S1 E7: Call Me Irresponsible

fd-s1e7-01Airdate: October 28, 1993
Director: James Burrows
Writers: Anne Flett, Chuck Ranberg

(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
I regret not opening a category for “#of times that Frasier hangs up on a caller.” You know, I could have a few special season-wrap-up categories such as that. Taking a cue from Full House Denied—I mean Reviewed— at the end of each season, we’re going to spend a week on a season synopsis. (Tell ya what gang, as if we don’t spend enough time talking about Frasier’s hang-ups, am I right?)

In other blog news, I still haven’t gotten a blogroll together. I have plenty to put on there (including your blog, of course), so I hope to be announcing it soon. And sorry, I guess I should have prefaced this with “In other blog non-news..”

In real life news, I am going on vacation next week, so this week I am doing two episodes. I’m not gonna lie: it’s sort of making me a little Frasier-fried. (And just like that, a t-shirt was born—Ed.)

This week, Frasier gets more involved with a caller than ever before (unless we count Derek Mann as a caller—and even if we did, it would still be debatable whether almost getting in a fist-fight with someone confronting you in person is more “involved” than almost sleeping with the recent ex. of someone to whom you’ve only spoken on the phone). The voice of that caller, Marco, is performed by Bruno Kirby. You may know him as the friend of Billy Crystal’s characters in When Harry Met Sally and both installments of the City Slickers saga. I just learned that he was also in The Godfather Part II and that he died in 2006. Gee. They have, like, everything on that Internet.

This puts us one third of the way through the first season. We’ve made a couple of formatting tweaks and most of our series-count categories are roaring along, but there are still a few that haven’t opened up yet. This week we have a new one, “# of women Frasier has dated,” which is sadly not yet being accompanied by the opening of the seemingly-but-apparently-not-quite synonymous “# of women Frasier has slept with” category, which prompts me to go over two things. First, please don’t read the Opening Thoughts with an aversion to spoilers for an episode, and secondly, let’s remember (one of) the reason(s) that we call it “…Denied”: In Frasier’s case, as with most of us real-life folk, dating someone and bedding someone do not have total overlap.

Fortunately, I foresaw this when establishing the categories. In fact, I had originally split them up even more, including a third, “# of women Frasier has been romantically interested in,” but there really aren’t two levels there. This was pretty interesting to think about actually— on, say Seinfeld, all three of these categories would be included in the simple, single word “dated,” not because we should assume that all of them happen at once, but because only whichever of them are relevant will be on that particular week’s  “nothing” palette.

Concerning the romantic interest/dating dichotomy, neither show covers very many cases of unrequited love, so the numbers would always match, but with the dating/slept with dichotomy, Frasier has something there: we actually don’t know if he just might screw things up with any given dating prospect.

Our episode Synopsis:
Scene 1:
Open at KACL. Frasier takes a call from Hank (voice-over by Eddie Van Halen), who isn’t listening to Frasier through the phone, so he repeats “Hello, am I on?,” etc. in confusion enough times that Frasier hangs up.

The next caller, Marco (voice-over by Bruno Kirby), has been seeing someone for two years and doesn’t want to commit. He specifies that he would like to stay with her until “someone better comes along.” (Delayed double cliché!) Frasier tells him to assess things with her and decide whether to stay together. After that call, Frasier decries Marco’s lack of commitment and asks Roz to weigh in. (Double cliché!) She tells him that she and everyone she knows is single.

Scene 2: ‘Twas Two Months Before Christmas…
(You really can’t call a parody cliché. Plus it’s about Christmas, so you’re not gonna hear any complaints from me.)

At the apartment, Martin is decorating a Christmas tree in front of the fire place, which is roaring. The mantle is decorated with holly and ornament-type things, and half a dozen stockings are hanging.

Martin sort of goes meta and mentions that what he is doing is strange.

Daphne, changing the settings on a camera attached to a tri-pod, exposits that pictures need to be taken in time for Christmas. Martin completely changes his mind, and they start to excitedly sing ‘Deck the Halls.’ Frasier emerges from his room.

Martin and Daphne put on some tight toques and instruct Frasier to do the same. He refuses; mentions that the date is October 21. Martin and Daphne pose with Frasier. Martin calls for Eddie, who jumps into view wearing antlers just before the flashbulb goes off.

Scene 3: M&M’s And Sympathy
Frasier is on the air, just signing off at the end of the show. Roz gives him a picture to autograph for a fan standing out in the hall. He looks through the window; it’s an attractive woman. He goes out to meet her. She is vocally upset; reveals that she was Marco’s girlfriend. Frasier explains what Marco had said about waiting for someone “better.” She begins to cry. He awkwardly tries to console her.

Weeping, she embraces him and he offers her M&M’s. While she eats them, he finally gives her some substantial consolation. She assumes he’s married. He explains that he isn’t, and they bond about liking the same kind of M&M’s and how much dating sucks.

