“You have to make some choices, some commitments, it’s called growing up” (“Strange Bedfellows: Part 3”).
I like watching Cheers because it reflects how I see my life. I identify myself with Sam, even though we are almost complete opposites. I’m not a retired relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, nor do I run a bar in the city. I’m a teacher that plays music in his spare time, and don’t care much for sports. However, Sam has qualities that identify him with every man. He is an exaggerated example of our cultural masculinity, he shows us how good-looking and successful men would behave during the eighties, and men still behave like this today.
Sam is promiscuous as hell. He hits on every pretty thing with two legs. He doesn’t care about their personalities or their smarts, at least, until he meets Diane. I also identify with Diane, she is a neurotic and brilliant university graduate, who doesn’t know what she’s doing half of the time. Sam hires Diane as his new bartender at Cheers despite her complete lack of experience. He hires Diane because he thinks she is physically attracted to him, and hopes to sleep with her. Sam has slept with many of his former employees, and always ends up breaking their hearts.
So, despite being polar “opposites,” with different perspective on relationships, Sam and Diane fall in love with each other. They engage in a classic “on-again and off-again” relationship. The whole “will they or won’t they” trope. Diane criticizes Sam’s exaggerated masculinity and Sam criticizes Diane’s romanticism. When they finally kindle their relationship, it falls apart, and sparks back when Cheers “jumps the shark”; Sam and Diane have a near-death experience in a small airplane. Their airplane pilot leaves the cockpit for shits and giggles, and pretends to be dead, leaving Sam and Diane to panic by struggling to fly the airplane. After this, Sam and Diane reflect on their lives, by thinking about the experiences they never had before dying. Sam tells Diane that one of his major regrets was never getting to marry her.
This declaration culminates in a passionate conversation between Sam and Diane, which is not consummated when Diane blows Sam’s advances off. She blows him off because she believes that a “night of passion” would ruin any chances of them developing a serious relationship. She doesn’t seem to remember that their romantic relationship developed after their first night of passion. This is Diane’s mistake, which I believe many women repeat in today’s society and culture. Women believe that men like Sam, who sleep around will only break their hearts. Reality is different, many guys are like Sam, they just want to have sex, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of creating a relationship out of sex. Sleeping with a person helps us develop deeper relationships with them, to spend time together in bed. Your partner might not turn out to be the “love of your life”, or even suitable for a long-term relationship, but you learn from them. Nights of passion are good.
So, Sam decides to start sleeping with other women, and Diane gets upset at him. Their feelings cause them to compete with each other by dating other people. Diane, a former psychiatric patient, becomes more neurotic than usual and starts to spy and ambush Sam. Even Woody, who is not the sharpest tool in the shed, observes how Diane’s behavior is crazy (11:42). Sam settles for an intelligent and good-looking congresswoman named Janet. Their relationship makes Sam change and behave like a different person (15:37). At a press conference, Sam starts talking about politics, which he is clueless about, instead of talking about baseball. Diane’s neurotic behavior culminates when she fires a water gun at Sam, disrupting the press conference. Janet breaks up with Sam because she recognizes that he still loves Diane. She’s the one who tells Sam that he needs to grow up.
So, Sam decides to propose to Diane in a romantic evening in a sailboat under the stars. After everything that has happened, after leading Sam on about wanting to get married, Diane rejects Sam’s proposal. “What if getting married was a knee-jerk reaction to losing her [Janet]?” (“The Proposal” 13:41). So, Sam dumps Diane in the ocean and abandons her in middle of the ocean. We can argue that this event seals their relationship’s fate. Diane’s neuroticism and overthinking and Sam’s promiscuity has cost them their future together.
So, why did I write about Cheers? I like Cheers because it acts as a surrogate for our own experiences. It helps us reflect on our own lives. It helps us experience this fleeting relationship between Sam and Diane as our own. It spoke volumes to me. When I heard Janet’s words to Sam, “you need to grow up” it was sacred to me. It was a message that arrived just as I was struggling thinking about my own future. There comes a time when we need to choose, when we need to commit to something. Our lives are not infinite, and if we fail to commit, we might end up like Sam. Happy on the outside, yet empty and alone inside. Failing to leave a lasting legacy in our world.