), Cliff (John Ratzenberger) and Frazier (Kelsey Grammer) prepared for their futures, and the reappearance after six years of Diane (Shelley Long) had its threatening aspects for Sam (Ted Danson) et al; the results, after a dangerous stretch, were settling.
The writing, despite the taxing length — there’s good reason why sitcoms are only a half-hour long — reached happily back to those days of the comedy’s top form. Perlman’s Carla was less harsh, Alley’s Rebecca assumed a broader, more sympathetic but funnier aspect, and scenes between Sam and Diane were insightful and often charming.
The overly long format began limping in the last half hour as the walls closed in and the bar regulars sat around philosophizing.
A quick turn by Harry Anderson’s Harry the Hat conman would have helped the windup.
The cast was uniformly in top form under Burrows’ astute direction. “Cheers”‘ went out with high humor, dignity, and sentiment as it settled accounts.
Viewers are not only losing a popular Thursday habit but TV becomes the poorer because another quality show has emptied its glass. Stature in the humor department becomes even more threatened.
When he thought Cheers was closing down permanently, Norm called out, “What’s going to happen to us?” As for viewers, it’s only too clear.