Retro Recaps: Cheers (Season 11, Episode 21) – Woody Gets an Election
Sometimes, we need a group of “lovable losers” in order to make the slings and arrows of life, a little less painful.
In 1982, NBC first aired the sitcom Cheers, about a Boston watering hole, and it’s eclectic clientele.
Though a ‘loser’ in the ratings it’s first few years, the NBC television network nurtured and supported the sitcom. As the years went by, it became one of their top-rated, and most-watched shows. However, as the show moved from the 80’s into the 90’s, it began to show it’s age.
Finally, it was decreed in 1992, that the show’s 11th season, would be it’s last.
NBC made a big deal about this in the Spring of 1993, counting down the 5 final episodes.
Today, we’ll recap the first episode in that countdown, that ended up putting one of the Cheers gang, into public office.
After a small intro where Cliff Claven (Jon Ratzenberger) and Norm Peterson (George Wendt) meet former child actor George McFarland (who played Spanky on the original Little Rascals series), the main story begins.
Distrcit 3 City Councilman Kevin Fogerty (Philip Baker Hall) stops by Cheers, as part of his re-election campaign. This year, Fogerty has no challengers for his position, but still tries to talk it up with the common people.
As Fogerty gives a small speech before some local news cameras, Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) remarks how Fogerty is just spouting more “meaningless platitudes,” and the people “lap it up like milk.”
Sam Malone (Ted Danson) claims that Frasier is being ridiculous, but Frasier confronts Fogerty, and tries to get him to give valid reasons for why he should vote for him.
Sensing an audience around him, Fogerty counters Frasier’s comments, claiming that maybe people need to stop blaming City Hall for a lot of their own ills.
“Well, people,” says Kevin, his voice building in intensity, “I say now is the time to start looking in the mirror. Because, if this thing is going to work, we are all going to have to make it work. The way a bunch of people made something work at Lexington and Concord. You may remember it. It’s called: America!”
The speech brings raucous applause from many in the bar, but as Fogarty exits, Frasier is in shock at what just happened.
“BUT HE DIDN’T, ‘SAY ANYTHING!'” he angrily blusters.
Frasier than goes on a small tirade, claiming the voters of Boston are ‘sheep,’ and that when it comes to elections, ‘people just shut off their brains.’
When Sam claims that Frasier is just overreacting, Frasier proposes a bet: put their bartender/friend Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson) on the ballot for District 3 City Councilman, and see if he can get at least 10% of the eligible vote.
Sam decides to take the wager, though the only one who isn’t so sure about the whole thing, is Woody, even though his wife Kelly (Jackie Swanson) claims she would be proud if he won.
“Kelly, I’m not gonna get mixed up in politics, “claims Woody. “You live your life in a fishbowl, everybody hates you, the press is always criticizing you. There’s no way I’m running for public office.”
All right, Mr.Stubborn,” says Kelly, heading for the door. “From now on, you can dance naked in front of the lava lamp all by your lonesome.”
“Well, maybe just one term,” he calls after her.
Shortly afterwards, Frasier gets Woody’s name on the ballot, simply petitioning outside a supermarket. Most had no idea who Woody is, but quickly signed when Frasier claimed that Woody was “a man who stands for The American Way.”
Soon, a reporter from the Boston Herald (played by Peri Gilpin) comes by to interview Woody, about where he stands on local issues. Woody honestly claims he is just a farm boy, and the reporter assumes this is his ‘hook,’ metaphorically telling ‘the big city slickers to clean up the barn.’
“Well, it’s kind of a cornball message, but you just might be the kind of guy who can sell that stuff,” says the reporter, leaving Woody to wonder why she didn’t want to talk to him about politics.
Some time later, the interview is published, painting Woody in a favorable light. Frasier also happily reports that Woody’s poll numbers, have jumped to 8%.
Sam accepts defeat and agrees they can end the wager, but suddenly, Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) requests they turn on the news. Apparently, Kevin Fogarty was just arrested for public drunkenness!
Seeing that such a thing could damage Fogarty’s reputation, it is then that the gang at Cheers decide to forget about the bet, and try to actually get Woody elected for real!
Several of the Cheers gang begin phone canvassing out of the bar, trying to get more people to warm up to Woody (with Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) willing to use some less-than-subtle tactics to turn some voter’s opinions).
Eventually, the poll numbers show Woody pulling way ahead of Fogerty, who soon comes by to have a few candid words with Woody, and tell how he’s looking forward to their upcoming debate.
Woody gets a little unnerved, and confesses to Frasier about having to state his opinions on live television.
“Nothing to worry about, Woody,” says Frasier. “Just tell some more of those farm stories, people seem to love those. If that doesn’t work, just say the word ‘change’ about a hundred times.”
Frasier eagerly grabs his coat, and rushes Woody out the door to go over some things for the debate. As they go out the door, Frasier continues to verbally ‘think big’ about what the future could hold for Woody.
“With my brains and your smile, who knows how high we can go: Congressman, Senator…who knows?”
