Reviews

Cheers: The Complete Eighth Season

The classic Woody one-liner doesn't further a plot, but it does reaffirm his earnest oddness.


Cheers

Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Ted Danson, Kirstie Alley, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, Rhea Perlman
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: NBC
First date: 1989
US Release Date: 2006-06-13
Last date: 1990
Website
Amazon

The eighth season of Cheers features the third of the "Bar Wars" episodes. Like dueling college fraternities, the Cheers gang battles Gary the Olde Towne Tavern owner in a series of juvenile pranks. Sam (Ted Danson) remembers the year Gary filled the Cheers stairwell with potatoes and nearly crushed poor Woody (Woody Harrelson), seated on the bottom step tying his shoe. "It's lucky you were there to dig me out," Woody says. "I'd hate to be the second member of my family to be buried alive under potatoes."

This is a classic Woody one-liner. While it doesn't further a plot, it reaffirms his earnest oddness. Like barflies Norm (George Wendt) and Cliff (John Ratzenberger), he serves mostly as background for the series, distracting from the arcing storylines. This season, such distraction is particularly welcome, as the love triangle concerning Sam, Rebecca (Kirstie Alley), and her new rich boyfriend, Robin (Roger Rees), is so disappointing.

Sam and Rebecca don't muster the sort of sparks he shared with Diane (Shelley Long). Again, he's the playboy with a heart, while Rebecca dreams of marrying rich. The more Rebecca whines that Robin doesn't spend enough time with her, and the more Sam tries to make her believe he loves her, even as he's bed-hopping all over the place, the less we care about either of them.

Sam's interest in Rebecca is intermittent. In "Sam and the Professor", it's off, because he's tempted by Rebecca's former teacher and idol, Alice Volkman (Alexis Smith). When they end up in bed together, Rebecca is upset at both parties -- Sam for refusing to say no to any willing woman, and Alice for her lack of judgment. Now Rebecca has to rethink her longstanding hero worship. The fact that she appears to have no affection for Sam might affect your reaction when he tells her in a later episode that he's "better" for her than Robin. In fact, both Sam and Robin are unable to commit when it comes to women and sex.

While Sam is plainly shallow and selfish, Rebecca is just dimensionless. She suffers from "low self-esteem", so that even when Robin cheats on her, she stays with him. Robin tells her he is seeing another woman; she stays with him. Robin buys the other woman a house, tells Rebecca she is in competition with this other woman for his affections, and implicates her in an insider trading scam; still Rebecca stays with him. The repetition is tedious and worse, unfunny.

When Sam finally confronts Rebecca to profess his love, we can't imagine why. She never gives us a reason to think he might. Even after psychiatrist Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) offers her some free advice (specifically, she's "grabbing at straws"), she can't see beyond her obsession with Robin, or more to the point, with a slice of the prominence pie with Robin.

We're not the only ones who find it hard to care whether Rebecca ever gets on with her life. In "Cry Hard", she complains that a message on her answering machine from Robin must mean he's about to break up with her. Woody observes that if the message was left from Concorde airplane, then Robin should have arrived in Boston before Rebecca received the message (speed of sound and all that). Woody, Cliff, and Norm proceed to debate Einstein's theories and airwave speed. "I'm in pain!", Rebecca squeals over their chatter. They ignore her and continue their discussion, which is, thankfully, quite hilarious.

After eight seasons, the first five also featuring a "will they or won't they" arc, such straight-up comedy is welcome. We've already endured highs and lows, at least those that can take place in a bar. Still, the show turns to contrived "drama", including the off-screen death of Carla's (Rhea Perlman) husband Eddie (played in previous seasons by Jay Thomas). Only problem is, Carla's suffering, like Rebecca's, is used for laughs: first, she learns Eddie was a polygamist, then, that left her with a hefty life insurance policy. For a few episodes, she plays grieving or greedy widow, or simply pours the drinks and makes her patented bitchy comments.

Carla's dead husband, along with Sam and Rebecca's tryst and a new baby for Frasier and Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth), typify the show's wrongheaded efforts to seem revitalized. In some cases, it just doesn't work. It's hard to believe Frasier's excitement over his newborn son when he still spends night after night with his drinking buddies. To expand on such plots, the show would need to step outside the bar. But then it wouldn't be Cheers, would it?

5

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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