S1 E1: The Good Son

93-94-ThuAirdate: September 16, 1993
Director: James Burrows
Writers: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee

Our episode synopsis:
Act 1
Open on Dr. Frasier Crane hosting his call-in show. Roz is in the booth, producing. Frasier tells a caller that he was in Boston just 6 months ago, “hanging out in a bar all the time,” but he left his wife and came to Seattle. I want to call this Cheers reference meta, but it’s really just continuity.

Off the air, Roz tells Frasier that he made a number of technical mistakes throughout the show (the radio show, not Cheers. That would be meta indeed).

At Café Nervosa, we meet Frasier’s brother Niles as they both stand at the bar together. Niles refers to the content of Frasier’s radio show as “pop psychology.” Frasier orders them 2 café latté supremos (which would be a very good name for a Frasier podcast. OK, actually it definitely wouldn’t).

Through exposition, we learn of Niles’ wife Maris and Frasier’s son Frederick. Maris will never appear during the whole series. Frederick was born in the back of a taxi on a Cheers episode.

Niles wipes off his chair for an excessively long time, unwittingly providing Frasier Denied with its inaugural point in the “# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies” category, this time specifically for OCD.

Niles produces some retirement home brochures, explaining that their father, Martin Crane, has been injured and shouldn’t live alone. Frasier agrees to make up his spare bedroom for Martin.

The first time that we see Frasier’s apartment, he is playing the piano. The doorbell rings. Frasier takes one last look at his quiet apartment, which is kind of a great TV moment.

Niles and Martin enter. Martin points out that he knows Frasier is only acting out of obligation and points out that they never knew each other, hence they won’t exactly be getting “re-acquainted.” Frasier gets him a beer. Martin complains that nothing in the apartment matches; Frasier explains that the decor approach is “eclectic.”

The doorbell rings. It’s a deliveryman with Martin’s chair. Niles makes an escape, announcing over his shoulder on his way out that Eddie, Martin’s dog, is also going to be moving in. Frasier tells Martin that Eddie cannot stay there and complains that Eddie is always staring at him and “creeps him out.”

Cut to Martin, Frasier, and Eddie covered in the light from the TV and Eddie facing Frasier, staring. I suppose, if you like, you may quote me as calling the use of this trope (where the put-upon protagonist says “absolutely not,” then the scene seamlessly cuts to exactly that thing happening, laugh track standard) a “kind of especially not great TV moment” (which isn’t a category here).

Act 2
Frasier and Niles meet at the coffee shop, one week later. Frasier orders a double espresso, to “calm down.”

(LOL Get it? Since espresso actually has the opposite effect? Now, I was told there would be foam jokes and bean jokes too, guys! That was so funny perhaps someone shall type out a hyperbolic statement about spitting coffee on their keyboard! Haha! More mentions of coffee! Hahaha ROFL! Alright. Alright. Seriously, though, this may in fact count as anachronism, since any true Seattleite would refrain from joking about coffee. Ah, but then again, I find myself recanting, since, as a true Seattleite, perhaps Frasier actually does calm down with a double espresso. Alright— we’re gonna go with that. We’re straight. Carry on.)

Frasier asks if Niles and Maris could take Martin in to stay with them. Niles offers instead to pay for a home care worker. Frasier is drastically relieved.

Cut to the apartment. Frasier is saying goodbye to an applicant for the home care worker position. Martin says she was “casing the joint.” The doorbell rings. Frasier reminds Martin/informs us that this next applicant is the last one.

Frasier opens the door, and we meet Daphne Moon. She is candid and helpful, and compliments Martin’s chair, which gives Frasier the chance to make a face that makes the audience laugh (and counts as a point in the “# of ‘Dad’s chair is awful’ jokes” category). She tells them she’s from Manchester, England and has been in the U.S. for only a few months. She asks Martin if he’d been a policeman; he asks how she knew. She reports that she is a “bit psychic.”

Sitcoms in the ‘80s and ‘90s tended to have surreal twists dashed into the writing now and then. On shows like Full House and Friends, not only would you have your Halloween specters and your Christmas reindeer, but at least once per season someone would be psychic or a miracle would happen.

I notice that Perfect Strangers was uniquely and unabashedly heavy on this approach. It had a particularly fickle realism, the momentum of which I suspect may have been endowed by the mysteriousness of Balki’s fictional homeland. In most examples of this, sitcoms kept a backdoor out of full breaks from realism— in the interest of favoring their broader continuity (and… integrity? I guess?)— with dream sequence reveals, or, conversely, with depictions of past events as narrated comically and incorrectly (or, shall we say, without consensus) by individual characters. But Perfect Strangers only pulled those switches one time each in its 7 years; its creators were a brave sort, who opted to weave a little telepathy and a few mischievous gods (no, really— they did) into its broader fabric without explanation or apology. It’s still better than having an amnesia episode (which they also did, as anyone, just once).

