Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: There was a special episode of “Cheers” made to help sell United States savings bonds.
One of the best things about our current era of popular culture is the sheer volume of content available to fans of TV shows and films. DVD collections and streaming services have made it easy to gain access to nearly any television series that you would like to check out. However, there still remains a bit of a treasure trove of material that has never been made publicly available since it aired (or, in some cases, since it was produced). For instance, the original “Big Bang Theory” pilot, with a much different (and sexually active) version of Sheldon Cooper in it, has never been made it on to any official release. Due to concerns over the racial stereotypes on the program, “Amos and Andy” will likely never be officially released for purchase by its IP owners. Some of these episodes, though, eventually end up getting released, like the infamous “R-Rated” episode of “Dexter’s Laboratory.”
In a whole other category, though, are the oddities that are the sitcom episodes made special for the United States government, including a “lost” episode of the classic sitcom, “Cheers”!
Read on to learn more about these episodes and to see the episode in question!
In 1935, legislation was passed to create a brand new form of security put out by the United States Treasury that would be called a savings bond. These debt securities would allow the government to, in effect, borrow money from their own citizens to pay for things. These bonds became very important a few years later when the United States joined into World War II, as these savings bonds became known as “War Bonds.” There was a great propaganda push to get citizens to purchase war bonds, including on the covers of popular comic book magazines of the era, like “Batman” and “Superman.”
After World War II ended, the government had to work a little harder to get people to buy these bonds (which are one of the safest investments out there, since they are backed by the United States government itself), as they no longer had the easy selling point of supporting the war effort. During the 1950s, then, the Cold War was used instead. In addition, while many celebrities endorsed war bonds during World War II, the early days of television worked perfectly as a propaganda tool for the government. So a number of popular television programs of the late 1950s/early 1960s made special episodes used to promote the purchase of savings bonds. These episodes would be shown at schools or at special civic assemblies. “Mr. Ed” and “Leave it to Beaver” both did special episodes for the government. One of the most infamous of these special episodes was a “Father Knows Best” episode (a full 30-minute film) where the show’s creator and star, Robert Young, depicted a scenario where the cast of the sitcom lived under despotic rule.
During President Ford’s time in the White House in the mid-1970s, there was a new influx of propaganda produced regarding savings bonds. Thus, a number of popular sitcoms of the late 1970s and early 1980s produced special episodes just like the aforementioned ones from the 1950s. TV shows like “Taxi”, “WKRP in Cincinnati” and “Benson” all did special episodes shilling for United States Savings Bonds.
One of the most famous, though, was this special episode of “Cheers,” dubbed “Uncle Sam Malone,” where the gang at Cheers convinces a skeptical Diane of how awesome savings bods are.
Never made officially available, the writer of the episode, Ralph Phillips (he also wrote the “Benson” one), recently posted the episode on Vimeo…
By the 1990s, sitcoms were still helping out, but just by making commercials for savings bonds (the cast of “Frasier” did one). Nowadays, paper bonds no longer exist, and the current low rate of return on modern digital-only bonds are so low that they are basically a thing of the past. But for many years, United States savings bonds played a major role in many American’s lives.
The legend is…
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