The Only Good in Sullivan & Sons
I have new favorite personal test. I go to TBS. Begin to watch Sullivan & Son and see how long it takes me to turn it off and fire up the Netflix to watch Cheers. Tonight I stumbled upon it gleefully around 12:02 and the Cheers theme song come on at 12:05. And this despite on of my favorite bad TV moves: using a The State alum as an ancillary character. In this case, a former deadbeat Aunt turned bookmaker Kerry Kenny. (Trivia: Did you know her Dad was the voice of Lion-O. That’s some fucking genes man.) She was delightful for 150 seconds.
The good in all this is that, in comparing the two, I’ve really begun to realize just how good Cheers was. In full disclosure, I’m from Boston and a man of my mid-30’s so growing up I pretty much took Cheers for granted like the toilet flushing. I watched most the early episodes on daily syndication before Red Sox games and the “Everyone Knows Your Name” theme song is as comforting to me as my Dad’s old flannel. But that doesnt mean that Sullivan & Son isn’t a bright chaotic mess.
It’s supposed to be the story of Steve Byrnes, an Irish-Korean comedian (playing a lawyer) who goes back to Pittsburgh and buys his parents bar. But instead its a show about the maybe 15 different patrons who spurt punchlines best found on radio show that end in …and The Coooz. But there’s no Steve. There’s no voice at all. He’s lost among the chatter of a litany of characters all shouting for lines. Steve’s voice ends up merely adding quiet exposition now and then. But at least he’s not Dan Lauria. The great Dad of all Dads Dan Lauria, the grumbled man sack from Wonder Years just wasting away, smiling like an oaf in the background randomly and making a sound whenever the writers forget that he’s in the show.
Cheers always knew what it was about. It was always Sam Malone’s bar. Ted Danson gets one of the few A+’s for TV leading men. Whether he was after Diane or Rebecca, everyone was there to support the tit and tat and yet somehow no joke was a throwaway, no character was just filling a bar stool. What show can replace TWO major characters in the middle of its run and keep going as if nothing had happened? It had Sam.
Instead of fighting the confines of the bar and stuffing it full of faces we can’t remember, they thrived in it. Manning the bar with guys you’d want to hang out with. There’s a reason the Bull & Finch pub still does extraordinary business as the “Cheers” bar. Everyone over the age of 30 still want to go there and be a regular. I can’t say the same for Sullivan’s. Did I mention that the entire show was filmed in basically one room for 271 episodes? It’s actually surprising they don’t try and remake Cheers every year. Think of how much money hand over fist they must have been making.
So Sullivan & Son will not be the last.