A place where everyone knows your name…

I’ve never been a big fan of Cheers. I’ve never hated it – after all, it’s silly to waste the energy hating a television show. But I really have to be honest here: I’ve just never liked it. Maybe I don’t like it because I don’t find any of the characters funny. Or maybe it’s because I think that the plots are unbelievable. Unbelievable because every time I’ve watched – which is, unfortunately several times too often, no one other than the regulars ever ventured into the bar. At this point, I can already hear a bunch of premature objections from my audience saying, “But that was the whole point of the show! Everyone knew each other!” And, I understand that objection. But I’d like to look at this rationally, which may be somewhat silly for a TV show, but when you think about it this way, any bar needs a regular stream of patrons to keep it afloat. When I watch Cheers, I never see a stream of patrons.

If it was just the absurd economics of the show that annoyed me, I probably wouldn’t even be writing these sentences right now. What really annoyed me was the total disconnected-ness of the characters from reality. The whole concept just never felt real to me. Watching Cheers to me was like watching a completely disconnected caricature of real life. One time, when I was in Boston, some friends of mine dragged me to the Cheers bar. The whole ride there, I was peppered with phrases such as: “You can’t/won’t believe how awesome this place is!” Perhaps because I was a predisposed, cranky critic when I arrived there, I felt completely underwhelmed. But, I went in with my closed mind and looked around. Within five minutes I had to leave, because I felt like my hand was about to punch through the plasterboard walls of the set.

Again, however, in all honesty, maybe I’m so hard on Cheers because I’ve been to some amazing dives. As a student in Oxford, our college had a pub that we frequented nightly, where between overflowing warm pints, we’d alternate between uber-competitive darts competitions and yelling at football at the television in our loudest drunkest voices. When I was living in Portland, there was this bar that let you bring your dog into the bar while you quaffed a variety of microbrews. And that’s just the top of my list. My point is that there are two things that make a good bar: the people, and the hazy memories you form there with those people. I guess if it came down to it, that was why I really never liked Cheers, because I felt that it didn’t capture those qualities.

Because of my perennial Cheers frustration, and my long mental list of favorite bars, I was naturally skeptical when a friend of mine kept urging me to go to his bar on Thursday nights. I wasn’t just skeptical about his bar; I was unconvinced, because, after all, it was Thursday night. One didn’t do just anything on Thursday night. I was always busy on Thursdays. I’d definitely eat dinner because that was a classic Thursday standard. Sometimes I’d even cook the food I ate. Then, there was television, a crucial and important thing to watch, with such enthralling shows as Book TV and some variant of the nightly news. I could also walk the dog, wash my hair, watch paint dry, or actually head out to some other bar, unless after all, I had to go to bed early.

But, I eventually ran out of lame excuses, and realized that I should go because the person asking wasn’t just any friend, he was one of my best friends. I had known him for years, back from elementary school and all the way past college. And, according to him, it wasn’t just any bar, it was also a pizzeria that had micro-brews and wheat crust pizza with the beer baked into the crust, and, if I was lucky, I might see some other people that I knew from the past. The last part was something I could do without, but after being asked to come for the twenty-seventh time, I stopped being anti-social, and decided to go check it out.