S1 E13: Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast?

spreadshirt me NOWAirdate: January 6, 1994
Director:Andy Ackerman
Writer:
Molly Newman
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
Netflix describes Frasier as “cerebral.” I’m just going to leave that one alone.

Andy Ackerman would continue to direct Frasier episodes until February 14, 1995, having directed his first Seinfeld episode on  September 22, 1994 (actually, those are airdates). He would ultimately direct a total of 89 Seinfeld episodes.

This is the only Frasier episode written by Molly Newman.

This was the first episode that I viewed with subtitles on. They were in Helvetica, all-caps– very tasteful. I vastly prefer to view with subtitles. Everything. All the time. You find out how exotic names are spelled (did you know that the hitman on No Country for Old Men was named Anton Chigurh? Either you are lying or you read Entertainment Weekly, and in whichever case, STOP), you get to hear entire sentences that are obscured by noise and mumbling, you get to process entire sentences before or after they are spoken when, for whatever reason, you don’t get a chance to hear them, and finally– and most importantly, for me– you get to process all of the dialogue two separate times, with different parts of your brain (I guess).

After a dozen episodes, I have started paying attention to things like who’s writing, who’s directing, and what Frasier‘s overall voice sounded like amidst the tinny choir of other ’90s sitcoms. We continue to look (often in vain) for patterns and make value judgments about minutia banal and bizarre alike– that’s what one expects in the television blog genre, I take it– but it seems to me that bringing the crew and the other shows in the original primetime schedule into the conversation gives us more content and more perspective to work with when we listen for this beast’s pulse.

FDs1e13-2Our episode Synopsis:
Open at KACL. Frasier takes a call from 13-year-old Ethan, who reports that he has an I.Q. of 160 and is routinely pestered by his schoolmates. Frasier suggests that the bullies are jealous; tells Ethan he can look forward to having the last laugh. (Double cliché! It’s been a couple of weeks! Good work, everybody! Take the rest of the night off.)

Ethan is disappointed and insults Frasier at length. Frasier responds by telling the bullies, over the air, “if (they’re) listening,” to go to Ethan’s house and beat him up. Frasier then, of course, hangs up.

I’m pleased to announce on this occasion that I have decided to disqualify displays of sociopathic behavior on Frasier’s part in the “mental illness” series-count that he shares with Niles, because it happens too often, and I’m afraid it simply isn’t sporting. Think of it this way: Here is a character who has prompted us to stop counting the number of times that he does things like inciting an audience of half a million into beating a thirteen-year-old, because it happens too often to be interesting. That will serve as this week’s reminder that Frasier looks insane and then some on paper, and the world must know!

(OK. OK. While that indeed was a good reminder of all of those things, in the end I decided that discounting a certain type of occurrence in any category because it happens too often would entirely defeat the purpose of endeavoring to count anything in that category, hence qualifying sociopathic decisions of Frasier’s will stand. I repeat: sociopathy will stand. You guys are killing it this week– are you sure you need me?)

Frasier signs off. Roz touches up her make-up for a date with Noel, from the sales department. She doesn’t even like him. I think that she is attempting to date someone “nice” for a change or something like that, but it really isn’t clear.

Scene 2: Boy in the Hood
(Yes, yes: cliché. And I don’t know how the singular prevents it from being cutesy, OK? It just does.)

At the apartment, Daphne is preparing dinner. Niles asks if he can keep her company. He manages to fall off the counter and slam his head on the fridge. Frasier enters and scolds Niles for milking Daphne’s willingness to tend to him on the floor.

Frasier takes Niles aside; requests that he take Martin out to free the house up for an upcoming date. Niles agrees.

Martin and Eddie enter. Niles makes Martin the offer to spend time with him on Friday. Martin refuses; correctly guesses the reason that Niles is offering the invitation, and Frasier confesses. Martin agrees on the condition that Frasier return the favor on Thursday, for Martin’s date with Elaine Morris, from 1412. You see, it isn’t exposition if it’s revealed in questions and answers (How refreshing. Let’s see if we can get through a whole episode without exposition.)

Scene 3: Foot in Mouth Disease
(If we were hanging out in person, I would do this elaborately exaggerated preparation for a fake sneeze, and say the word “cliché!” really loudly into a kerchief, and everyone would give us ironic high-fives, but everyone would actually enjoy it, so they would really net as unironic, but that wouldn’t come up.)

