One for the Road (Cheers)
|"One for the Road"|
Sam and Diane reunite and then part ways again after their flight is delayed.
|Episode no.||Season 11
|Directed by||James Burrows|
|Written by||Glen Charles
|Original air date||May 20, 1993|
"One for the Road" is the name of the final episode of the American television series Cheers. This episode serves as the 271st episode and the 25th episode of the eleventh season of Cheers. It first aired on NBC in Thursday, May 20, 1993, to an audience of approximately 42.4 million households in a 98 minute version, making it the second-highest-rated series finale of all time behind the series finale of M*A*S*H and the highest-rated episode of the 1992-1993 television season in the United States. The 98 minute version was re-shown on Sunday, May 23, 1993, and an edited 90 minute version aired on Thursday, August 19, 1993.
In this finale, Sam Malone reunites with his former on-off love interest, Diane Chambers, after six years of separation. When they rekindle, Sam and Diane decide to move out of Boston and leave everyone and everything behind, including his friends. They have second thoughts about their relationship and part ways again. After his separation from Diane, Sam celebrates his reunion with his friends at the bar. Meanwhile, other characters experience changes in their lives. Rebecca Howe elopes with her boyfriend Don and quits managing the bar. Woody Boyd becomes an elected councilman and gives Norm Peterson a job. Cliff Clavin gets a promotion from his postal office.
The television series Cheers follows the fortunes and inter-relationships of a group of Bostonians who meet regularly at "Cheers", their local bar. Sam Malone (Ted Danson), a ladies' man, former baseball player, and bartender, and Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), a college graduate student and cocktail waitress, had had on-and-off relationships throughout first five seasons of Cheers (1982–1987) until Diane left Boston to pursue a writing career in the Season Five finale, "I Do, Adieu" (1987), making it Shelley Long's last contract appearance as Diane Chambers. Six years after the Season Five finale, the storyline of Sam and Diane is resurfaced by the special guest appearance of Shelley Long and then concluded during the third part of this episode.
During season 11 before the finale, there are many transformations. Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson), another bartender at Cheers, is married to socialite Kelly Gaines (Jackie Swanson), expecting a child with her, and has been elected to the Boston City Council. Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) has gone through husbands and flings and is currently a single mother. Norm Peterson (George Wendt) is still currently semi-unemployed. Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) is still a postal carrier and living with his mother. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) and Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth) face marital problems, including Lilith's affair with another man. After her failed relationships with rich men in the past, in the preceding episode, "The Guy Can't Help It" (1993), Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), the manager of Cheers, and Don (Tom Berenger), a plumber, start dating each other. Meanwhile, Sam faces his sexual addiction and begins to attend group therapy.
Three hundred people attended the filming of the finale in Paramount Studios' Stage 25 in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 31, 1993, from 7:20pm to 2:15am. Due to Shelley Long's commitment to the CBS sitcom, Good Advice, the finale's bar scene ending was filmed without her on Wednesday, April 7, 1993, after the penultimate episode "The Guy Can't Help It" was completely filmed on the same day. However, the ending was concealed from the general public, especially the studio audience, until the original airing. Before her special guest appearance in this episode, Shelley Long's reprisal appearance as Diane Chambers was rumored in 1989 when she appeared with Ted Danson at the premiere of one of his movies, Cousins. A spokesperson for Paramount Television denied these rumors. Long appeared as herself for the 200th episode special in 1990, hosted by John McLaughlin, along with other surviving cast members at the time.
United States President Bill Clinton was invited to be part of this finale, but he declined the offer. Brandon Tartikoff, former executive of NBC and former chief of Paramount Studios, and Garry Trudeau, cartoonist of Doonesbury, appeared in the finale as uncredited bar extras. Bob Broder, agent for the show's creators, also appeared uncredited as the "man" at the bar ending, who was told by Sam Malone that the bar is closed.
This finale was massively promoted, including in the media, before the finale's initial airing. NBC executives expected a rating of 65 percent of total television households of 1993. Sources from Madison Avenue estimated a Nielsen rating of 33–40s and a share of 50–70; one expected a rating of 37–38 and a share of 60. Each 30-second commercial for the original broadcast cost $650,000; the total number of commercials that aired on the initial broadcast was 25 to 30.[note 1]
News programmes of NBC, such as Dateline NBC and Today, and NBC affiliates, such as of KNBC, discussed an upcoming airing of the finale, including on the day of the finale. KTLA, a Los Angeles station that re-ran Cheers, played a variation of the show's theme song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name", during re-runs for one week before the finale. Entertainment Tonight covered blooper reels of Cheers during the week. Ratings of episodes of Season 11 (1992–1993) were growing in the last several weeks prior to the finale.
