operation: cliff clavin

Season One, Episode Three - The Tortelli Tort

Written by Tom Reeder Directed by James Burrows
Original Air Date - 14th October 1982

First things first, I love this episode but if you’d have put a gun to my head and demanded I tell you what season it’s from, I’d have swore it was from the second at the absolute earliest.

It’s amazing that it’s the first episode centred around Carla Tortelli and her angry but awesome ways. It’s testament to Rhea Perlman and the character that James Burrows and the Charles Brothers created.

Before we really get on to Carla. I want to make mention of Fred, one of my favourite bit-part characters in the show’s whole run. Fred turns up at Cheers to buy a round for everybody in the bar because his sister has just died. It turns out that Fred, now an old man himself, has many older siblings and when each of them dies he gets a step closer to the riches that his parents left behind. It’s a completely throwaway joke but I love it.

Back to Carla. We see the first seeds being sown here for the long running rivalry between her and Diane - a on-screen feud that was allegedly made more realistic by the frosty off-screen relationship that Perlman and Shelley Long had.

Diane is the least of Carla’s worries this week though. With the Yankees having just beat the Red Sox and obnoxious Yankee fan who goes by the name of Eddy enters the bar and starts laying into Carla’s beloved Sox. Carla argues back but remains surprisingly cool. But then, when Eddy turns his attentions to Sam and his baseball career, things turn nasty. Nobody insults Mayday on Carla’s watch!

Carla pounces on Eddy’s back and attacks him until she’s dragged away. Eddy dusts himself down and makes Sam an ultimatum; fire Carla or he’ll sue Sam for everything he has. CHEERS IS IN DANGER!

Now, for most bartenders, this would probably a fairly easy decision. Fire a waitress or lose the bar? Tough one. But for good old Mayday, it’s a real dilemma. His lawyer wants him to fire Carla, Diane wants him to fire Carla and deep down I think even he knows that he should fire her but he just can’t do it. If you ignore all of the womanising then Sam really is a class act.

Sam makes a deal with Carla. He’ll let her keep her job if she attends anger management with a psychologist friend of Diane’s.

Three weeks pass and Sam invites Eddy back to the bar on Carla’s day off, hoping to trick him into dropping his lawsuit. However, things don’t quite go to plan when Carla turns up to introduce everybody to her shrink.

Just like before, Eddy starts laying into The Red Sox, The Bruins, Sam and just about everything else that Carla loves about Boston. This time though Carla stands there, keeps her cool and an infuriated Eddy ends up agreeing to drop the charges.

CHEERS IS SAVED! This is great news as I’m not sure I’d be quite as excited for the next 267 episodes with Eddy behind the bar.

This episode’s Normism:
Coach: How you doing Norm?
Norm: Cut the small talk and give me a beer.

Favourite joke: After Eddy’s rant at Carla the whole bar is celebrating before they’re interruped by a voice coming from the Pool Room wanting to know where their beer is. Without missing a beat Carla takes a beer from the bar and launches it down the corridor.

Final thoughts: This episode really is all about Carla. I know that she can be quite a divisive character, some can’t seem to take to her, but I love her and so, I love this episode. 8/10