The camera then cuts to the inauguration of a new US President, and we see Woody being sworn in…however, it takes him a few tries to properly recite the oath of office.
The scene then cuts to sometime later, with Woody sitting in the Oval Office, angrily talking on the phone.
“Oh yeah?” he yells into the receiver. “Well I’m calling your bluff. I’m firing my missiles too. All of em!”
Slamming down the phone, his wife Kelly asks who he was talking to.
“How the hell should I know? The phone rings, I answer it.”
We then see a radioactive mushroom cloud bloom, before Frasier wakes up in a cold sweat! Apparently, it was all a nightmare.
Rushing back to Cheers, Frasier finds Woody reading through the Constitution, in case he decides to run for “Congreff” (Frasier corrects Woody, who assumed the colonial S’s in the Constitution, looked like f’s).
Frasier doesn’t tell of his dream, but tries to deter Woody, claiming that the path they have embarked on is wrong.
“Listen, the right to vote, it’s far too sacred to cheapen by some, vain psychological experiment,” lectures Frasier. “I mean, your winning an election without knowing anything at all about politics, it would just make a mockery of the entire Democratic Process!”
Woody does take Frasier’s advice, and that evening on the debate, he attempts to resign from the race. However, he suddenly breaks down in tears, growing emotional about the whole thing.
Seeing him an emotional wreck, his wife Kelly rushes onto the stage and comforts Woody, and ends up changing his mind (and probably winning him the admiration of some voters), when she suddenly reveals she’s pregnant!
Later on that evening, the final tally comes in, and Woody ends up becoming his district’s City Councilman.
After many in the bar congratulate him, Woody sees Frasier sitting in a corner, and thanks him for what has happened, claiming that Frasier is “directly responsible.”
“Noone can prove that,” says Frasier, apprehensively.
“I know you don’t have a lot of faith in me, Dr Crane,” says Woody, “but I’m gonna prove you wrong. I’m gonna study hard on all the issues, and I’m gonna be a great City Councilman, and maybe this is just the first rung on a very long ladder, and you’re the man who made it happen.”
As Woody walks away, Frasier’s eyes take on a look of dread, remembering his nuclear-fueled nightmare from the other day.
Season 11 was definitely one of big changes, as the show began it’s plans to ‘close up shop,’ and Woody’s election to the District 3 City Council in Boston was one of them.
The storyline of Woody becoming a Councilman would weave it’s way through the next four episodes, with Carla Tortelli soon being considered for Woody’s replacement role as bartender at Cheers.
What’s also interesting about the casting for this episode, is that one of the minor players, who even gets a few seconds of talking with Kelsey Grammar’s Frasier Crane, would be working with Grammar full-time over the next 11 years!
Peri Gilpin was cast as the reporter who interviews Woody, and later on that fall, she would become a regular on the show Frasier, as Frasier Crane’s radio show producer, Roz Doyle.
Over it’s lifespan, Cheers was never shy about bringing certain Political figures in for a minor guest-spot.
Most notable was in Season 2, where in an opening bit, Norm and Cliff run into a guy they assume is a local newscaster, but turns out to actually be State Senator, John Kerry.
Of course, in Woody gets an Election, we also find out that Cliff has a rather unconventional ‘stalker-like’ tendency, to know as much as possible about some of the local politicians.
This is revealed when one of Fogerty’s security detail reminds Cliff that he needs to stay at least 50 ft away from Kevin.
In the following episode (titled, It’s Lonely on the Top), when Woody questions what a City Councilman’s day entails, Cliff gives a blow-by-blow of what Fogerty does in the morning.
“…years from now, they’re going to ask me, ‘why didn’t I see the signs?'” Frasier says to himself.
In the final episode of Cheers (titled, One for the Road), Woody’s swearing in for City Councilman took place (off-screen). We also got to see Frasier once again expressing some guilt over what had happened (“Oh, yes, the beginning of your political career. It started out as a small joke and turned into an enormous one.”), though he did attempt to help, when Woody couldn’t think of what to put down for his speech.
Once the ceremony is over, Frasier has a few words with Woody’s wife, Kelly. However, her socialite upbringing shows that she isn’t as knowledgeable about the public on certain things.
“You know, the city of Boston has lots of problems,” she tells Frasier. “I can’t imagine what they might be, but I know Woody is the man to solve them.”
She also makes mention how they need to make the city safe for their future child to be driven to private school.
“An inspiring thought,” says Frasier, biting his tongue.
After Cheers ended and the show Frasier began, the showrunners snuck in a few cameos and guest appearances from some of Frasier Crane’s old bar pals.
In Season 6 of the series, Woody ended up visiting Frasier in Seattle. Not much was said regarding his time as city councilman, but it was clarified that he had returned to working at Cheers.
The episode also served as a closer, as both Frasier and Woody realized that their lives had taken them down different paths, and they didn’t quite see eye-to-eye on certain things, as they once had.
Fittingly, the final scene between the two, was having a toast, with their final words being: “Cheers!”