S1 E11: Death Becomes Him

fd-s1e11-01Airdate: December 2, 1993
Director:Andy Ackerman
Leslie Eberhard
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
Episode 11! Let’s do a quick review of some of our recurring antics. I watch Frasier an episode at a time with a pen and a legal pad. I write the “episode synopsis” portion in my own, casual voice while the episode is on. Then, at the computer, I use this (“Opening thoughts”) section to discuss anything that seems like a good primer for the Denied treatment that you are about to witness being imposed upon the episode.

In the episode synopsis, I also assess the scene titles. Each scene title will be judged as either, a) cutesy, b) cliché, c) neither, or d) incoherent. The protocol for dealing with untitled scenes is perpetually changing— I have ceased trying to establish a consistent procedure for them. (Doesn’t it seem like that’s what Frasier would do?) Next, there’s “Closing thoughts,” for further observations that I might have made while finalizing the synopsis in type.

Two categories follow, the first to cover unnecessary conflicts that the characters experience for no reason other than to contrive interesting story elements, and the second to go over continuity errors, including technical oversights and anachronism.

Then, we have a number of categories for counting exactly how many times specific things happen during the course of the series.

Since we’re at the episode 11 mark, let’s just go all the way to the bottom of the “refresher” bucket:

These characters live together:
Frasier: protagonist (a psychiatrist with a call-in radio show on Seattle’s KACL 780AM)
Martin: his father (a retired cop who is currently working on an unsolved case about a chopped up hooker)
Daphne: Frasier’s housekeeper/Martin’s physical therapist (and a psychic Brit)
Eddie: Martin’s dog (also possibly psychic)

Additional main characters:
Niles: Frasier’s brother (in love with Daphne and always besuited)
Maris: Niles’ wife (who allegedly exists)
Roz: Frasier’s producer (Frasier always “jokes” that she is a slut. She isn’t.)
FDs1e11-4Our episode Synopsis:
Open at the apartment. Daphne and Niles are setting the table. Daphne says that she’s never had a serious boyfriend. Niles responds by saying “men are pigs.” In this unself-consciously absent-minded incoherence, we find Niles experiencing the only thing that has ever been more important to him than good taste and a strong professional reputation. (That thing is love—Ed.)

Frasier enters; announces that the doctor called and told him that Martin skipped his physical. (I don’t suppose this counts as exposition about exposition, since in the Frasier universe, the doctor would genuinely have told Frasier that something had happened—in fact, any case of exposition is downright plausible. The reason that we at Frasier Denied routinely object to (and make open mockery of) when its used in fiction is that it shows a lack of discretion and discernment over how delicate the sacred Meta of the fourth wall needs to be, but I’ll save that for another time when we are dealing with an especially egregious exposition bomb. Don’t worry. It’s just around the corner, I’m sure.)

Eddie runs to the door to greet Martin just before he enters. Martin sits in his chair while lying about getting all his tests. Daphne explains that they know he really didn’t. Martin protests that he needn’t see the doctor when he feels fine. Knowing that this won’t cut it, he also admits that he specifically doesn’t like his doctor.

Frasier suggests his doctor, a woman. Martin balks. Niles mentions a doctor he knows, Dr. Gary Newman. Frasier exposits that he will call Dr. Newman and make an appointment for Martin.

Scene 2: Untitled
Frasier and Martin are in Dr. Newman’s waiting room. Martin exposits that they have been waiting for thirty minutes. Frasier asks the receptionist why the doctor is late. It turns out that he is driving in from Lake Chelan. Frasier takes this to mean that Dr. Newman is a good doctor, since he would have to be wealthy to vacation there.

Frasier sits. He and Martin reminisce about Frasier going to the doctor as a child. Frasier asks the receptionist again; returns to Martin and announces that Dr. Newman has died.

Scene 3: Well, I’m Lousy at Tennis…
(Presciently incoherent. In other words, a perfect title.)

Off the air at KACL, Frasier is ranting at Roz about the doctor’s death. We find out that Frasier is (and the doctor was) 41 years old. He (Frasier, not the doctor) says that he worries about dropping dead while getting his newspaper; Roz says she worries that her lover will die during sex.

Scene 4: A Family Meeting
(I truly hope it’s not too early to congratulate Leslie Eberhard for her scene titles.)
At the apartment, Frasier opens the front door and lets Niles in. Frasier exposits that they are meeting to go over his affairs so that he can prepare his will.

Frasier gives Martin and Niles stickers to put on the belongings that they want to inherit. They both refuse. Frasier produces a binder with the specs for his burial. Frasier and Niles both get sidetracked wistfully chatting about the caterer (the epitome of a good Frasier joke), and Martin asks if the presentation is through.

