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Cheers—The Complete Seventh Season (TV)

(1988) *** 1/2 Unrated
532 min. NBC. Director: Peter Greenaway. Cast: Bob Peck, Joanne Whalley, John Gielgud.

Cheers's seventh season begins with Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) still fragile over the loss of Evan Drake (Tom Skerritt). In "How to Recede in Business," Rebecca loses face and clout at Cheers, the Boston bar where "everybody knows your name." Alley's at her best when facing misery; her bipolar toggling between bone-dry depression and manic hysteria qualify her as the modern Lucy, with physical abandon to match. Alley's fans will want to take special note of "Norm, Is That You?" in which Alley is the butt of unseemly fat jokes that anticipate her Fat Actress activism.

This is a typical season of Cheers, which is to say "excellent." The writing staff had, by this time, long since mastered its setup-punchline rhythms and developmental character situations. Cheers continued to experiment with parody and farce to great effect. The classic Cliff Clavin episode "Please Mr. Postman" plays out like a wartime romantic melodrama, with Cliff the (postal) serviceman learning the joy of sex with a new love (Annie Golden) and a tragic parting of ways. The previous episode, "Adventures in Housesitting," enacts a wacky doggie farce, with two identical attack dogs (one named Satan) making the gang crazy and leading to a hilarious exchange ("Satan's in the kitchen with Sheridan!" "This is no time for folk singing!") and season closer "The Visiting Lecher" cleverly inverts the traditional farcical resolution.

Season Seven also includes "Bar Wars: II: The Woodman Strikes Back," a twisty sequel to Season Six's "Bar Wars." Continuing the feud with Gary's Olde Town Tavern, Sam attempts to win a Bloody Mary contest at all costs (Joel Polis guest stars as Gary). Another standout episode is "Jumping Jerks," with its memorable setpiece of Cliff undergoing portable electroshock therapy. "Hot Rocks" hilariously moves the Sam-Rebecca flirtation forward.

Jackie Swanson makes her first appearances as debutante Kelly Gaines, Woody's long-term love interest; these episodes explore a fruitful clash of classes and "The Gift of the Woodi" includes the dim-bulb barkeep's "Kelly" song. Jay Thomas pops back up as Carla's hubby Eddie LeBec, and two respected public figures make cameos: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr. ("Hot Rocks") as himself and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen ("Call Me Irresponsible") as a delivery man. And look for Desperate Housewives' Marcia Cross as Rebecca's sister Susan ("Sisterly Love"). All in all, it's another impeccably performed season of top-notch sitcom comedy.

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Aspect ratios: 1.33:1 Full Screen

Number of discs: 4

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

Street date: 11/15/2005

Distributor: Paramount Home Video

Paramount's no-frills season-set of Cheers lacks any extras, other than previews for The Oprah Winfrey Show—20th Anniversary Collection, The Brady Bunch—The Complete Fourth Season, Charmed—The Complete Third Season, MacGyver—The Complete Fourth Season, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off—The Bueller...Bueller...Edition. Still, the episodes look and sound as good as ever, and the final season—when it arrives—will no doubt serve up some nice bonus materials.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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