Cheers, The Comfort of Television, And The End of Act One

When you’re 18 years old, its hard to imagine that everything you’ve experienced so far is only the beginning of what’s to come, that the part you’ve lived is only the set up or introduction to your life story. For us, this is the climax. For months it’s all about goodbyes and finalities, last time doing this, last time seeing them. It seems as if the metaphorical movie of our lives is winding down, that the credits are about to roll, when in reality this is just act one…

In addition to trying my hand at amateur philosophy through entertainment metaphors, during my last few weeks in LA I’ve been binge watching Cheers on Netflix. Regarded as one of the most influential shows of all time, Cheers’ presence is still felt in today’s TV landscape. The show’s theme song is perhaps even more iconic than the show itself, though. It acts as a sort of thesis statement for the show, and possibly television in general. Inviting viewers to take some time away from the stress of the world and enjoy a drink with some old friends. It’s the type of song you can’t help but sing along to whenever you hear it.

Cheers takes place almost exclusively inside a bar, ever so creatively named Cheers. The show follows an ensemble cast of characters, who almost immediately feel like family to the viewer. For me, it only took around three episodes before I felt as comfortable and familiar with the Cheers gang as I have with any ensemble comedy. I was only a couple episodes in, but the show felt comforting, no matter what else was happening: sad goodbyes, parental panic, self doubt and stressing over fitting in, anxiety about making a home in a brand new place all the way across the country. As soon as I heard the familiar tune of the theme song, I couldn’t help but smile.

CheersCheers became my comfort food.

Comfort food only goes so far though, so as good as Cheers is (Really, really good. Just FYI), there’s no way of escaping the sadness of saying goodbye to close friends, to family, and the city that I’ve called home for 18 years. But today, as I was barreling through the second season of Cheers, hoping that my bags would magically pack themselves, I realized something: These characters’ homes weren’t their respective houses, it was Cheers. For the gang on the show, that bar is home and the people inside are family, and the reason I couldn’t help but smile while watching, was because for 24 minutes I felt as if I were a part of that family too.

The best sitcoms are like this. Characters become more than just actors on your TV screen, you get attached to them. Think about the cast of your favorite TV comedy, you know those characters like they’re your best friends. Whether it’s Michael Scott or Barney Stinson, Leslie Knope or Elaine Bennett, the best shows on TV are so good because viewers become emotionally attached to the characters. Even a show like Game Of Thrones, where almost every character is objectively ‘Evil’ or at the very least morally questionable, viewers still feel the pain of a character’s death, or the triumph of a rare victory as if they had a personal stake in the events taking place.

We as an audience grow with these characters over the years, we see Barney Stinson go from ultimate ladies man to caring boyfriend, we see Jim and Pam fall in love, and we feel as if we experienced these moments even though we only watched them happen on a screen. That’s what makes TV great.

jim and pam

People always ask my why I watch so much TV. I usually say something like “I actually don’t watch that much” or “TV is what I find interesting, I want to do something with it in the future” both of which are true, but they don’t capture it quite right.

I love Television because for a moment, however brief or long it may be, my life becomes secondary. All the stress of everyday existence: Homework, Relationships, Jobs, Money, Going away to college, all that goes away while I watch Cheers, or countless other shows like it. Television characters live in a stable world, no matter what is happening in our world, the show remains the same. Barney Stinson is always trying to add to The Playbook, Jim Halpert is always flashing looks to the camera, Ron Swanson will always be Ron F*#king Swanson.

So as my flight soars across the country tomorrow morning…

As friendships are tested…

As relationships end…

As new ones begin…

As I try and find a new home in a place where In ‘N Out doesn’t exist and Ya’ll is part of the common vocabulary, I won’t be scared.

I might be in a whole new state, I might not know anybody there, and I may not have a double double until Christmas (Admittedly, I am a little scared about this one, but the point remains), but there’s one thing that doesn’t change. No matter where I am, or how I’m feeling, or whatever the circumstances may be, I know that I can always go where everybody knows your name.

That’s why I love TV.

END OF ACT ONE.

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5 thoughts on “Cheers, The Comfort of Television, And The End of Act One

  1. Jaspar !

    A powerful piece young man! You are developing into quite a formidable writer.
    Good luck this Fall and keep looking forward to that Christmas Double Double! Now that I’ve read your work I’m eager to see how this second act develops.
    Mr. H

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