In April 1–4, 1993, the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press (now Pew Research Center) surveyed 1,011 people on telephones. Sam Malone was voted a favorite of 26% and had 15% chance of a spin-off. Answering a question as to whom he should marry, 21% voted Diane Chambers, 19% voted Rebecca Howe, 48% voted Sam to stay single, and 12% had "no opinion" on this matter. Woody Boyd was voted a favorite of 18% and had 12% chance of a spin-off, and Norm Peterson was voted by 14% and had 10% chance of a spin-off.[note 2]
Newspapers, in ways, counted down the finale of Cheers. The Washington Post covered the background of Cheers. Philadelphia Inquirer assured the future of Cheers after the end of the first-run broadcast. Star Tribune published stories related to Cheers, including the following: local residents played trivia games that tribute to Cheers, including such characters as Cliff and Norm; the future of Sam Malone, a fictional character, was addressed with presumptions. Deseret News offered its readers to send their own fantasy endings of the finale (in 500 words or less) to the newspaper no later than May 3, 1993.
This episode ran for 98 minutes, including commercials, at its original broadcast. It reaired for and was trimmed down to 90 minutes in August 19, 1993. In syndicated and online reruns, this episode was split into three parts, but the DVD release has the original, uncut version.
Diane Chambers, making her first appearance on the series after six years, appears on television, accepting an outstanding award for writing a television movie, surprising Sam. At night, Diane calls Sam by the bar's phone number to thank him for the congratulatory telegram that he sent earlier. Then Sam invites Diane to return to Boston, and she accepts, though Sam is not convinced. The next day, Diane arrives with her "husband" Reed (Mark Harelik), surprising Sam. Sam tries to involve Rebecca as his pretend wife, but Rebecca ends up accepting the plumber Don Santry's (Tom Berenger)[note a] proposal in front of others. Then Reed's partner, Kevin (Anthony Heald), arrives to confront him for "cheating" on him with Diane. After both couples left the scene, Sam and Diane come into terms to each other about having no family of their own. Diane admits to Sam that she failed to return to him for six months as promised in the episode "I Do, Adieu" (1987). In fact, her manuscript was rejected by publishers but then became a television movie, prompting her to stay in Los Angeles for greater success in six years. As she prepares to leave the city again, Sam stops Diane and convinces her to have another chance with him again.
The following day, Woody is now a councilman and then gives Norm a city job, Cliff is promoted, and Rebecca marries Don but secretly regrets it. Sam and Diane walk in and announce their engagement, but his friends disapprove. Having enough of their disapprovals and of years without a family, Sam leaves the bar with Diane. In the plane, Sam and Diane begin to reconsider their decisions to be together again. As the flight is delayed and returning to the airport, the pair amicably decide to peacefully part ways. Diane goes to another plane for Los Angeles. Then Sam returns to Cheers to see his friends again. While Sam and his gang celebrate the reunion by smoking cigars, Rebecca happily announces that Don has a job at the sewer department and leaves in excitement with tickets to their honeymoon trip. When rest of the gang head home, Norm stays behind and admits that he knew that Sam would return to Boston for his "one true love", saying: "You'll always come back to her."[note b] After Norm leaves, Sam ponders these words and then turns all lights off.
- ^a Tom Berenger's character Don Santry first appeared in the previous episode, "The Guy Can't Help It". Also, Berenger previously appeared with Kirstie Alley in the 1988 film Shoot to Kill.
- ^b Time magazine implied the bar was Sam's true love, but Norm's comments are deemed by one TV critic as vague and ambiguous.
This episode aired on NBC on May 20, 1993, at 9:22 p.m. instead of 9:30 p.m., a regular time for Cheers, as the episode was scheduled to run 98 minutes.[note 3] The overall Nielsen rating was 45.5 (approximately 42.4 million households), 64 or 62 share, and amount of American viewership was either 80 million or 93 million.
The finale from 29 major markets resulted an overnight 46.7 Nielsen rating (22 million households) and 62 share. In the Los Angeles area, the finale scored a 44.5 rating from Los Angeles (KNBC). In the Minneapolis–St. Paul market (KARE), it scored a 54.8 rating and 72 share. In New York City (WNBC), it scored a 45.6 rating. In the Hartford–New Haven (WVIT) area, it scored a 48 rating and 63 share. In Boston (WBZ-TV), where the series was fictionally set, it scored a 54.1 rating.
The finale reran on Sunday, May 23, 1993, from 7:22pm to 9:00pm ET and received a Nielsen rating of 10.0; Cheers: Last Call! reran at 7:00pm and received 7.4 rating. The finale reran again on Thursday, August 19, 1993, in a 90-minute format from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and received 9.4 rating.
The retrospective, Cheers: Last Call!, hosted by Bob Costas, tributed 11 years of Cheers and aired on 9:00 p.m. before the 9:22 p.m. finale. It received an overall 39.6 rating (36.9 million households); the Los Angeles rating was 40.0.
Reviews of this episode at the time of its initial broadcast were mixed. John J. O'Connor from The New York Times called this episode "overly long and uncharacteristically labored" and considered the originally-broadcast length of this episode "a miscalculation." Nevertheless, O'Connor wrote, "Things didn't turn absolutely soppy, but nearly." Tony Scott from Daily Variety praised the writing, yet he found the finale "overly long" and the last 30 minutes "limping." John Carman from San Francisco Chronicle "liked the finale" and "was choked up at the end"; nevertheless, he found Shelley Long's special guest performance "disappointing" and "cute pills" past "expiration date." Ann Hodges from Houston Chronicle "found the conclusion fitting" but was not sad about the series's cancellation. One of readers' published letters from The Post-Standard pointed out this episode's omittance of Coach, one of original Cheers characters who died in 1985, and expressed disdain toward such omittance, even when the Geronimo picture was shown at the ending.
