S1 E9: Selling Out

fd-s1e9-01
Airdate: November 11, 1993

Director: Andy Ackerman
Writer:
Lloyd Garver
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
I’m part of the generation that bridged the old, analogue world to the new, web-point-whatever world within their own late teens to late twenties or so. This seems important to me for two reasons.

1) That is the time when you gain autonomy and accountability— you start defining your life. You start deciding how you spend your time and what, legacy, if any, your 10,000 hours are going into.

2) That is when you are both
a) ..old enough that you have a clear memory of actively functioning
(communicating, playing, learning, making mistakes, and creating things)
in a very different world,
and
b) ..young enough that you’re still eager to adapt.

Because of this combination (for me anyway), the novelty of a thing now as commonplace as a Wikipedia article (particularly, say, one listing the writers for every episode of a series in a single column) still induces a good serotonin squeegee.

I know information was available… forever… before the web. That’s actually my point— with this awareness, the benefit of information that is collected and organized so efficiently and comprehensively can be appreciated for the amazing privilege that it is. You can cipher a stretch of time into a form you can evaluate in such a different way— especially in terms of what was available at the time that the information was established.

I realize it’s possible that on September 16, 1993, someone wrote down the writers’ names from the credits of the series premier and followed suit for the rest of the season, then looked at that list, which took them 8 months to gather, and formed the same kind of evaluation afforded me today after I simply spend 2 seconds typing the words “Frasier wiki.”

(By the way, if you did do that, I raise a glass to you. And you should be co-writing this, so e-mail me)

Anywho, here’s that very evaluation: How does a franchise like this come about quite how it does? If you look at Frasier’s season-one episodes (here’s that link again) in groups of 5, you’ll notice from the first 5-episode group that 9 people wrote them (in groups of 1 – 3 people), with no one contributing to more than one episode.

This is a good time to bring this up, since, in blog-time, we’re nearly at the end of our second quintuplet (which itself shows us 8 contributors— 2 of which don’t appear in the first group at all— and with only two of them repeating (once each) within the group).

Furthermore, even when you consider all 10 of them as one group, only 4 of the 11 writers repeat at all. The next group of five episodes (11-15) brings us two more new writers, and not only does it not increase the number of writers who contribute multiple episodes, but only 2 of the 4 who repeated in episodes 6-10 repeat again. See?! That is not the kind of thing we knew about when we sat chuckling in our ugly plaid chairs 20 years ago.

Our episode Synopsis:
Scene 1:
At KACL, Frasier is on the air. Caller Roger (voice-over by Carl Reiner) is describing his recent purchase of a $300,000 cabin cruiser. His question regards what he should name it. In a verbose and colorful manner, Frasier tells the caller that the question is of no interest and hangs up.

Roz enters the booth and hands Frasier some copy. He begins to read it, until it starts to describe the sponsor, Hunan Palace, in the first person on Frasier’s behalf, at which point he excuses himself from the air and prompts Roz to play a recorded ad.

Now off-air, Frasier reminds Roz that he does not do personal endorsements because, unlike the station’s other hosts, he needs credibility as a doctor.

Bulldog enters. Roz asks him to do the spot; he agrees. He tells Frasier that it’s idiotic to refuse the easy money earned by reading copy, personal endorsement or not, but thanks him for the opportunity to take advantage of it himself. Bulldog enters the booth. Frasier notices the contract for the ad; it pays very well. He seems to reconsider and asks Roz if it’s really that much pay for just reading an ad.

On the air, Bulldog performs an elaborate reading of the Hunan Palace ad, with sound effects and an exaggerated Asian accent.

Scene 2: Would You Buy An Egg Roll From This Man?
(This is just what I want from a scene title. It specifically has to do with the show, isn’t dopey or trite, it looks ambiguously forward, and it has that MAD Magazine, equal-opportunity (especially self-) derision that Frasier exhibits when at its best. Because of this, I checked the writing credits for the season again, to see if we could count on this sort of approach to titles on other episodes. It turns out that Lloyd Garver, this episode’s lone writer, makes his Frasier debut here— in fact, it’s his only contribution in the entire series.)

At the apartment, Daphne and Martin are at the table, going over the files for the Case of the Chopped-up Hooker. Wait— oh. Maybe it’s a family photo album.

Frasier enters. He complains that he pulled up too far in his parking spot and dented his car. Just as he’s offering mildly elaborate, interrogative exposition about the tennis ball he’d hung from the ceiling by a string as a guide for when to stop, Eddie approaches with the ball in his mouth. Get it? He is much too smart to waste his breath chasing cars! Damn your side-splitting antics, Eddie!