In the kitchen on what will be revealed to be Friday morning, Daphne is preparing breakfast and Frasier is drinking coffee. Martin enters. Frasier and Daphne inquire about Martin’s date with Elaine, and she enters.

Frasier and Daphne introduce themselves. Frasier stutters into 1,284,679 Freudian slips about sexual intercourse when attempting to converse with Elaine. They sit for breakfast. Frasier fires off another half-million or so entirely non-intuitive single-entendre dirty verbal staggerings linked to plausible conversation with an acrobatic sort of logic usually only accessible via catatonia, and my roommate tells me to stop the damn yawning.

(Oh, now I’ve got you doing it.)

Daphne serves the food, but Frasier starts to speak again. Elaine excuses herself; leaves. Martin sits again. He isn’t that mad. People of Frasier-Denial Land, I must ask that you put down your yogurt for a brief moment and pay attention to what I am about to announce:

Martin has gotten some before Frasier has.

Carry on.

Scene 4: Untitled
FDs1e13-5
KACL caller Marianne (voice-over by Piper Laurie) has required her 22-year-old daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend to sleep in separate bedrooms when visiting; her question for Frasier is whether this is the right approach to hosting them. Frasier details the whole Elaine episode over the air. Marianne hangs up on him. He signs off for commercial.

Scene 5: Untitled
Daphne and Martin are at the apartment. Martin is upset about the show. Frasier enters and says hello to Eddie. Eddie and Daphne exit. Martin confronts Frasier about explaining on the air that Elaine had spent the night; exposits that she now won’t speak to him.
FDs1e13-3I can’t believe I didn’t notice when it happened. Martin has a very good point. Frasier has scored two sociopathy points in one episode– also, we didn’t make it through without exposition. Thank you for trying, though.

Eddie runs over to Frasier and stares at him.

Scene 6: Untitled
On-air at KACL, caller Al (voice-over by Henry Mancini) talks long, low, and dry about how he does not enjoy the sound of his own voice. Frasier and Roz make faces at each other and try not to laugh over the air. Frasier hangs up on him.

Roz puts Moon River on, and Frasier speaks over it with a plea to Elaine, to come to have dinner with Martin at 8:00.

Scene 7: This Is Where We Get Off
(Cutesy and cliché. You know you’re doing it wrong if a double entendre actually seems to redeem the thing.)

Frasier and Daphne are in the kitchen. Daphne explains that she’s making outgoing psychic transmissions to Elaine (I would have called this out as exposition if she were referring to something that was actually happening).

Martin emerges with a suit on. The doorbell rings. It’s a large mob of people who heard the show and are rooting for Martin, who comes out as Frasier starts yelling at everyone to leave. Elaine’s elevator opens; she freaks. Frasier enters the elevator, pulling Martin with him. Martin makes Frasier turn around, since in sitcoms you can’t hear anything that you can’t see; asks Elaine to stay. She agrees.

They return to the 19th floor. The mob applauds. Frasier orders them to disperse. Martin and Elaine enter the apartment.

Frasier and Daphne share a moment of tension as they actually stand in the hall, asking each other what “two grown, able-bodied adults” could possibly be doing together, which is kind of a great TV moment.

Then, they do the laundry.

Credits vignette:
Noel enters the producer’s booth and fiddles around.

End theme closing:
“Thank you!”

By now you may have noticed that there are only 5 closings to the end theme. I’m starting to wonder if this shouldn’t actually be called the “Closing theme ending.” Perhaps we’ll alternate that by season. Seriously, though, these are obviously chosen at random, so I’m not sure what the future holds. The most gracious way to deal with it would probably be a clean break at the end of the first season. However, much like Frasier himself, we who further his Denial don’t necessarily base our decisions on what is sensible, no– we go by feeling, Niles, FEELING!

Closing thoughts:
Frasier is a cartoon. If I could only accomplish one thing with …Denied, it would be to help you see this. Seinfeld and 30 Rock are also cartoons, but there are different ways in which they identify as such: On Seinfeld, everything that happens could possibly happen, but of course never would. In 30 Rock, we inhabit the realm of concept, and don’t even really have a fourth wall. Also, about 15% of what happens is entirely tangled in meta– it’s outright dream logic. On Frasier, the physics are natural enough, but what’s unreal is the social and psychological features of its characters’ world.

