Why Was Cheers’ Classic Thanksgiving Episode Protested?

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: Cheers received protests over their famous Thanksgiving episode, “Thanksgiving Orphans.”

One of the all-time great episode of Cheers occurred in the fifth season of the series, Shelley Long’s final season on the show. Titled “Thanksgiving Orphans,” the episode was written by Cheri Eichen and Bill Steinkellner (they are married and Eichen now goes by Cheri Steinkellner, but I don’t know if they were married at the time that they wrote this episode together). The concept of the episode is that due to various events, pretty much all of the gang from Cheers are alone on Thanksgiving. Cliff’s mother is feeding the homeless, and Cliff wasn’t interested in doing that this year. Norm’s wife, Vera, was visiting her family and Norm did not want to go. Woody decided not to travel to Indiana to spend the holiday with his family. Sam’s girlfriend at the time had her sister in town and they didn’t want to spend the holiday with Sam’s friends. Carla’s kids were spending the holiday with her ex-husband, Nick, and his new wife, Loretta. Diane had been invited to a party by one of her professors, but discovered that he intended for his graduate students to work as servers at the party. Finally, Frasier was just plain lonely. So everyone joined together for dinner at Carla’s new home.

However, a screw-up with the turkey led to dinner being so late that all of the side dishes got cold and the guests all got heated. A little food was thrown and then suddenly, everyone was ready for a food fight when Diane walked in on them from the kitchen, where she had just been checking on the turkey…

She exhorts them to all calm down and it looks like she might be succeeding…when Sam suddenly hits her right in her face with some cranberry sauce and so the food fight began!

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Did the United States Government Create a Special Never-Broadcast Episode of Cheers?

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!
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Did Jay Thomas Get Fired From Cheers Because He Insulted His Co-Star Rhea Perlman?

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: Jay Thomas’s character on Cheers was killed off because he called Rhea Perlman ugly.

While obviously one of the most amazing things that can happen to an actor working in television is to be part of a show that turns out to be a major hit (look at the ways that, say, the cast of Friends went from an assortment of mostly no-names and “Hey, that’s the girl from the Bruce Springsteeen video!” to global superstars), there is something that is almost more amazing, which is to join one of these shows after it has become a hit and become accepted as part of the show’s DNA. It is very difficult to work your way into a hit TV show after it has become a hit. All the leads from Friends in its final season were the same as in their first season. Same with Seinfeld. A very notable exception to this rule was Cheers. The show, about a bar in Boston, lost one of its main characters after the third season when Nicholas Colasanto (who played the beloved old bartender “Coach”) passed away. He was replaced by a young hayseed bartender named Woody Boys, played by Woody Harrelson (amazingly enough, the character was named Woody before they cast Harrelson!), who improbably became even more popular than Coach! Even before Coach’s departure, the show had introduced a wrench into the show’s main romantic relationship between bar owner Sam Malone and uptight bar waitress Diane Chambers. Originally intended for just a short story arc as Diane’s new boyfriend, Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier Crane ended up sticking with the show for the rest of its run (plus eleven more seasons in his own spin-off series). Later, Bebe Neuwirth joined the cast as Frasier’s wife, Lilith. Finally, and most importantly, Kirstie Alley successfully replaced the female lead, Shelley Long (who played Diane) after season five. The show actually aired longer without its first female lead than it did with her, a remarkable achievement for any television show. So Cheers had clearly established itself as a series where notable characters could be added to the ensemble. That is exactly what it looked like what was going to happen with Jay Thomas’ character, Eddie LeBec, who joined the show in Season 5 as the boyfriend to Rhea Perlman’s character, the perpetually pregnant bar waitress Carla. In Season 6, they got married and it seemed like Thomas would be sticking around.

Instead, his character was killed off off screen in Season 8. As it turns out, it appears that Thomas’s own big mouth got himself kicked off of the show.

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Was Cheers a Fire Hazard?

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: Cheers was a fire hazard.

On November 28, 1942, the trendy Boston nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove, caught fire with a packed crowd inside of over 1,000 people (the club’s capacity was 460).

The club had recently expanded with an attached lounge (the Melody Lounge). The club was decked up in a Casablanca theme, so there were paper and cloth decorations hanging from the ceiling and paper palm trees everywhere. Around 10:30 PM, a busboy went to replace a missing/blown out light bulb and dropped the replacement. He lit a match to find the bulb on the dark floor, found the bulb, blew out the match and replaced the bulb. However, the match managed to set a nearby paper palm tree on fire. That lit up and quickly spread to the ceiling where it set other decorations on fire – soon the fire was feeding off of oxygen and spread through the club.

Decades later, a re-opened fire investigation determined that it was actually methyl chloride that had leaked from a faulty refrigerator in the Melody Lounge that had led to the fire spreading so quickly.

In any event, while the fire itself was deadly, easily HUNDREDS of lives could have been saved had it not been for the construction of the bar. The main entrance was a lone revolving door. As you might imagine, a lone revolving door is quickly rendered useless by hundreds of people charging at it. Other sidedoors were actually bolted shut to keep patrons from skipping out on their bill. A stained-glass window was boarded over. And the few doors that WERE open were doors that opened IN to the building, and again, when a large group of people are charging towards a door, a door that opens IN to a building is effectively useless.

The tragedy was horrific, and actually stole some headlines from World War II.

The owner of the bar was later arrested and convicted on 19 charges of involuntary manslaughter (19 random victims were chosen to represent the dead as a whole).

So what does this gruesome turn of events have to do with Cheers, you ask?

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