I LOVE LUCY
DICK VAN DYKE
MARY TYLER MOORE
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
Season Five: 1986-87
1986-87: THE FIFTH SEASON
Year-End Rating: 27.2 (3rd place)
After her fourth-season debut in the role of Frasier's flinty romantic
foil, Dr. Lilith Sternin, Bebe Neuwirth becomes a permanent fixture
at the bar in season five, which opens with Sam's ill-fated proposal
of marriage to Diane--and ends, not surprisingly, with Sam and Diane
more than a few steps shy of their proposed trip down the aisle. David
Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee are producers for year five, which
is co-produced by Tim Berry. Prominent members of the show's writing
staff for the season include executive script consultant Bob Ellison,
executive story consultants Cheri Eichen and Bill Steinkellner, story
editors Janet Leahy, Phoef Sutton, and Jeff Abugov, and creative consultant
The gang at Cheers tries to guess the identity of Sam's fiancée-to-be;
and the anxious bartender looks for the perfect spot to pop the question
Diane develops second thoughts about spurning Sam's marriage proposal
after she discovers that he plans to spend a romantic weekend with another
Hoping to find a quick end to his own financial woes, Cliff fixes his
mother up with a wealthy suitor.
Broadway star Frances Sternhagen logs the first of many appearances
in the role of Cliff's canny old mom, Esther Clavin. Though the actress
had by then appeared in a number of feature films--including a memorable
turn in 1981's Outland, which also featured John Ratzenberger
in a small role--Sternhagen's reputation rested primarily on her New
York stage work, which included starring roles in the Broadway productions
of On Golden Pond, Equus, and The Good Doctor,
among many others. According to Cheers producer Peter Casey,
the show's cast and creative staff were justifiably proud that Cheers
was so frequently able to attract actors of Sternhagen's stature to
its guest cast list. "The show was so well-respected," recalls Casey,
"that we found out we could get actors of an extremely high caliber
to play these parts when they'd come up." Indeed, in the show's later
years, Cheers casting director Jeff Greenberg would come to rely
increasingly on Broadway-trained actors such as Keene Curtis, Harvey
Fierstein, Marilyn Cooper, and Sada Thompson to fill the show's constant
demand for solid guest stars and supporting players.
Frasier is distraught to discover that his opponent on a TV debate
is to be none other than Dr. Lilith Sternin, an overbearing colleague
whom he once dated.
According to producer Peter Casey, the addition of Bebe Neuwirth to
the show's regular cast was a foregone conclusion from the moment the
actress walked on stage for a short scene in the fourth-year episode
"Second Time Around." "I don't think her scene was more than two or
three pages," notes Casey, recalling Neuwirth's earliest appearance
in the role of Dr. Lilith Sternin. "But she and Frasier were just funny
right off the bat. Her deadpan delivery of everything in this sort of
emotionless analytic tone was just perfect. So we brought her back for
this second episode, which was also very funny. And by that time we
knew we really had something going there."
Carla discovers that the house she bought on Cliff's recommendation
may be haunted.
The Cheers gang seems headed for financial disaster after they invest
in Norm's latest business venture, a combination coin-op laundry and
In his desperation to impress Diane, Sam is reduced to impersonating
a prominent surgeon in order to snag dinner reservations at an exclusive
Cliff nominates Norm for membership in his lodge; and Sam is skeptical
of Diane's claim that she's met a handsome new suitor.
Norm's skill in the culinary arts proves somewhat lacking when he's
pressed into service as chef at the gang's ill-fated Thanksgiving feast.
Diane is sick with envy when a poetry journal that has repeatedly rejected
her work agrees to publish Sam's first poem.
Diane plots to make Woody's hometown sweetheart jealous after the fickle
girlfriend arrives at Cheers with her new fiancé in tow.
Frasier's efforts to shield Diane from her ballet teacher's criticism
backfire when the deluded barmaid decides to quit her job and pursue
a full-time career as a dancer.
Sam winds up facing assault charges after Diane rejects his latest
proposal of marriage.
Sam assumes that he's saved a bundle when he buys a cut-rate copy of
the engagement ring that Diane's had her eye on, though he soon discovers
that the cheaper bauble was no bargain.
Carla referees a marital dispute between her ex-husband and his wife,
Loretta, who's decided that she's ready to dump the philandering Lothario
once and for all.
