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The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
Season Five: 1986-87

SEASON ONE: 1982-83
SEASON TWO: 1983-84
SEASON FOUR: 1985-86
SEASON FIVE: 1986-87
SEASON SIX: 1987-88
SEASON NINE: 1990-91
SEASON TEN: 1991-92

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"Cheers" on Video or DVD


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 Tom Tenowich.

96 The Proposal    First Aired: September 25, 1986
Writers: Peter Casey, David Lee
Director: James Burrows

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 once again.

97 The Cape Cad    First Aired: October 2, 1986
Writers: Andy Cowan, David Williger
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Brenda Strong, William Garson, Don Perry, Sid Conrad, Kathryn White

Diane develops second thoughts about spurning Sam's marriage proposal after she discovers that he plans to spend a romantic weekend with another woman.

98 Money Dearest    First Aired: October 9, 1986
Writer: Janet Leahy
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Frances Sternhagen, Richard Erdman, Paul Willson, Tom Babson

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.

99 Abnormal Psychology    First Aired: October 16, 1986
Writer: Janet Leahy
Director:James Burrows
Guest Stars: Richard Herkert, Steve Giannelli, Alan Koss, Tim Cunningham

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."

100 House of Horrors with Formal Dining and Used Brick    First Aired: October 30, 1986
Writer: David Angell
Director: James Burrows

Carla discovers that the house she bought on Cliff's recommendation may be haunted.

101 Tan 'n Wash    First Aired: November 6, 1986
Writers: Cheri Eichen, Bill Steinkellner
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Paul Willson, Steve Giannelli

The Cheers gang seems headed for financial disaster after they invest in Norm's latest business venture, a combination coin-op laundry and tanning salon.

102 Young Doctor Weinstein    First Aired: November 13, 1986
Writer: Phoef Sutton
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Kristi Somers, Dennis Robertson, Barry Laws, Joseph Kell, Julian Barnes, Josh Clark, Paul Lukather, Melinda Cordell, J.J. Wall

In his desperation to impress Diane, Sam is reduced to impersonating a prominent surgeon in order to snag dinner reservations at an exclusive Boston restaurant.

103 Knights of the Scimitar    First Aired: November 20, 1986
Writer: Jeff Abugov
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: J. Eddie Peck, Stephen Vinovich, Bill DeLand

Cliff nominates Norm for membership in his lodge; and Sam is skeptical of Diane's claim that she's met a handsome new suitor.

104 Thanksgiving Orphans    First Aired: November 27, 1986
Writers: Cheri Eichen, Bill Steinkellner
Director: James Burrows

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.

105 Everyone Imitates Art    First Aired: December 4, 1986
Writer: Heide Perlman
Director: James Burrows
Guest Star: Michael Holden

Diane is sick with envy when a poetry journal that has repeatedly rejected her work agrees to publish Sam's first poem.

106 The Book of Samuel    First Aired: December 11, 1986
Writer: Phoef Sutton
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Amanda Wyss, Katherine McGrath, John Brace, Pamela Hedges, Barbara Chase, Steve Giannelli

Diane plots to make Woody's hometown sweetheart jealous after the fickle girlfriend arrives at Cheers with her new fiancé in tow.

107 Dance, Diane, Dance    First Aired: December 18, 1986
Writer: Jeff Abugov
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Marilyn Lightstone, Dan Gerrity

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.

108 Chambers v. Malone    First Aired: January 8, 1987
Writer: David Angell
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Tom Troupe, Tom Babson, Hugh Maguire, Glen Vernon, Michael Keys Hall

Sam winds up facing assault charges after Diane rejects his latest proposal of marriage.

109 Diamond Sam    First Aired: January 15, 1987
Writer: David Angell
Director: James Burrows
Guest Star: Al Rosen

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.

110 Spellbound    First Aired: January 22, 1987
Writer: Kimberly Hill
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Dan Hedaya, Jean Kasem

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.

111 Never Love a Goalie (Part 1)    First Aired: January 29, 1987
Writers: Ken Levine, David Isaacs
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Jay Thomas, Marc Arnott

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.

112 Never Love a Goalie (Part 2)     First Aired: February 5, 1987
Writers: Ken Levine, David Isaacs
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Jay Thomas, Brent Spiner, Suzanne Collins, William B. Jackson, Laura Waterbury, Linda Hoy

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.

113 One Last Fling    First Aired: February 12, 1987
Writers: Cheri Eichen, Bill Steinkellner
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Tim Holland, Peter Schreiner, Marc Arnott, Tim Cunningham, Steve Giannelli, Larry Harpel, Alan Koss, Hugh Maguire

Diane grants Sam twenty-four hours to sow the last of his wild oats as an unattached bachelor.

114 Dog Bites Cliff    First Aired: February 18, 1987
Writer: Joanne Pagliaro
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Anita Morris, Steve Giannelli

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.

115 Dinner at Eight-ish    First Aired: February 26, 1987
Writer: Phoef Sutton
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Al Rosen, Doris Grau, Zetta Whitlow

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 and conversation.

116 Simon Says    First Aired: March 5, 1987
Writers: Peter Casey, David Lee
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: John Cleese, Ray Underwood

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.

117 The Godfather, Part III    First Aired: March 19, 1987
Writers: Chris Cluess, Stuart Kreisman
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Cady McClain, Joe Colligan, Al Rosen

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.

118 Norm's First Hurrah    First Aired: March 26, 1987
Writers: Andy Cowan, David S. Williger
Director: Thomas Lofaro
Guest Stars: Tegan West, Neil Zevnik

Norm's extravagant descriptions of his new job fall under unexpectedly close scrutiny when the gang decides to pay him a surprise visit at work.

119 Cheers: The Motion Picture    First Aired: April 2, 1987
Writer: Phoef Sutton
Director: Tim Berry
Guest Stars: Doris Grau, Al Rosen

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.

120 A House is Not a Home    First Aired: April 30, 1987
Writer: Phoef Sutton
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Billie Bird, Douglas Seale, Stephanie Walski, Marc Smollin, Stefanie Mason, Lou Bonacki, Penny Krompier

Sam and Diane buy their dream house, only to discover that it comes already furnished with another couple's dreams.

121 I Do, Adieu    First Aired: May 7, 1987
Writers: Glen Charles, Les Charles
Director: James Burrows
Guest Stars: Michael McGuire, Walter Addison, Steve Giannelli

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."


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