Brittas Empire #4: “Stop Thief!” (1.05, 07/02/1991)

A good lively edition, with a straightforward sitcom situation: Carole loses a fiver hidden in the baby’s cot, Brittas ridiculously overreacts, conflating this supposed crime with a series of trivial property losses. He annoys his team by closing the centre to deal with the matter, then alienates them by clumsily implying that one of the team is the thief (when we know that almost certainly isn’t the case) and in pedantically interrogating their actions around the time of the incident. His belief that in managing the matter this way will result in improved morale is contradicted by the actual results. He then sneakily and ham-fistedly attempts to catch the thief in the act (the views of the staff are made clear by their open knowledge and contempt of his behaviour).

The sub-plot is again about Brittas’ marriage and is nicely done: with her clandestine affair now over, a severely depressed Helen persuades her sceptical doctor to double her medication, by introducing him to Gordon. Overall, the plot is quite busy, the performances are ably lead by Chris Barrie and Pippa Heywood and the production does a good job in keeping things moving along.

The major flaws are the bladder-weakness humour directed around Colin, which is already quite tiresome and repetitive. In these early episodes, Colin is a stooge figure, with his embarrassing personal hygiene and his appearing to prop up Brittas’ schemes. Also the climax is poor, the second straight episode where the story is abruptly rounded off with a silly stunt.

Verdict 3/5.

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Cheers #3: “Any Friend of Diane’s” (#1.06, 04/11/82)

A very Sam/Diane focused episode: the only other action is a side-plot where Norm tries to impress his new boss, who is the only one who fails to notice his ineptitude at hiding his passion for drinking beer and slovenly behaviour. Coach has some funny interactions with the guest character (one of the joys of Cheers is how the unfeatured characters act as back-ups with the humour), Cliff starts to be developed, Carla doesn’t have much to do.

So, the plot this time is a friend of Diane’s who turns up after a recent separation, looking for some physical action on the rebound with a savage brute – Sam obliges. The twist is that Sam doesn’t go through with it, not out of honour but abject boredom with the woman’s pretentiousness. Diane is happily relieved. Then on finding that the friend is downcast enough by Sam’s rejection to consider going into a nunnery, she is forced into pretending that she and Sam are an item. The repartee between the pair begins: at the start, it is Diane who makes the first move (in farcical circumstances), which gives Sam the upper hand.

It’s a thin episode: Rebecca is not much of a character, a dry, dowdy girl of Diane’s type, with very little backstory (why she needs to go to Diane and then get laid is a lame plot device). Although her robotic, caustic personality is perhaps picked up and developed further down the line with the character of Lilith. It’s more about Sam and Diane (Danson and Long are great in their different ways) and moving them together.

Quotes

Coach: “How’s life treating you Norm?” / Norm: “He caught me in bed with his wife”

Diane: “You got angry because she considered you nothing more than a stud service” / Sam: “No, I like that”

Diane (on her attraction to Sam): “It does test the limits of human logic. Like you, I was getting bored with bright, articulate men”