Scene 4: Kiss Me, Kate
As you predicted, Frasier and Marco’s ex-girlfriend are on a date. It’s at Café Nervosa. She gets up to go to work. Frasier asks where they should go for dinner. She offers the exposition that they went out the last few nights. They make plans for Frasier to send Martin and Daphne out of the house that night and cook dinner. They fervently kiss goodbye. Niles arrives at the shop window, seeing them. She exits; Niles enters and  inquires. Frasier introduces Niles (and us, by name anyway) to Catherine and explains how they met.

Niles objects that Frasier is getting too closely involved with a patient. Offended, Frasier leaves, first verifying that Niles will be picking him up after work.

Scene 5: He’s Baaack
(Cutesy/cliché. BONUS: ½ incoherent, for an unprecedented combo.)

This scene intercuts with Niles driving his car and listening to Frasier’s show:

20 seconds to air at KACL, Roz tells Frasier that Marco is waiting on the phone. Frasier doesn’t have time to convince Roz otherwise, so she puts Marco on.

Marco tells Frasier that he broke up with his girlfriend. He also suspects that there is someone else in her life already—he even saw her talking to “someone in a black BMW.” He asks if he should try to reconcile with her.

Frasier suggests that Marco is merely jealous; recommends he move out of state. This actually makes less sense on paper. It’s delivered with a lot of stammering, and the hyperbole escalates naturally enough, to the point where Frasier is recommending that Marco do what he did after his divorce, which was to move away from Boston.

Scene 6: How Am I Driving?
(Cliché only.)

Niles picks Frasier up at work; asks him if he really thinks that he approached things correctly with Marco. Frasier says he’s in love and kind of flips out and, exhibiting arrested development, vehemently declares, “Marco is out and I am in.”

Niles is so distracted that he misses a stop sign. Niles asks Frasier whether his involvement is giving him the telltale sign that he is breeching his own ethics, which is nausea. Frasier is happy to say that it is not.

Scene 7: The Obligatory Sex Scene
(Would you call this “counter-esoteric?” Okay— I thought not.)

Alone with Catherine at the apartment, Frasier is clearing the dinner dishes. She actually exposits that they are going to have sex in the kitchen. They give it a shot, but nausea, Frasier’s involuntary ethics-violation indicator, interrupts.

They end up in Martin’s chair (Oh please don’t do that to Martin’s chair). They hit a switch that makes the chair vibrate.

(I realize that the mere fact that no one has ever pointed out that it’s a vibrating chair before doesn’t strictly make it a continuity issue— and I wouldn’t put it past the Frasier crew to concoct a situation where it’s important that it’s specifically not a vibrating chair— but I’m going to have to make the call: Frasier Denied officially recognizes this as a continuity error.)

He asks if they can move to the sofa. They do and he feels sick again. She asks what is wrong. He actually explains it to her, including the ethics issue. He describes Marco’s second call. She doesn’t mind this. He explains the doctor-patient issue and breaks up with her. Furious, she leaves. He sits and delivers a soliloquy to Eddie.

Credits vignette:
A photo reel of pictures in front of the Christmas tree. This heightens the atmosphere of loss and regret which Frasier has brought upon himself (most of them are obvious outtakes), as well as the underlying personal scruples that brought it about (because he refuses to conform by wearing a toque, Frasier is uncomfortable, but still has his integrity).

End theme closing:
“Goodnight Seattle, we love you!”
NEW LINK: The end theme closings, updated each week.

I would say that this list and the “# of ‘Dad’s chair is awful’ jokes” category are more likely to pay off at the end of this than on a general basis. I can picture you saying, “So? 14 jokes about Martin’s chair. Who cares?” However, at the end of the season, putting a final cumulative score on it might prove rather elucidating.

As for the end theme closings, I want to know whether there is any kind of pattern or change, and even if they’re merely random, in a world of Lolcats and Tony Danza masks, a list of the order in which Frasier shouts his 5 improvised catch-phrases throughout the series just doesn’t seem impeachable anymore.

Closing thoughts:
Some scene titles foretell things; others review recent events. I never fall outside the target audience for the show itself (if considering every moment of it totally insane doesn’t count—Ed.), but I’m beginning to think that there’s one person who writes all the scene titles with someone very different from me in mind. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of demographic niche that would be. The syntax never really works, and they’re just so generally tortured and unnecessary. It doesn’t even seem to suit the voice of anyone on the show. Ah!—except Niles. That’s it: the scene titles are written for Niles himself. By Eddie.

Let’s talk for a second about Frasier’s on-the-air personality. In this episode, we saw him demonstrate an unprecedented lack of professionalism in two crucial respects simultaneously. First, in his demeanor: I don’t know whether Frasier is supposed to be known for being particularly candid with his audience or if it’s just a minor surreal aspect of the show, but he never gets reprimanded for acting just as troubled and frantic on the air as he does the rest of the time (more on that in a moment). Second, he is offering the caller advice that hasn’t a thing to do with a professional opinion—it’s strictly ad hominem.

