Regular readers of this blog may recall the times I’ve mentioned my obsession with US sitcom Cheers. Premiering on America’s NBC network in September 1982, Channel 4 first aired it in February 1983 (in those pre-internet days, US and UK seasons were months apart). I was hooked from the first episode. OK, I was obsessed. I videotaped every episode. I analysed every scene. I taped my VHS tapes onto cassette. I kept Cheers scrapbooks (I still have them). In short, I was a huge fan (especially of the Sam and Diane era). Not much gets past me when it comes to Cheers.
So imagine my shock when I tuned into digital channel FX’s re-run of episode Friends, Romans and Accountants only to find a completely different ending to the one I remember. I immediately dug out my season one DVD (purchased ages ago but never played) and, to my dismay, discovered that it also had the different ending. In order to verify that I wasn’t going mad, I spent the next few hours hunting down my old VHS version of that same episode taped way back in 1983. And there was the ending I remembered.
But why the change? What’s a Cheers fanatic to do but go straight to the source. I penned an e-mail to Ken Levine, the writer of that episode (we are not worthy!). And – get this – he wrote me back!
Hello Mr Levine,
Hope all is good with you. Greetings from a Cheers obsessive in the UK. I have a question that I hope you can answer.
Unfortunately, this episode penned by you, has become a victim of the times. I can guess why the original limbo music (the band’s version of Limbo Rock by Chubby Checker) has been replaced by that horrific muzak thing; guess Paramount wouldn’t stump up for the music rights.
What I can’t understand is why the ending has been changed. Originally, as Norm is being carried out the door, Sam says: "I feel sorry for next year’s host" (or something like that) and Norm’s toga gets stuck on the door and rips off him.
In the new version (on the DVDs and airing worldwide), Norm’s carried by his workmates and there’s a cutaway to a location shot of Boston at night – no last word from Sam. No toga rip.
I saw this ending for the first time yesterday on a digital channel and immediately dug out the season one DVD I’d purchased ages ago. Imagine my dismay when I realised I had the new version. I then spent hours hunting down my old VHS tape with the same episode. And there it was: last word from Sam and the toga rip. I’m at a loss. Do you have any idea why the ending is different? It’s really bugging me.
Wow. I’m going to have to do some investigating and see if I have my copy from the first season’s airing. Here’s what I recall — the original ending was supposed to be the toga catching but once we saw it on film no one was happy with the way it turned out. So the fallback ending was constructed. I thought we only aired the fallback ending. But maybe we did air the original once and when we had to take time out for syndication we went to the other. Interesting. As for the music —
Thanks and I’ll look into this.
Flippin’ ‘eck Tucker – Ken Levine! What a buzz! It probably sounds overly dramatic, but I break out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of not being able to enjoy Cheers as I remember it. To be fair, this also applies to the likes of Just Good Friends, Remington Steele and just about any other show I was nuts about at school.
Anyone fortunate enough to have taped, for example, Grange Hill, Only Fools and Horses and Beverly Hills 90210 on their first run (or in the case of Grange Hill, its BBC2 run) is very lucky. I know people that would pay a small fortune for the privilege of owning the unblemished versions.
One company got it right: Universal Studios forked out for the music rights when Miami Vice got its DVD release. I hold that up as the standard all should follow. Few do though. But don’t just take my word for it – read the comments and reviews on Amazon and you’ll see fellow obsessives mourning the loss of the original music and/or certain scenes.
Yes, videotapes are bulky, take up waaaaay too much space and getting tape stuck around the VCR heads is a nightmare, but I’m never getting rid of my old tapes. I’d rather watch my faves on worn, unsullied VHS tapes than brand-new, butchered DVDs. Non-obsessives may find that difficult to appreciate, but I am unrepentant. The moral of this story is: don’t throw away your old VHS collection – convert it to DVD.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – Good to see The Fixer back on ITV1. However, the actors playing Clinton and B didn’t convince me at all: RSC trying to do ‘street’ is the impression I got. Nicola Burley, the actress playing B’s girlfriend Savannah, put in a cringe-inducing performance that felt like an off-key impression of Matt Lucas’ Vicky Pollard.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – It’s hard being an Arsenal fan at times…
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