Was 1st Year Cheers' Cliff Smart?

When I first watched Cheers I thought Cliff was depicted as an annoying know-it-all, but not neccesarily stupid; i.e., he would come up with obscure non-sequitor factoids. Later it seemed that Cliff was depicted as a fool and his facts were always wrong. Did other prople feel this as well, or was Cliff always a dumb-ass?

My earliest memories of Cliff were that he was a dumb-ass, although I’d have to see some of the early episodes to tell.

I think my first recollection of him was when he told Diane he drank cold beer in the winter because it lowered the body temperature making you more comfortable in a cold environment.

Of course, that episode may have been a later one.

Funny story. John Ratzenbereger actually auditioned for the role of “Norm” (George Wendt). After his audition, he asked the producers “does your bar have a know-it-all?”
“What do you mean?” they asked.
“Well, every bar I’ve ever been in, there’s always some guy who knows everything. Every obscure fact you could imagine”…
He then launched into an on-the-spot improv and the Cliff Claven character was born.

Like all good actors, John adapted and changed his character over time. He started out a lot more normal, just as a wealth of useless knowledge. As the show wore on, he became more outlandish and his theories got stranger.

This isn’t new though, it happens all the time. Go back and look at “Joey” in Friends’ season 1 vs. “Joey” today. Homer Simpson is another. In season 1, he’s a well-meaning, caring father who just wants to provide for his family. By season-whatever-we’re-in-now he’s a bumbling idiot.

The first bit I remember Cliff in was the argument over the sweatiest movie ever made. (I think Dianne’s fiancee, Sumner Sloane, broke the deadlock by suggesting Ben Hur.) I don’t remember Cliff as either smart or dumb – just a walking, talking database of facts. For all he knew, they could have been right or wrong.

In later episodes, Cliff evolved into kind of a dork, but I don’t think that was a reversal of the original character.

Another thing about Cliff in the first year was his radically different (from later seasons) accent. Ratzenberger got better at it as the years went on. To hear him say Dianne as “Doy-ann” in an attempt to sound Bostonian in the first season is really funny.

And it can’t really be said that he always, in later years, got his facts wrong. He did really well on Jeopardy, after all (until the final answer, that is).

Still the greatest sitcom ever, in my opinion.

As I remember it, originally Cliff’s facts were accurate. It wasn’t until later on that they became glurge.

As the show wore on, he became more outlandish and his theories got stranger.This isn’t new though, it happens all the time. Go back and look at “Joey” in Friends’ season 1 vs. “Joey” today.


Yeah, I didn’t realize how common this phenomenon is with popular sitcom characters. Personally, I always marveled at the evolution of George Costanza throughout the show’s run. Do you remember him in that sickeningly tepid first season? He was so wormy and inoffensive then! By the end, he’d turned into a fucking lunatic.

Here’s an interesting game (minor hijack): think of the relatively new shows you enjoy, like say, Scrubs, and try to project how some of those characters will have evolved by the end of the show’s run.
My guess is that looking back at the first-season J.D. will be a lot like looking back at early George and Jerry: too puppy-dogish and not nearly as whacky. His “daydreaming” looniness is approaching stratospheric levels (but then that’s true of the show in general).

Cool Hand Luke.

And it can’t really be said that he always, in later years, got his facts wrong. He did really well on Jeopardy, after all (until the final answer, that is).

He got SCREWED on that. His answer was, technically, correct. :mad:

The great part about Cliffy is that everyone knows someone just like him.

Do you think the introduction of Frasier Crane played any role in Cliff’s evolution?

Frasier took some of the “smart guy in the bar” spotlight away. He was introduced in the second (or third) season…

I think Cliff just kind of grew as a character. He was never a total moron.

I don’t think JD will change that much. You can see how Cox has changed, his ranting used to be hilarious whereas now it’s kind of forced and boring. I can’t really take him seriously as a jerk thanks to all those softy moments.

As for Friends characters changing, look at Ross now. I can’t even watch the show he’s so ridiculous.

I don’t have anyone in my circle of friends that is such an annoying know-it-all. They all do though.

He was in The Empire Strikes Back

The actor who played that character said that he originally thought of George as a sort of “Woody Allen” character, and even wore Woody Allen - style glasses for awhile. He evolved into “George the pathetic loser” over time.

Hmm. I seem to remember that in the first season, Cliff had no accent at all. There was some snitty press about no one in this Boston bar sounding like they were from there, and in the second season Cliff’s accent was born.

I also think Cliff was not the glurgy goofball he became. Most of his factoids were either correct or too obscure to be easily verifiable in the pre-Internet days. Basically, Cliff was a walking Google.

And, of course, Cliff (like all Clavins) has two extra teeth.

It’s how they can prove they’re the rightful heirs to the Russian throne.

One episode suggested that Cliff’s mother was the inspiriation for his knowledge of trivia (he repeats a factoid about Beef Wellington cited by her). The rest of the time, she seemed kinda borderline hostile to him. Not exactly Donna Reed, as Paul said.

Jason Alexander has said in interviews that he discovered that he needed to change George from a Woody Allen impersonation to a Larry David impersonation.

That would explain why he did a Woody Allen sketch when he hosted SNL.

Nick at Nite just started rerunning Cheers starting with the first episode this week. Maybe it was last week, I don’t know, I have newborn twins and I don’t sleep. What I do know is that I’ve been watching it all week, and while Cliff had a very small role in the first few episodes, it seems he was a big dope when he did talk.
The one example I can think of right now is the conversation he was having with Diane about why people drink cold beer on cold days…he said having a cold drink on the inside would cancel out coldness on the outside, and the same thing would happen if you drank a steaming hot drink in the summer. Diane then asked him why people drank cold beer on hot days and stumped him.

(It’s just my luck that the one time I can actually answer a question on the SD is when I’m so sleep deprived I can barely string a sentence together. Bah! ;))

Tend your twins. The actual exchange (heavily paraphrased from memory) is more like:

Diane: Why drink a beer on a cold day like this?
Norm: Twenty bucks says Cliff has an answer and it’s a lulu.
Cliff: Drinking a cold beverage can bring body temperate into comfortable balance with the environment.
Diane: All right, then why drink cold beer on a hot day?
Norm: Professor?
Cliff: What else you gonna do with it?