S1 E5: Here’s Looking at You

fd s01e05Airdate: October 14, 1993
Director: Andy Ackerman
Writer:
Brad Hall
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
Just when I thought we could stop yakking about the scene-titling conventions, the issue was again complicated by last week’s episode starting with a scene that was given the same name as the episode, which I addressed by announcing that moving forward, in the case of an opening eponymous scene, I would simply omit the title and list it as ‘Scene 1.’ Then, this week’s episode opened with, you guessed it, an untitled opening scene, so now I can’t let eponymous opening scenes go unlabelled, because you won’t know whether they were eponymous or simply untitled. Hence, I will call eponymous ones by their name, and when opening scenes are untitled, I will simply open the narrative right after the ‘Our episode synopsis’ heading.

This is lame for 2 reasons (3 if you count the simple fact that the format leaves me with no choice): First, sometimes the opening scene is titled, so having an occasional missing title looks like an error (andScene 1: (Untitled)’ looks like jive-ass bullshit). Secondly, the only precedent for naming the opening scene is the very fact that it opens the episode— almost every week there are scene changes that occur mid-episode without a title.

Since each of these first five episodes has presented some kind of game-changer on the white-knuckle adventure that is titles, and since I’m better than half-certain that if I bring it up again you will stop reading Frasier Denied, any further changes will be weathered quietly (I think we may have actually seen every possible combination anyway).

This is our first cliché episode title—actually, that’s not true. Let’s say this is our first drastically cliché episode title. Damn. That’s not true either. I peeked ahead at the first season’s episode titles: only 4 out of 24 of them are cliché, and not one of them is cutesy. However, I am pleased to announce that as of this episode, we have a new scene title category: incoherent.

No, no— seriously. We do.

Our episode synopsis:
O
pen at KACL. Frasier is on the air. A caller (voice-over by Jeff Daniels) explains that his mother never leaves the house. He says that she “literally hangs around the house all day.”

The word ‘literally’ here obviously refers to the day, as in “I’m not just saying ‘all day’ as an exaggeration—she literally stays in the house for the entire day,” but Frasier interrupts the caller mid-sentence to “correct” his grammar as if he had meant “all day, my mother literally hangs around the house.” The caller tells Frasier off and hangs up on him (double cliché? I guess it isn’t, since the latter phrase has sufficient simplicity to justify its ubiquity. Carry on).

They go to commercial. Frasier tells Roz that Martin is not a very active person. Roz reveals that her mother is the attorney general of Wisconsin and she has plenty of hobbies besides.

Scene 2: A Room With A View
(Cliché enough to make up for about 9 scenes worth of cutesy. If we were keeping track of the cliché caliber of all the scene titles, this one would currently be #1, and if I look at the episode title, “Here’s Looking at You” side by side with this scene title, the cliché concentration makes me go blind for about 40 seconds)

Frasier’s apartment, interior, night. Frasier is making adjustments to a telescope pointed at the window. Daphne exposits that Martin and Eddie are taking a nap and that Frasier bought the telescope for Martin. Frasier is especially pleased with how much Martin, in the future tense, likes it.

Martin enters. Frasier and Daphne stand in front of the telescope to hide it. Martin tells of a strange dream about a beautiful woman with bad breath licking his face. Eddie enters. The laugh track awakens hungrily.

Frasier and Daphne step aside to bestow the telescope. Frasier immediately encourages Martin to commit voyeurism. Martin complies.

He spots a woman with a telescope. She of course quickly holds up a note that says ‘Hello’ and “introduces” herself as Irene. Martin gets a legal pad and writes back. The woman recognizes Frasier; mentions it. He waves (I warned you that writing this down reveals to us how insane every moment of it is).

Scene 3: Getting to Know You
(If we have 12 cutesy and cliché titles in a row, I will cease announcing it forever. That is a promise.)

Martin is looking through the telescope. He and Daphne are talking about all the people they “know” from the stories of Irene’s life shared through notes passed between telescopes. Frasier enters in his robe; exposits that Martin and Irene have been doing this for three days.

Frasier writes the apartment’s phone number on the legal pad. The phone rings. Martin refuses to pick it up. Frasier answers it. Martin is very nervous about talking to Irene but concedes. He kicks Frasier and Daphne out. They giggle in the kitchen.

Martin enters the kitchen; remains quiet. Frasier and Daphne pry. Martin reveals that he turned Irene down for a date.

Scene 4: Forcas Fracas
(Readers, I am proud to present the ‘incoherent’ category! It’s interesting how ‘incoherent’ and the other two (including their combination) are mutually exclusive: A scene title can be any of the combinations that we have discussed so far—a) cutesy, b) cliché, c) cutesy & cliché, d) neither— or a fifth possibility, the new category, d) incoherent. If it is incoherent it cannot be either of the other two, and if it is either of the other two, it cannot be incoherent. I can see I’m the only one who considers this significant, so we’ll move on.)

Frasier and Niles are at the counter at Café Nervosa. Niles tells Frasier he is now the president of his wine club. Niles revisits the beloved OCD seat-wiping routine not seen since the pilot. Frasier explains that Martin and Irene are not continuing their “relationship.” Niles suggests setting Martin up with Maris’s aunt Patrice.

Cut to the apartment. Daphne is pretending to look at Irene through the telescope; claims that she is pining for Martin. Frasier does the same. Martin doesn’t buy it. The doorbell rings.