Frasier brings up the final point of discussion: Daphne discovering his body. It seems fitting, really, since she will know he is dead before she sees it, hence softening the blow— an opportunity not afforded the non-psychic characters.

She agrees amicably. Niles puts a sticker on a bottle of wine (another perfect Frasier joke).

Scene 5: (Untitled)
Frasier is asleep in his robe on the couch. Eddie is staring at him. Martin emerges from his bedroom looking for Eddie. Martin wakes Frasier, who gives a soliloquy about the fragility of the human heart and of life itself.
FDs1e11Martin tells a story about one of his colleagues being killed during a drug bust they were on years ago. He explains that he had to just forget about it and kick the next door down.

Frasier mentions Dr. Newman again. Martin points out that Newman’s medical history could have been awful, hence negating Frasier’s paranoia about dying young. Frasier decides that’s a good reason to look into Dr. Newman’s cause of death.

Scene 6: Kural, Fras, and Allen
(Shamelessly incoherent.)

Open at a funeral parlor. Frasier enters; meets Dr. Newman’s cousin, who arbitrarily exposits that Dr. Newman was Jewish. Frasier stands alone in latent panic; fiddles with a covered mirror. He meets Dr. Newman’s Aunt Bobbie and lies to her about knowing the deceased and awkwardly drills her with a succession of very specific questions about the doctor’s medical condition.

He then meets other relatives paying their respects and continues to ask carefully selected questions about Dr. Newman’s personal habits. They report that he was a health nut who exercised and didn’t drink, smoke, or consume caffeine.
FDs1e11-2Finally, he meets the widowed Mrs. Newman. He admits to her that he didn’t even know her husband, and he can’t bring himself to ask her about the cause of death.

For the first time, the tender pause is initiated by a guest star!

Mrs. Newman asks Frasier how to get over how her husband just died with no good answer as to why. Frasier lays the tender onto that pause good and hard, explaining that no one knows when their time is and the living should embrace life. Do you know how glad I am that this show doesn’t do music under the tender pause?

As Frasier exits, Aunt Bobbie sees him again and thanks him. Just before he leaves, some woman hits on him and gives him her card. He registers an expression that seems to say “Well, this wasn’t a complete waste of time after all. I win.”

Credits vignette:
For the second week in a row, the vignette refers to a joke that we did not discuss in the synopsis. Happy hunting!

End theme closing:
“Frasier has left the building.”

Closing thoughts:
I’m sure that you’ve already noticed this, but I exclusively use “Anywho” as a mildly self-effacing means of conceding that I have gone off-topic and/or not offered a compelling case for something that I’m positing.

Anywho, not all of the episodes include on-air callers. I wonder if some writers just sat (or stood— or maybe they were doing jumping jacks) thinking, “Do I want to do any callers for this one? No. I don’t.” Maybe none of the writers wanted to do them, but some of them were unfortunate enough to be asked for revisions that included callers who reinforced that episode’s themes, like comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s fictional counterpart (of the same name)’s opening and closing stand-up clips.

The Frasierness is starting to come into its “classic” form now, in two key respects: First, Niles is past the event horizon of utterly falling for Daphne, who maintains the tension with a pinch of distraction and a healthy little dash of ambiguous optimism;

Secondly, the signature Frasier joke— in which either or both of the brothers indulge in the very description of their finer tastes in a context that confines or utterly misappropriates their perspective, paying off with either a barely tacit expression of shared disdain or a mild but sudden and pronounced outburst of shame and/or social isolation.

I suppose thirdly you might as well include the running joke about how Roz unabashedly enjoys the company of gentlemen. (Not to be confused with the running joke where Frasier incorrectly paints her as indiscriminately promiscuous—Ed.)

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier is in outright crack-addled cartoonland going to a stranger’s funeral so he can find out if they had a gym membership.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
Lake Chelan is about a 4-hour drive from Seattle. It seems odd that Dr. Newman’s secretary would assume that he had opted to make that trip on the morning of his first day back from work.

The woman who gives Frasier the non sequitur ego ‘roid rush at the tail end of the episode does not appear again. Its only value in the story is reinforcing our comprehensive portrait of Frasier as embodying the paradox of an egocentric who hasn’t the illusion of any sort of control.
FDs1e11-3# of women Frasier has dated:
[0]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
[1]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [2]

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

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

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
[1]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [2]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [23]   series cumulative: [23

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
[0]   previous cumulative: [9]   series cumulative: [9]

# of tender pauses:
[1]   previous cumulative: [7]   series cumulative: [8]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Frasier is upset when his father skips out on a doctor’s appointment.”

2 thoughts on “S1 E11: Death Becomes Him

  1. I always find it annoying that Chelan is mispronounced in the episode. As a native Washingtonian, our dear Dr. Crane should know how to pronounce it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s