The show does seem to convey arrested development on the part of both of the brothers, placing them firmly at about age 14, and it appears to apply only to social relations. When you think of it this way, it all sort of comes together: Frasier and Niles’ solidarity and how graceful and knowledgeable they are in areas of their mutual interest entirely belie their (especially Frasier’s) encompassing ineptitude in even holding a conversation, which most likely placed them in each other’s exclusive company at the 8th grade lunch table (and almost everywhere since).

In scene 6 of this episode, you can just imagine that the brothers are having the same conversation at ages 14 and 15. Niles asks Frasier if he really thinks he is doing the right thing, and Frasier responds with a shouting fit that culminates with “Marco is out and I am in!”

When this sort of thing happens, I perceive this extra layer in the narrative. It’s hyperbole put into place so you can be sure that the “crazy” sells in terms of comedy, but it’s also a sort of optional, surreal layer augmenting the story as conveyed (and put Daphne’s psychic powers in that category too). Look at it this way: as a sitcom character, you know how you can pull someone aside and, as long as no one else is on camera, no one else “can” hear what you’re saying? OK— now combine that with the ambiguity over whether Hobbes is actually real in Calvin and Hobbes, and you’ve got a good description of what I’m talking about. Let’s call it the Hyperbole Corona.

If you were to describe this episode’s story to someone and leave out everything that’s crazy, it would still be the story of what happened. If you were to describe the story in such a way that you actually exaggerated the crazy, it would still be the story of what happened. Right? In our case, I am watching a story conveyed through a certain medium. Hell, writing to you about it here is actually just adding another layer to it with another medium for your sake.

Now, it’s not a historical event, of course—it’s a filmed presentation of a teleplay. But it’s still a narrative, and everything we think we know is affected by this to some extent by some means, so why should this narrative be different?

I’ll put it another way: I’m describing the story, including the crazy. How would leaving it out make the story more real? There’s no “truth” to it in the first place—it’s scripted, there are outtakes, it’s edited for time, etc. BUT leaving aside all the dismantling and philosophical wonking we could do (I have another blog for that), there is a tangible dichotomy between the relatively crazy-free, rough description of the narrative and a sort of gooey aura of unreality around it—the hyperbole corona (Is that name gonna stick? No. But I have to say we’ve done worse)— where psychic dogs and ghosts and uncontroversially childish behavior on the part of the protagonist are obfuscated either by outright ambiguity or just by more hyperbole, the most relevant example of the latter being the KACL radio audience (not to mention the broadcasting world overall) acting as if the lead character is not appearing insane more often than sane in that context.

One thing is really ringing clearly as I go through this most deliberate of series run-throughs: Frasier is probably the most unapologetically tragic of the pre-millennial sitcoms. At the end of this episode, the story comes to its unpleasant conclusion and the curtain hammers down. I have to disclose that this makes it especially easy to do this sort of project, in fact. It’s a nice stripe of integrity if you can subject your characters to a shit day and just hit the lights when it’s over—no spoken paragraphs about special lessons or syrup-smoochy glurge blasts to warm us back to sleep, nay— when Frasier is denied, it’s a cold and lonely night indeed.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Nobody takes Christmas pictures in October.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
I have to call bullshit on the vibrating chair. It’s Martin’s chair, for God’s sake! Total blasphemy. Actually, you know what? I’m pulling a 180° (Frasier trying to have sex for the first time in the entire series, which is making him have to throw up, while lying on his back on Martin’s chair, and suddenly it starts throbbing like a slab of gristle on a buggy? What was I even thinking?)— it’s totally worth the gag. Let ‘em through.

Frasier specifically mentions that the date is October 21. I don’t know whether this was intended to match the air-date, which ended up being October 28, but since it was precisely one week off, it certainly seems like it.

NEW CATEGORY: # of women Frasier has dated:
[1]                            series cumulative: [1]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
[1]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [2]

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

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”
[0]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]

Mentions of Maris:
[0]   previous cumulative: [17]   series cumulative: [17]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
[1]   previous cumulative: [8]   series cumulative: [9]
in this episode:
Frasier (arrested development)when he entirely loses himself in a
triumphant jealous tantrum.

# of tender pauses:
[0]   previous cumulative: [6]   series cumulative: [6]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
(none) Well, other than the sound that Frasier makes when he starts throwing up during sex. But I can’t make that official.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “When a caller named Marco tells Frasier he’s having problems committing to his girlfriend, Frasier advises him to break up with her.”

1 thought on “S1 E7: Call Me Irresponsible

  1. Re: Martin’s vibrating chair

    There is a later episode (no idea which season) in which Frasier gets rid of The Chair for some reason and then buys a very fancy vibrating recliner to replace it. Martin does not seem to be a fan of the vibrating feature, but that could be because everyone else who tries out the vibrating feature has an almost orgasmic reaction to it which is…awkward and off-putting (seriously, Frasier Crane writhing and moaning in a black leather chair for 15 seconds is nightmare-material even if he ISN’T your son).

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