Martin says that Eddie needed a toy; tells Frasier to throw it. Right before only the audience’s most committed cynics say “I knew he was going to do that,” Frasier opens the balcony door and throws the tennis ball to the street below like a reckless sociopath.

Frasier shifts to serious conversation, asking whether he ought to make the Hunan Palace endorsement. Martin and Daphne ask what the dilemma is. Frasier explains that a paid ad including his personal viewpoint would violate the community’s trust. Martin recommends doing it. Daphne surmises that it might in fact help a patient if their problem happened to derive from a psychological need for Chinese food (this would ordinarily be quite stupid, but remember: Daphne is psychic, so she is no doubt referring to something of more than nominal significance here).

Martin suggests that Frasier dine at the restaurant and determine, based on his actual opinion of it, whether his endorsement can in fact be made honestly—hence deciding, according to his own ethics, whether to move forward with the ad. Frasier agrees; calls the restaurant to reserve a table for the three of them.

Scene 3: (Untitled)
At the KACL studio, Frasier is on the air. He is in the middle of reading his Hunan Palace endorsement. He lavishes wistfully over describing a few items from the menu and signs off for the day.

Frasier tells Roz that Hunan Palace has notified him of a 30% increase in sales since he started reading the ads. He exits the booth. A woman waiting in the hall introduces herself as Bebe Glaser, Bulldog’s agent. Bebe is played by Harriet Sansom Harris, whom I know from, um, Desperate Housewives, and who should have played the part of Annie in the 1990 slapstick film adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery.

Anywho, Bebe offers to represent Frasier. He refuses. She prods and scares him into reconsidering by questioning whether he’ll be able to afford to send Frederick to Harvard.

Scene 4: That Better Be Your Foot
(Bravo! This writer should have provided titles for the whole series.)

Martin, Frasier, and Daphne are in a hot tub at the Redwood showroom. Martin requests exposition of Frasier, who complies: Frasier is considering doing an ad spot that claims his friends and family enjoy the Redwood, which he must determine to be true before contractually agreeing to state it as true.

Martin reluctantly admits that he does like it; Daphne does the same. A man enters the showroom. Frasier rapidly exposits that the man is Dave Hendler, head of the Seattle Psychiatric Association, then takes a deep breath and submerges himself under the water.

Instead of a drawn-out, unnecessary scene (which I thought I was sure to get), it’s just a joke: Daphne and Martin both realize that the man in fact is not Dave Hendler, but decide to enjoy the quiet while Frasier hides. This was a genuinely nice little curve ball. I might even say I’m impressed, but then I remember that it’s only so pleasant because of how low my expectations are, so I guess it won’t do to have a parade or anything.

Scene 5: 780 AM on Your Radio Dial
(This title is neither cutesy, cliché, or incoherent, but it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the scene. I almost feel like this should be the title of every episode’s untitled opening scene.)

Frasier, Daphne, and Martin are at the apartment listening to Frasier’s ad for the Redwood hot tub. Frasier asks for feedback. Martin says he didn’t like it; exits. The doorbell rings. It’s Bebe. She announces an offer for a pay-or-play gig. Daphne reveals some knowledge about the term and, prompted by out-of-proportion intrigue from Frasier, explains that she had starred in a U.K. TV show when she was younger. She exits.

Bebe reveals that the offer is from Emery’s Nuts. He immediately refuses (Frasier, not Emery —Ed.), citing multiple reasons. She encourages him to reconsider, emphasizing how lucrative a television career can be. He thinks about it and still refuses, but as before, she is quite persuasive, luring him in with the promise of success. (Double cliché!)

Scene 6: The Big Kahuna
(A cliché title was just what I needed to stop sulking about the fact that we won’t see any more work from this writer.)

Frasier is getting his make-up done for the TV commercial. The script is delivered. The ad is going to have two people dressed as nuts arguing about their identities and Frasier is going to tell them that they are both nuts. You know—because he’s a psychiatrist.

He isn’t pleased. Urging him to follow through, Bebe reminds him of Frederick’s Harvard tuition as well as Frasier’s own potential success, wealth, and comfort. She also tells him that light-hearted, self-effacing humor will be good for his reputation.

Frasier notes that the script directs him to “come out of his shell.” Bebe assures him that it’s merely, and appropriately, metaphorical, but behind them, a couple of techs transport the halves of an enormous peanut costume across the set.

