TV URBAN LEGEND: A special episode of “Cheers” was produced to help sell U.S. savings bonds.
One of the great things about the current era of technology and pop culture is the sheer volume of content available to fans of television and film. DVD collections and streaming services have made it easy to gain access to nearly any TV series you might want to check out. However, there still remains a bit of a treasure trove of material that has never been made publicly available since its original airing (or, in some cases, since it was produced). For instance, the original “Big Bang Theory” pilot, feauring a much different (and sexually active) version of Sheldon Cooper, has never been included in any release. And due to concerns about the racial stereotypes, “Amos and Andy” will likely never hit the market through official channels. Some of these episodes, however, eventually end up getting released, like the infamous “R-rated” episode of “Dexter’s Laboratory.”
In an entirely different category are the episodes made specially for the United States government, including a “lost” episode of the classic sitcom “Cheers”!
In 1935, legislation was passed to establish a new form of security sold by the United States Treasury that would be called a savings bond. These debt securities would allow the government to, in effect, borrow money from its own citizens, which became critical once the United States entered into World War II. There was a great propaganda push to encourage citizens to purchase “war bonds” (as they became known), which even found its way on the covers of popular comic books like “Batman” and “Superman.”
Following the end of World War II, the government had to work a little harder to convince people to purchase these bonds, as the war effort was no longer the big selling point. During the 1950s, then, the Cold War was used instead. In addition, while many celebrities endorsed war bonds during World War II, the early days of television worked perfectly as a propaganda tool. So a number of popular TV series of the late 1950s and early 1960s made special promotional episodes, which were then shown at schools or civic assemblies. “Mr. Ed” and “Leave It to Beaver” both produced special episodes, but one of the more infamous ones was “Father Knows Best” (a full 30-minute film), in which the show’s creator and star Robert Young, depicted the cast living under despotic rule.
During President Ford’s tenure, there was a new influx of propaganda produced for savings bonds. Thus, special episodes were filmed for a number of popular sitcoms of the late 1970s and early 1980s, including “Taxi,” “WKRP in Cincinnati” and “Benson.” One of the most famous, though, was this special episode of “Cheers,” dubbed “Uncle Sam Malone,” in which the gang at Cheers convinces a skeptical Diane of how awesome savings bonds are.
Although the episode was never officially made available, its writer Ralph Phillips (he also penned the “Benson” one), recently posted the episode on Vimeo:
By the 1990s, sitcoms were still helping out, but just by making commercials for savings bonds (the cast of “Frasier” did one). Nowadays, paper bonds no longer exist, and the current low rate of return on modern digital-only bonds are so low they’ve effectively become a thing of the past. But for many years, U.S. savings bonds played a major role in the lives of many Americans.
The legend is …
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