Most television casts evolve over time and, when you look back on a long-running show you might forget which characters were the originals. Can you imagine Cheers with no Frasier, no Woody, and no Lillith? In watching the pilot, 30 years old this season, you might be surprised to recall there were essentially only six characters: Sam, Diane, Coach, Carla, Norm and Cliff

The pilot, as you might assume, centers on Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long) and their first meeting. It’s your basic Welcome Episode, where a new member is introduced to an existing group. It’s horribly contrived and implausible, but sometimes that’s how pilots go, and it doesn’t mean that a good show can’t unfold. First there’s a pointless cold open, where an underage kid shows up in the empty bar and tries to order a drink with a phony military ID. All we learn from this is that Sam isn’t completely gullible. Continue reading