When you remember Frasier and Niles, you remember that they liked fine wines, Frasier had a radio show, Niles was in love with Daphne, and their father was a little cranky but loveable. However, if you read this blog (or have merely watched it and reflected on what you are seeing as we do here– I should always give you that much credit), you find a troubling and senseless continuity of petty conflict and frantic narcissism.

But that’s not why I brought this up. 30 Rock and Seinfeld have both treated us to episodes with cartoon endings (with Kramer getting chased by police on the highway and Liz Lemon shooting Wayne Brady in the butt, respectively), and I wonder whether Frasier is going to provide us with one of those (in seasons 1-7, of course. Season 8 on might as well be Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and I’m sure there are endings, beginnings, and middles that simply feature the characters on a trampoline over a shark tank with carrots hanging out of their mouths– who the hell knows?)

Just to be sure we’re all together on this, by “cartoon ending” I’m referring to an ending with narrative “knots” that the writers have no intention of “untying.” You know how Tom and Jerry would chop each other’s tails up or eat dynamite or blow off into the sky like a balloon, then reappear intact and energized 5 seconds later? That. When the next episode begins, there are no consequences or memory of the event.

Speaking of narrative continuity, let’s keep thinking about Seinfeld and 30 Rock for a moment.

In season 5 of Seinfeld, George lives with his parents. In season 6, he is hired by the New York Yankees. During the whole Frasier series, Frasier goes through about as much growth and change as George does in those two sentences. Same with 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon. She has the career, then the other thing (which I won’t spoil, because the series finale was within the past year), and that’s it. Come to think of it, I suppose I only used George instead of Jerry because Jerry really doesn’t have anything happen to him at all (and kudos to him and Larry David, of course, for intentionally making it so).

Anywho, these are all different layers in the substance of the show, sure. But when you think about 30 Rock, you know that there’s an opaque fourth wall; when you think about Seinfeld, you know that it’s “about nothing.” Frasier, on the other hand, somehow seduces you into consenting to its chaotic socio-surrealism, and, even long after you and I have written and read all 168 of these, I’m sure we will simply retain that anesthetized, mild-mannered version of the show that only ever truly existed in our minds in the first place, where Niles says “wow” as he looks at Daphne and Frasier puts coasters under their chardonnay glasses. But I have to try. Dammit, I have to try.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier’s inability to speak to Elaine at breakfast without accidentally talking about sex a dozen times is kind of an embarrassment to the English speaking world.

FDs1e13-1Continuity errors or anachronism:
Frasier says “hello” to Eddie.

And I would call writing in a moment of legitimate sexual tension between Frasier and Daphne a problem, but it’s tricky. As you can see, I’ve crowned it with our highest honor, “Kind of a great TV moment,” because it’s simply so damn novel, but it also seems to ripple troublingly against the canonical Frasier-Daphne narrative as a whole. I won’t speak of it again if you won’t.

And here’s a little bit of non sequitur (because I love you so much):
FDs1e13-7# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [2]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [2]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [3]

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

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
Episode:
[1]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [3]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [25]   series cumulative: [25]

# 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 is an accomplice in the physical beating of a minor.
(I know. I know.  Why do you think I call it “Denied”?)

(It was a close call, but we aren’t in fact going to count talking about Elaine over the air as the behavior of a psychopath. It’s remarkably negligent and insensitive, but I have to call it somewhere. Hey, at least that aspect of the category survived this week’s review, eh, tiger?)

# of tender pauses:
[Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [9]   series cumulative: [9]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
Frasier and Daphne experiencing sexual tension for one moment of the entire series.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Martin invites his neighbor Elaine over to the condo for an intimate dinner for two. The next morning, Frasier is unnerved to discover that Elaine has spent the night.”

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “S1 E13: Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast?

  1. As another person who prefers to watch TV with the captions (the only thing better than watching TV is READING it!), I’m enjoying the screen caps. I especially like the one of Roz impersonating a walrus for no discernible reason.

  2. Pingback: S1 E17: A Midwinter Night’s Dream | Frasier Denied

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s