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Thanksgiving Orphans-My Favorite Cheers Episode

Updated on December 28, 2011

When I think about Thanksgiving, I can't help but recall one of my favorite episodes of Cheers. "Thanksgiving Orphans" was an episode in Season 5 of the eleven seasons of Cheers. It is one of the very few episodes of Cheers that wasn't entirely shot in the bar. This time they venture out to Carla's house.

Thanksgiving Orphans Synopsis

The gang of Cheers realizes that no one really has plans for Thanksgiving except Diane. Diane had been invited to spend a pilgrim's Thanksgiving with one of her professors with a group of graduate students. Diane suggests the other join Carla in her new home. Carla agrees to a potluck dinner at her house and Norm is in charge of the very large turkey that later becomes known as Birdzilla.

Almost immediately things begin to unravel when Sam's date, Wendy ends up going out of town to spend Thanksgiving with her sister, Norm and his wife have the biggest fight of their marriage and he ends up coming to Carla's alone, the turkey is quite raw and needs hours of cook time, and Diane shows up after she found out she was only invited to her professors house to wait on guests at his party. With each hard luck story Woody insists that what matter is that they are all together and it's going to be the best Thanksgiving ever.

The gang spends the day watching football games and wrestling until the finally retreat to the table hoping the turkey has finally popped its popper. With the passage of more time and no turkey, everyone begins to get irritable. A simple pea that Norm flicks at Carla, starts a sequence of events that are most memorable to me. I don't want to spoil it, even if you've already seen it. Please drop down and either view the entire episode, or skip to the last segment and see what happens.

Cheers Trivia

  • Cheers is an American situation comedy (sitcom) television series that ran for eleven seasons from 1982 to 1993. The show takes place in a bar named "Cheers" in Boston, Massachusetts where a group of locals meet to drink and have fun.
  • The show was designed around a group of friends who interacted like family. They considered a hotel bar setting. Sites included California and Missouri. The bar idea was chosen after they decided it would allow for more introduction of characters who come in and out of the storyline.
  • Cheers is modeled after Bull and Finch Pub in Boston that they found in a phonebook. When the owner of the Bull & Finch pub was approached about shooting some initial exterior and interior shots he only charged them $1. He's gone on to make millions licensing the pub's image. It has since been renamed to Cheers Beacon Hill. The interior does not resemble the Cheersset. A nearby bar called Cheers Faneuil Hall is actually built as a replica of the interior of the set.
  • Cheers premiered September 30, 1982 and ended May 20, 1993 (11 seasons or 273 episodes)
  • It was nearly cancelled in its first season because it came in 77th in 77 shows but went on to be a Top 10 favorite in 8 out of the 11 seasons. It was even number one for one season.
  • Frasierstarring Kelsey Grammer is a spin-off of Cheers and everyone from Cheers appeared in the show at one time or another except for Kirstie Alley and the deceased Nicholas "Coach" Colasanto. Interestingly enough, it also ran for eleven seasons.
  • Sam "Mayday" Malone was originally intended to be a retired football player and to be played by Fred Dryer. Once Ted Danson was cast for the role it was switched to a baseball player because of his slim physique.

  • Cliff Clavin was created for John Ratzenberger after he auditioned for the role of Norm Peterson and asked if they planned to have a "bar know-it-all".

  • Karen Valentine was one of the original choices for the role of Diane Chambers.

  • Ted Danson, George Wendt and Rhea Perlman were the only actors to appear in every episode of the series.

  • Most episodes were shot before a live studio audience on Tuesday nights at the Paramount Stage 25.

  • The Tortellis was the first series to spin off from Cheers in 1987. It only lasted 13 episodes due to the protests received because of its stereotypical depictions of Italian Americans.

  • Host Marriott Corporation has over 46 Cheers themed bars in their hotel and airport lounges.

  • In 1997 Europe's first officially licensed Cheers bar opened in London's Regent's Street. Cheers London is an exact replica of the set.

  • When Shelley Long (Diane) and Rhea Perlman (Carla) both became pregnant in real life during the 1984-1985 season, Carla's pregnancy was written into the script, but Diane's was hidden by filming her primarily hidden behind the bar.

  • Norm Peterson's wife, Vera, was never shown. We came close to seeing her in this episode but she took a pie in the face before we could. (See video 3 below).

  • Ted Danson's decision to leave the show led to the cancellation of Cheers.

  • The silhouetted photo of Sam that hangs in the bar is actually a photo of Jim Lonborg, a Boston Red Sox pitcher in the 60s and early '70s. Lonborg wore #16 for the Red Sox. In one episode, Sam donates one of his jerseys, #16 to a PBS auction but ends up buying it back because no one bids on it.

  • Beginning in 1983 each episode had an announcement spoken by one of the cast that said "Cheers was filmed before a live studio audience".

  • The set was previously available for viewing at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum until it closed in 2006. There are plans to re-open a larger museum where it will once again be featured.

  • David Angell was a writer, story editor and producer for Cheers. He and his wife were killed on September 11, 2001. They were passengers on American Airlines flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles when it was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York City.

  • After Coach died, played by Nicholas Colasanta., the picture of Native American Geronimo that had hung in Colasanto's dressing room was put on the wall behind the bar. Colasanta had considered the photo a good luck charm.

  • Singer-songwriter Janis Ian was offered the role of Carla but turned it down for fear it would take seven years of her musical career. In a bit of irony, she was dropped by her recording label and it was seven years before she recorded and toured significantly again.

Cast of Cheers

Played by 
Other occupation
Part of the Cast from
Sam "Mayday" Malone 
Ted Danson 
Bartender/Owner of Cheers 
Former relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox
Carla Lozupone Tortelli LeBec 
Rhea Perlman 
Hillary Norman "Norm" Peterson 
George Wendt 
Accountant, interior decorator, house painter
Clifford C. "Cliff" Clavin, Jr.
John Ratzenberger
Ernie "Coach" Pantusso
Nicholas Colasanto
Assistant Bartender
Former baseball player and coach
Diane Chambers
Shelley Long
Author, graduate student
1982-1987. 1993
Dr. Frasier W. Crane
Kelsey Grammer
Woodrow Tiberius "Woody" Boyd
Woody Harrelson
Assistant Bartender
Author, politician
Dr. Lilith Sternin-Crane
Bebe Neuwirth
Rebecca Howe
Kirstie Alley
Businesswoman, superintendent

Cheers Thanksgiving Orphans


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