From Mary Tyler Moore to Barney Miller, from M*A*S*H* to Murphy Brown, television has mirrored the good, the bad and the ugly of the workplace.
The best of the best aired on Thursday, September 30, 1982, in the pilot episode of Cheers. It began a run that lasted more than a decade and portrayed a Boston bar with all the honesty, humor, gossip, camaraderie and animosity that accompanies any workplace.
In that first episode, Ted Danson stars as an ex-baseball player, Sam Malone. Danson is a recovering alcoholic who admits "If I didn't own this place, I'd fire me on the spot."
One of his employees, Carla (Rhea Perlman), a single mother with four kids, shows up late for work because one of her children is ill. Concerned that Malone will berate her for being late, she claims that she "works for a man who has no compassion for my children." Malone, meanwhile, is discussing the recent football draft, wholly unconcerned about her punctuality.
The lives of Cheers' clientele are also featured. Norm (George Wendt) is an accountant who spends more time drinking than crunching numbers, and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) is a postman with a mind full of useless trivia. In this pilot, he insists that "women have fewer sweat glands than men, but they are larger and more active." He then turns to another bar customer and asks, "What are your sweat patterns?"
Also introduced: Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), a sophisticated Bostonian who is rudderless after being jilted by her fiancee, and takes a job at the bar. "I need a waitress," Malone tells her. "You need a job. You like the people here. You think they like you."
Malone hires her, and the rest is workplace TV history. The best of it.
Thanks to the Museum of Television and Radio, Beverly Hills, CA, for the use of their library.