Scene 7: Knees Together, Lips Apart
(Incoherent. But in a good way. Listen, if I have to choose between that, cutesy, and cliché, incoherent is always going to win.)

Niles sits alone at Café Nervosa. Frasier enters. He exposits that he has not yet done the ad—it films in 30 minutes—and his co-stars are playing an almond and a walnut.

Frasier is still trying to determine whether the ad agrees with his ethics. Niles says it isn’t a problem; claims that Frasier’s sell-out occurred months prior, when he agreed to star on the radio show. According to Niles, this took Frasier out of medicine and into show business.

Scene 8: Frasier Crane to Block
(Another for the “Incoherent, in a good way” pile.)

It’s the middle of the night at the apartment. Frasier is watching television. He looks shell-shocked (I swear on the graves of all puppies that I didn’t intend that pun when I wrote it). Martin enters from his bedroom, wearing his robe. He exposits that Frasier is watching the tape of the commercial again.

Frasier’s still torn about whether he made the right choice. He plays the tape again. This time we and Martin get to watch it. It turns out that Frasier opted out of the commercial, and Dr. Joyce Brothers did it instead.

Frasier and Martin retire to their rooms, having a discussion about where the stars sat on Hollywood Squares for absolutely no reason.

Credits vignette:
Martin and Daphne sit in the hot tub with their heads tilted back. At the very end of the theme song, Frasier emerges from the water and breaks the series’ cumulative credits vignettes’ heretofore exclusive non-diegetic muteness with the sound of splashing and the taking of a deep, relieved breath.

That’s cool! How unexpected. Also, it’s the first time that the vignette has been a flash-back to earlier in series continuity (from the same episode though it may be).

I wonder how many times they do either of these in the series. Good thing someone is doing this blog.

End theme closing:
“Goodnight, everybody!”

Closing thoughts:
We are now numbering inter-episode scenes without titles. Do not adjust your device.

For those of you thinking I’m out for cheap laughs when I refer to the “Case of the Chopped-up Hooker,” please refer to S1 E6, wherein Martin backs me up on this (and makes better jokes about it than I do).

It was terribly interesting investigating the series’ writing credits while forming this post. The fact that someone (here’s his blog) can contribute a single episode to a series gives me good expectations for the series’ overall writing—lots of perspectives help to keep things fresh and interesting as the canon develops.

Obviously, your crew has to tread together in such a way that serves the climate of the show (which stops happening after season 7), and the actors and directors determine most of that—the former being entirely consistent through the series and the latter drawing from a much smaller pool of people than the writers— but a large variety of influencers are conceiving and perfecting those scripts before the actors and directors begin their work, and variety is fruitful.

Daphne’s profile is slowly coming into focus. At series’ end, I just may compile everything we know about each separate character into their own Denied canon. It’s probably Daphne that prompts this because we always know the least about her—not including Maris, of course.

In our series counts, Mentally ill tendencies just went ahead of the episode count, though Tender pauses fell behind by 1. What’re you gonna do. What’re you gonna do.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier submerging his head in a hot tub is a striking, dead-on epitome of what we look for in this category. Frantically hiding—and certainly panicking in general— is more conspicuous than behaving normally. Besides, nothing obligates him to explain exactly why he is there even if he is grilled for an explanation. Further, the truth behind what he’s doing actually speaks well of his professionalism and ethics. And even then, if, say, they had different opinions about it, you have to validate your own beliefs at some point.

This is just the right caliber “Wha-at!?” that prompted me to include this category when we started this.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
I don’t see how Frasier could have been contracted to read the Hunan Palace ad without any knowledge of what was in it. We go over the same bump when the TV commercial script doesn’t appear until his make-up is nearly finished.

I’m extremely happy to observe that, even after 9 episodes, Frasier has still not slept with anyone in Seattle. This makes the title of our blog increasingly accurate, and it makes me proud.

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode:
[0]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode:
[0]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [2]

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

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

Mentions of Maris:
Episode:
[1]   previous cumulative: [17]   series cumulative: [18]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode:
[1]   previous cumulative: [9]   series cumulative: [10]
in this episode:
Frasier (sociopathy)—when he endangers not just Eddie’s life, but that of an untold number of strangers by throwing a tennis ball into the street from his 19th story balcony.

# of tender pauses:
[Episode:
[0]   previous cumulative: [7]   series cumulative: [7]

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

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Frasier is at first reluctant to do an on-air endorsement for a Chinese restaurant — until he discovers how much money is involved.”

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