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December 11, 2012

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Oz

I first saw this episode in 2011 and was shocked when Sam actually hit Diane in the face. Was the shock value less during the original airing? Have norms changed that much?

Robert David Sullivan

No, it was shocking in 1984. It certainly wasn't done on other sitcoms. But I think it was true to the characters and situation, and it's important that Diane sees the violence as a sign to leave Sam. It would have been uncomfortable, even offensive, to end the episode on a happy note after that.

I'm not sure that a broadcast network would allow this kind of scene today, but at the time NBC was desperate and giving a lot of leeway to prestige shows like "Cheers," which wasn't yet a big hit. I can see a show like "30 Rock" doing a more slapsticky and cartoonish version of the fight, but realistic comedies aren't very big now.

Guy Kipp

The A.V. Club's discussion of this episode mentions how Christopher Lloyd's line about "fondly remembering my bout with jaundice" didn't get one laugh from the audience, and Shelley Long saved it with a probable ad libbed chuckle.
I think the line didn't get a laugh because it came from an unfamiliar character. The same line, coming from a regular like Norm or Carla (which would be completely plausible) would be greeted with laughter.
As for the episode, there's no question it's powerful and unusually tense and dramatic for a series that rarely delved into pathos. But for me, "Cheers," which is, at worst, one of the three greatest sitcoms of all-time, would be better represented this high on the list by a funnier episode, like the Frasier/Sam Good Boy/Bad Boy episode, which might be the most uproarious half-hour the series ever produced.

Tim Norton


The brilliance, pathos and dark import of "I'll Be Seeing You" has never lost its power. Diane was always so sympathetic to me because she made every effort to fit in at the bar and as she once said, "No one here has made any effort to understand my sensibilities." The unrelenting abuse she took from Carla would be called a hostile workplace today.

The indifference she encountered left her refinement and education to rot and her battles with Sam made her literally draw Sam a picture through Semenko to be seen, appreciated and understood. She was desperate for basic emotional intimacy after her childhood loneliness drove her to her books. In "Endless Slumper", she jokes about going home to get into bed with "The Brothers Karamazov", a perfect metaphor for books not meeting her primary human needs.

The nose pulling and slap fight were comic and tragic but trained actors as Danson and Long were, there seemed to be real force to those blows. Maybe their off stage frustrations were being expatiated as well. The tension in that final long scene was executed perfectly and Shelley in particular was fascinating to watch as it unfolded.

I was left disgusted at Sam's willing propensity for violent intent and Diane left as the same island she had always been. She was a fish out of water but not for lack of trying to shake that label. Shelley Long infused Diane with a durable humanity that was only brought low when she and Sam resorted to violence. It was the finest work of Shelley's career. Mere words had finally failed Sam and Diane for good. Diane's later voluntary stint in a mental hospital was perhaps inevitable given what she had faced overall.

This was brave and historic television and it still moves me 30 plus years later. Glen and Less Charles have achieved a masterpiece.

Tim Norton

Obviously, I meant to write Glen Charles and Les Charles at the end of my other post. A typo should not mar their genius.

Robert David Sullivan

Thanks for your comments, Tim! I agree that the humanity Shelley Long brought to the role of Diane is what makes the early seasons of Cheers hold up so well 30 years later.

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