Well I'm glad to see you're all fending off the holiday blues. This time of year is filled with arguments, suicides murders; yeah I guess it is that seasonal happiness of others tends to throw a glaring light on the flaws of our own interpersonal relationships. -Dr. Fraiser Crane
NBC's Cheers was in full swing by the 5th Season in 1986. It was a part of the Must See TV Line Up on Thursday night along with Night Court, The Cosby Show, Family Ties and Hill Street Blues. In the early days of the show the characters never left the bar and by the 4th season they had just started to explore the world outside the bar. The 5th season marked the departure of series regular Shelley Long.
Cheers did not give in to the usual push for holiday shows every year. This is only one of two Thanksgiving related episodes, and the only one until Season 11; the final season when the gang has Thanksgiving at the bar. Thanksgiving Orphans aired in the fall of 1986 and was centered around the various bar personalities having no family in Boston to gather with for dinner.
Sam's date cancels on him. Woody isn't going back to Indiana to see his family. Carla's kids are with her ex-husband in Atlantic City. Frasier's family is back in Seattle. Cliff's mom is feeding the needy. Diane ran away from her dinner, and Norm is avoiding Vera's mothers dinner. No beer and No TV.
Many of the modern day Thanksgiving rituals and activities are observed in this episode. The battle between those that want to watch sports and the parade. Another interesting aspect is the fight over which direction the TV is facing. How people lived before we all had HD, plasma or LCD tvs is beyond me. A potluck Thanksgiving is typical of most gatherings and the gang at Cheers in no exception. Everyone was responsible for bringing something to the feast. At the table the group goes around and explains what they are thankful for on Thanksgiving.
The last neat thing I will mention about this episode is the physical appearance of Norm's wife Vera at the end of the episode. Vera, up until this point had always been an invisible character, a voice on the phone or someone waiting in the car. She was a plot device used to move George Wendts' character from his bar stool to wherever they needed him to do something outside the bar. The writers of Cheers also made the character Maris Crane from Fraiser in the same way. Thanksgiving Orphans is the one time we get to see Vera. At the end of the episode she gets pied in the face as a conclusion to a Thanksgiving food fight. We never see her face, but she was actually in the room.