When it was first broadcast, "Spellbound" was intended to serve as
an unofficial introduction to The Tortellis, a short-lived Cheers
spinoff that premiered in the time slot immediately following this episode's
original network airing. But in spite of the auspicious circumstances
surrounding its launch, The Tortellis soon proved a disappointment
to all involved, and the series was quickly canceled--with few regrets--at
the end of a single half-season on the air.
Carla falls for the star goalie of the Boston Bruins hockey team; and
Diane serves jury duty in a murder trial.
Los Angeles radio personality Jay Thomas joins the cast in the recurring
role of hockey star Eddie LeBec, who would continue to make occasional
appearances on the show through the end of the seventh season. A few
years later, Thomas would land a starring role on Love & War,
which would premiere on CBS in the fall of 1992.
Superstitious Carla is convinced that she's the cause of Eddie's losing
streak; and the defendant in Diane's murder trial pays a visit to Cheers.
The defendant in Diane's murder trial is played by Brent Spiner, who
would soon discover far greater celebrity in the role of Lieutenant
Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which would
premiere in first-run syndication in October, 1987.
Diane grants Sam twenty-four hours to sow the last of his wild oats
as an unattached bachelor.
Cliff thinks twice about suing the attractive owner of a dog that took
a nip at him; and Diane prepares to spend a week of quiet meditation
at a Buddhist monastery.
Frasier and Lilith celebrate their first week of successful cohabitation
by inviting Sam and Diane to join them for an ill-fated evening of dinner
Diane is only too eager to seek prenuptial advice from an eminent marriage
counselor, until he reveals his prognosis for her future life with Sam.
According to producer Peter Casey, who co-wrote "Simon Says" with
his partner, David Lee, former Monty Python mainstay John Cleese created
quite a stir in the show's executive offices when he made it known that
he was interested in appearing on an episode of Cheers. "Glen
and Les and Jimmy were huge fans of Fawlty Towers," explains
Casey, "so they were thrilled to have him on the show." The episode,
which was tailor-made to suit the considerable comic abilities of its
guest star, is thought by many to be among the show's very best. "It
was one of my all-time favorites," admits Casey. "We all really enjoyed
that one." And apparently, the show's creative staff wasn't alone in
their positive assessment of the episode--the following September, the
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences would voice their approval by
awarding Cleese an Emmy Award for his performance in this episode.
Sam is certain that he's entrusted his goddaughter to a perfect gentleman
when he allows Woody to take her out on the town--a decision he soon
comes to regret.
Norm's extravagant descriptions of his new job fall under unexpectedly
close scrutiny when the gang decides to pay him a surprise visit at
The gang shoots an improbably upbeat home movie of Woody's life at
Cheers as a sop to the barman's skeptical small-town parents.
Sam and Diane buy their dream house, only to discover that it comes
already furnished with another couple's dreams.
Sam and Diane's matrimonial plans are foiled by the eleventh-hour return
of Diane's old beau, Dr. Sumner Sloan, who arrives with a tempting proposition
for his former student.
Buoyed by the positive reception to her breakthrough performance opposite
Bette Midler in the 1987 feature Outrageous Fortune, Shelley
Long made the decision to leave her role on Cheers at the close
of show's fifth season, a move that was designed to allow the actress
more time to devote to her burgeoning big-screen career. In response,
the show's writers crafted this fifth-year closer, which features the
return of Diane's one-time mentor, Sumner Sloan, who arrives to tempt
the barmaid away with the promise of a book contract. And so, it is
not with a bang but a whimper that Diane Chambers finally abandons the
security of that charmed circle where everybody knows her name, ready
at last to face the grand challenges that she imagines await her beyond
the bar's swinging doors.
It was an extremely clever exit premise, not least because it left
the door open just wide enough to justify Diane's return should the
show's producers ever want--or need--to bring the character back. And,
according to producer Peter Casey, the inevitability of Diane's return
in the series's final episode was an all but foregone conclusion in
the minds of executive producers Jim Burrows and Glen and Les Charles.
"I think they did want to leave that door open," recalls Casey, "if
only because they were far-sighted enough to know that when they finally
did wrap the show, they knew they were going to want to wrap things
up with Diane, too."