The reviews in later years drew more attention, mostly positive. In 1998, A. J. Jacobs from Entertainment Weekly graded this finale a B+, called it "a satisfying nightcap" and "sharply written by [Charles brothers]," and considers its final moments "classy as a flute of chilled Cristal." In 2006, Ron Geraci, author of the book The Bachelor Chronicles: A Dating Memoir, called it "raw and moving" and "significant." In 2007, Dalton Ross from Entertainment Weekly called it one of his "Five Best (pre-Sopranos) Series Finales." In 2007, Douglas Durden from Richmond Times-Dispatch named it her fifth most-favorite television finales of all-time. In 2009, the A.V. Club ranked it No. 3 in "10 American TV Series with Satisfying Endings" of the book Inventory. In 2010, Sharon Knolle from The Huffington Post was relieved to see final onscreen romance of Sam and Diane short-lived rather than concluded with marriage. In the same year, Oliver Miller from The Huffington Post was heartbroken by Sam and Diane's on-screen "absurd protracted double-gut-punch break-up" in this episode. Meanwhile, Claire Suddath from the Time magazine called it one of top ten "anticipated" finales ever. In 2011, the finale was ranked fifth on the TV Guide Network special, TV's Most Unforgettable Finales.
- Winner — Robert Bramwell — Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Series–Multi-Camera Production
- Nominated — Shelley Long — Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
- Nominated — Tom Berenger — Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
- Nominated — James Burrows — Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Comedy Series.
At the time before and after production of Cheers had ended, the whole cast of Cheers had moved on to other priorities in their careers. Shelley Long (Diane) appeared on CBS's then-newer show, Good Advice, before this episode and had resumed her work there. Ted Danson (Sam) appeared on Made in America, which opened in theatres soon after this episode aired. Kirstie Alley (Rebecca) participated in Look Who's Talking Now while it was filmed.
Woody Harrelson (Woody) appeared in Indecent Proposal, which also starred Demi Moore and Robert Redford and already hit theatres, and participated in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers while filmed. George Wendt (Norm) appeared in an off-Broadway play. John Ratzenberger (Cliff) appeared in Fox's newer show, Locals. Rhea Perlman (Carla) had been "taking a break" from acting for a while. Kelsey Grammer soon reprised his role as Frasier Crane in his spinoff Frasier, set in Seattle, Washington, with an addition to Frasier's job as a host of his new radio show and domestic life without Lilith Sternin and their son Frederick.
On the first airing of this series finale, more than five hundred people, including the whole cast of Cheers (except Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, and Bebe Neuwirth) and politicians like William M. Bulger and past State Governor William Weld, participated on the afternoon at the Beacon Street near the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston, Massachusetts, to celebrate the ending of this series. After the episode aired, the remaining cast appeared live on the East Coast (tape delay on the West) in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to be interviewed by Leno, set in the Pub. According to host Jay Leno, the cast was too intoxicated to be aware that they were interviewed onscreen.
In 1997, one copy of this episode's script was donated by George Wendt to the Handel and Haydn Society, an institution of music in Boston, Massachusetts. It contained the autographs of eight cast members, including of Shelley Long, Woody Harrelson, and George Wendt. On February 15, 1997, the script was stolen from the Four Seasons Hotel of Boston; meanwhile, the high bid was $1,000 before theft. About one week later, the stolen script in a manila envelope was left behind at a church; the Society then retrieved it. On March 1997, the autographed copy of the finale script was sold to the Bull and Finch Pub (now Cheers Beacon Hill) for $10,000.
- The March 5, 1993, edition of Reading Eagle reports: the budget of each 30-second commercial was estimated $600,000, according to NBC insiders. Later articles report, otherwise, that each was $650,000 estimate.
- The margin of error in the survey was ±3, according to sources.
- These are the times in the areas of Eastern and Pacific Time Zones. Of Central and Mountain, the finale aired at 8:22 p.m. instead of 8:30p.m., a regular time for Cheers.
- Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series 1993 went to David Clennon (Dream On). Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series 1993 went to Tracey Ullman (Love and War). Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Comedy Series went to Betty Thomas (Dream On)
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- "One for the Road." 1993. Cheers: The Final Season: The Eleventh Season. Paramount, 2009. DVD. This episode was split into three episodes in this DVD release.
- Cheers: The Final Season: The Eleventh Season. Paramount, 2009. DVD.
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- "Although television's Cheers closes tonight, real-life versions of the bar will go right on being second families to a lot of folks." Fort Worth Star-Telegram 20 May 1993. Print. (subscription required)
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Cheers (TV series)|
- One for the Road at the Internet Movie Database
- "One for the Road" at TV.com
- "One for the Road" at the Paley Center for Media