What's on tap for 'Cheers' finale? Parting is sweeter with details kept mum, insiders say

May 20, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

After weeks and months of "Cheers" stories, one littl question seems to have been left unanswered: What's going to actually happen during tonight's finale?

There have been lots of rumors, such as President Clinton doing a cameo with his saxophone or Sam and Diane doing the I-do thing with each other.

There is a reason why the media -- which can tell you what William Casey allegedly said on his deathbed about covert CIA activities -- hasn't been able to nail down all the details of the plot. Actually, there are two reasons: Glen and Les Charles, the creators and guardians of "Cheers."

They have not sent out preview videotapes to their dear friends in the press and they have done a pretty good job of keeping the final script under wraps -- except for the part that the National Enquirer got its hands on.

"Even though there are no huge surprises or twists, one thing we wanted to do was to let viewers see it without knowning every step and every line of dialogue," Les Charles said. "I think people would enjoy the show more if they didn't know exactly what is going to happen."

They are right.

So, it's enough to know that Diane (Shelley Long) does return as a successful screenwriter who has used Carla's (Rhea Perlman) life as fodder for her script. Diane and Sam (Ted Danson) get back together, in a manner of speaking. Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) has to deal with a proposal from a plumber (Tom Berenger). And Woody (Woody Harrelson), the city councilman, finds a job for Norm (George Wendt).

No, Clinton does not appear tonight. Instead of Clinton, there's a cameo by former Chicago Bears coach and beer commercial star Mike Ditka. Remember, "Cheers" was inspired -- in the minds of NBC executives anyway -- by the Miller Lite Beer commercials, not Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first 100 days.

One other thing to know is that the Charles brothers were against the two-hour extravaganza viewers will see starting at 9 tonight on WMAR (Channel 2). They thought the finale should remain in the half-hour form viewers have come to love. But NBC said that if the producers didn't give them a long version, they'd create their own out of clips. "Better us than letting them" was the creators' thinking.

And why was NBC so insistent about two hours?

Because, in the end, every TV show is about money in one way or another. And NBC and its affiliates will make four times as much with two hours of "Cheers" as it would have with only 30 minutes.

And we are talking about lots of money. Thirty-seconds of commercial time tonight on NBC is going for $650,000, second only to the Super Bowl. And that's if you bought early and are a regular NBC customer.

In Baltimore, 30-seconds of commercial time during tonight's episode of "Cheers" sold for about $12,000, four times the normal rate. That means Channel 2 is going to make more than $100,000 tonight for being an NBC affiliate.

No one is going to miss "Cheers" more than NBC and its affiliates.

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