So we find a subtle (and consistent) application of the surreal on Frasier— and the same goes for almost every sitcom aired between 1985 and 1995, from what I can tell— but Perfect Strangers was especially prolific and courageous about it (hence more fun).

Anywho, Frasier maintained but one such cartoon element consistently: that Daphne was psychic.

Frasier dismisses Daphne and says they will call her; Martin interrupts and declares that she’s got the job. Frasier wants to speak with Martin privately, so he reposits Daphne in the bathroom. Now that she can’t hear him, he tells Martin that Daphne “is a kook” and that he does not like her. Martin reasons that she’ll only be there when Frasier isn’t.

Frasier acquiesces, asks Daphne back in, and congratulates her. She says she’ll move her things in the following day; he stops her and says that the position is a part time, non-live-in position. She leaves so that Frasier and Martin can discuss the issue. Martin offers some exposition as they argue: He was shot in the hip by someone robbing a convenience store 2 years ago.

As their discussion continues to escalate, Frasier points out that he has been sacrificing a lot for Martin and Eddie to be able to stay, and Martin has been full of bitterness and sarcasm, not even once expressing thanks.

There’s the series’ first tender pause. Martin realizes that Frasier is right, but he can’t bring himself to say anything.

Act 3
At the radio station, Frasier explains the situation to Roz. She tells him that things work out how they are supposed to. When they go on the air, the first caller is anonymous. It’s Martin.

On the air, he describes the situation to Frasier with the listening audience as witness. Martin confesses that he may be getting in the way of the life that Frasier had planned.

In turn, Frasier concedes that Martin must be having some difficulty himself with the changes he’s been facing. Martin also directly says that he very much appreciates what his son is doing for him, then gets all gruff for the comic relief that is compulsory for all but the most grave situations:  While still anonymous, Martin finishes with “You hear that? I said ‘thank you!’” to which Frasier responds by showing his trademark eye-rolling, resilient brand of put-upon for the first of innumerable times: “Yes, I heard.”

Frasier takes one more call from someone having trouble with a break-up. He tells her that she’s not mourning the loss of her boyfriend but the loss of what she thought her life was going to be and says, “let it go.”

Credits vignette
Martin, Frasier, and Daphne are watching TV and Eddie is staring at Frasier.

End theme closing
“Goodnight, Seattle! We love you!”

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier having Daphne wait in the bathroom

Continuity errors or anachronism:
1) The pilot introduces us to Café Nervosa in Seattle, which does not exist, though it is modeled after Elliott Bay Café’s former Pioneer Square, Seattle location.

There is actually a Starbucks at Café Nervosa’s fictional Frasier address, 3rd & Pike.
There is also an actual Café Nervosa in Toronto.

2) Frasier lives at Elliott Bay Towers, which does not exist. The views through the window in Frasier’s apartment are photos taken from Kerry Park.

3) Frasier and Niles’ café latté supremos don’t technically present a retroactive continuity error— certainly, a person can order a different coffee every day of their life without presenting any paradox whatever— but it’s worth mentioning that in this pilot episode Frasier orders the drinks for himself and Niles quite readily, as if it is their usual order, and in the series, there is no reemergence of this order to follow (& if you’re reading this, I haven’t been called out as wrong about that yet).

4) Frasier’s character was also written about 7% whinier for this pilot than in the rest of the series, thankfully. Only in this episode does he exhibit just this sort of powerlessness by verbally contradicting the inevitable even as it is happening around him. That is not to say that as we move forward, he fails to maintain the same caliber pettiness and indefinite, hapless social thrownness, but from here on, he manages to express it by more assertive, and certainly more colorful, means.

It’s usually in some way that converts normal interactions into crises and promptly escalates them into full-blown chaos. But that’s kind of why I’m here. That’s wherefore we observe he is “Denied.”

(Of course I promise to conclude every of these with such a demonstration, culminating with the word itself.)

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
Episode:
[ 4 ]                                                      series cumulative: [ 4 ]

Mentions of Maris (who never appears on screen through the whole series):
Episode:
[ 4 ]                                                      series cumulative: [ 4 ]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
[Episode:
[ 1 ]                                                      series cumulative: [ 1 ]
In this episode: Niles (OCD)

# of tender pauses:
[Episode:
[ 1 ]                                                      series cumulative: [ 1 ]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
Frasier looking around at his quiet apartment one last time

TV Guide version (© Netflix, actually): “Seeking a fresh start following his divorce, Boston psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane returns to his native Seattle to host a radio call-in show.”

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2 thoughts on “S1 E1: The Good Son

  1. Pingback: S1E2: Space Quest | Frasier Denied

  2. Pingback: S1E3: Dinner at Eight | Frasier Denied

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