Frasier gets the door. It’s Niles and Patrice. Niles introduces her to Martin. Daphne excuses herself to get refreshments; Niles and Frasier join her. Frasier chides Niles for bringing Patrice to his home. When they return to the living room, Patrice is weirding Martin the hell out.

Frasier bails Daphne, Martin, and himself out by pretending that they had dinner plans.

Patrice gives Martin an enormous hug. When she does, Martin moves away from the window. Patrice storms out with Niles trailing after her.

Frasier calls Martin out, both on moving out of Irene’s line of sight and still caring about her; asks why he won’t date her. Martin says it’s because her middle name is Rose. Frasier exposits that it was also his mother’s middle name. There is a tender pause.

Frasier encourages Martin to get on with his life; says it’s what his mother would have wanted. (Double cliché!) He also exposits that it has been 6 years since she died. Still in ‘tender’ mode, Martin is genuinely grateful; says he isn’t ready. The tenderness extends just long enough for Martin to call Frasier a “good kid.”

Martin goes to the kitchen. Daphne is preparing dinner. Martin reveals that he lied to Frasier about Irene’s middle name. Daphne suggests that Martin is simply self-conscious about his hip. She points out that he hid his cane while “talking” to Irene.

Scene 6: Gu-Gulp!
(‘Incoherent’ really is part of the Frasier Denied family! Group hug.)

Daphne and Frasier are standing near the telescope. Frasier is calling Martin into the room; exposits that Irene is going to be there soon—not just in view of the telescope, but actually there, in the apartment. Martin enters with a tie and jacket (the audience does not hoot and cheer).

The doorbell rings. Martin answers it.

The format for Martin meeting Irene is a single camera view as Irene’s first-person vantage, and when Martin greets her while Daphne and Frasier gawk, Irene doesn’t say anything either, so it’s really just a very strange 15 seconds of Kelsey Grammer, Jane Leeves, and John Mahoney looking silently through the fourth wall at you.
fd s01e05 moreCredits vignette:
Frasier is asleep in Martin’s chair, Daphne is asleep on the couch, and Eddie is looking out the window through the telescope (presumably at Martin and Irene).

End theme closing:
“Goodnight, everybody!”

Closing thoughts:
The tender pause count is indeed proceeding with a one-per-episode record. I’m surprised, if not flat-out impressed— I don’t know why I had the impression that the “very special” salt was pinched n’ thrown more sparingly than that, but I guess the assumption came from the same part of my brain that thought that the show had aired on Thursdays for its whole run.

By now you have surely noticed my disdain for exposition. You really can’t avoid it in a 22-minute show, but I suppose what bothers me about it so much on Frasier is how casually it’s dumped into the dialogue.

“Say, Bob, you know how you’re a fireman, like your father before you, and how you saved those two poodles the other night and how one turned out to be pregnant? Let me buy you a drink to say ‘thank you.’ Oh, look who’s here—it’s Sally. Hi Sally. Bob, this is my friend Sally. Sally is a widowed veterinary cosmetologist as it happens—she’d just love if we told that poodle story again, and she can react to it point by point with explanations of how else she is relevant to this episode’s gnarled lattice of plots, never to appear again.”

It truly can’t be helped—I won’t deny this, but it simply doesn’t bother me so much when I watch other shows doing it. As I’m trying to convey in that slab of bitterly satirical italics, you’ve gotta sand some nuance into the pointier edges before those parts of the narrative turn into dialogue. You need to figure out what those conversations would look like if the characters had already lived those details and were now interacting according to the present and immediate future of their lives as affected by those details. Figure it out—most crews manage to do it. That said, it obviously isn’t a deal-breaker—it’s just something I enjoy being slightly overly cranky about.

There are also other shows that have flaws of approximately the same caliber that, for whatever reason, I can’t forgive. For example, I cannot watch Third Rock From the Sun since I became cognizant of its incessant and monotonous laugh track. I enjoyed about 45 episodes, until one day— though it had been there since the very first minute— I noticed the overdubbed comedy-appreciation-prompting mechanism’s persistence for the first time and suddenly couldn’t get over the distraction.

Whenever a character on Third Rock says anything— every time spoken words emit from any member of the cast— the “audience” “laughs.” Try this: start an episode, close your eyes, ignore the dialogue, and imagine that the laugh track is beach waves. 4 seconds pass, 2 seconds of laughter; 3 seconds pass, 2 seconds of laughter. Breathe all of your troubles away…

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
The whole telescope thing was typical of the sort of novel weirdness that keeps Frasier so fertile for playing extended and versatile ‘Awkward,’ and it produced all sorts of surreal and petty goofiness as always, but I think it was a pretty clean episode for this category, where we tend to focus solely on the social structure of a conversation or situation.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
(none)

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode:
[0]   emerging cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
Episode:
[0]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [5]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [4]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [14]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [7]   series cumulative: [ 8]
In this episode:
Niles (OCD) — when he revisits the chair-sanitizing gag. For some reason, this seems like the most legitimate example for this hyperbole-worshipping category, but it also seems like the most realistic.

# of tender pauses:
[Episode:
[1]   previous cumulative: [4]   series cumulative: [5]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
(none)

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Frasier encourages his father Martin to pick up a new hobby and gives him a telescope.”

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