Cheers #4: “Friends, Romans, Accountants” (#1.07, 11/11/82)

The main joke in this episode is that Norm organizes a debauched toga party for his colleagues, a very large bunch of accountants. On the night everyone (apart from Norm who is alone in sporting a toga) stands around like corpses dressed in three piece suits. The shock and humour of this is quite laboured and the episode flattens out and drags, leavened by Norm’s self-deprecations and Sam & Diane’s bitching. Situations where dullness is used for comic effect sometimes work well (“The Reunion Party”, “Entertaining Father Stone”), this isn’t brilliant.

Furthermore, the moment where Norm’s boss begins to sexually assault Diane is quite disturbing. Diane has only accepted Norm’s initial proposition as a date with an attractive male (but a very unpleasant figure with regard to the humour of the episode). It’s a very awkward scenario to realise (but an example of Cheers’ laidback view of sexual mores).

Not a favourite, but the opening’s OK, with the customary peppy dialogue. And it presents an important part of Norm’s characterisation in exaggerated fashion, in that to make his living he has to operate in a cold, sterile, sanctimonious workplace, where he is obliged to fit it and suck up to his bosses – the punchline is that his (now former) colleagues react with joy to him when they learn that he has physically restrained the boss and been fired in consequence. Norm’s working life is the flip side to his life in Cheers and fuels his weariness and cynicism.