S1 E14: Can’t Buy Me Love

FDs1e14-01Airdate: January 20, 1994
Director:James Burrows
Writers: Chuck Ranberg & Anne Flett-Giordano

(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
This is the first time that I have typed the synopsis while watching the episode, instead of writing it longhand, then typing it later. I hope t’will save some time. I am thinking of watching two episodes at once and writing some weird, non sequitur hybrid of the two on the fly next week (we are not going to do that–Ed.).

I would also like to extend an invitation to all of you, dear readers, to send your Frasier fan art and fan fiction. I will post it in a new link from the home page and mention new additions right here!

This episode weaves in a few Bulldog appearances. He is one of my favorite characters on the show, and I really like how his inner quirks are unpacked in what Bulldog-centric episodes there are.

FDs1e14-02Bulldog’s personality is the same on-air and off-air: he is candid, crass, loud, decisive, impulsive, and abrasive. I also just realized that he seems like an avatar of honesty placed in our midst to offer contrast against the contrived and tenuous “togetherness” with which Frasier always initiates his broadcasts.

Our episode Synopsis:
Open at KACL. Bulldog is on the air, and Frasier is peeking into the booth through a window. (It’s a door with a window on it. Why don’t we have a word for that?) Bulldog uses an audio sample of Ed McMahon saying “Hiyo!” This was 20 years ago, and it turns out my current online conversations were unwittingly modeled after Bulldog’s fictional radio show. Life is good.

Outside the booth, Roz passes Frasier; says goodnight. He asks her to go into the booth and get his briefcase for him, since he’s likely to get insulted by Bulldog over the air if he does it himself. She explains that it puts her in the same danger; leaves.
FDs1e14-03Frasier crawls into the booth and reaches for his briefcase just as Bulldog moves it.

He puts Frasier on the air and asks him a trick question about a game that isn’t happening. Frasier burns Bulldog back by pointing out that The Dr. Frasier Crane Show has a much larger audience. Bulldog is a good sport about it– another trait that Frasier has not once shown us a sign of, if he is capable.

Scene 2: A Chump Off the Old Block
(It’s too cutesy to be cliché, so I’m really not sure what to do about this one.)

Daphne and Martin are at the apartment. The doorbell rings. Daphne answers it; it’s Niles. He has brought champagne to drink with dinner. He exposits that Maris is on a train to Chicago.

Martin is playing chess by himself. Niles twice interrupts the next move and suggests what to do instead. Frasier enters. Niles makes several jokes about Maris’s excessively particular tastes.

Maris is quite a comedic wild card. Much as we find when it comes to Niles’ affection for Daphne, his disdain (or perhaps we should call it ‘helpless indifference’) for his wife can also fill any conversational container whatsoever, so long as it includes the same timing and tone of voice.

For the latter, it consists of a brief set-up, a response from someone who is presuming something normal, and the punchline, where Niles explains some unlikable quality of Maris’s. For the former, it’s quite similar: Daphne will speak about something normal (or someone– almost always Frasier– will say something normal about her), Niles will stare into space for an eighth beat, then he will fallaciously contort whatever normal thing was just said into an expression of longing. Then, if it’s Daphne he’s talking to, it’s chalked up to a (downright implausible) misunderstanding; if it’s Frasier, he’ll simply shout “Niles!” and I will giggle like a pigtailed and uniformed girl on the last day of school.
FDs1e14-04The implausibility of the misunderstanding that Daphne ascribes to these interactions is kind of important. I’ve mentioned it before, but Niles is in no way being ambiguous about the source and content of his involuntary interjections– and they happen so consistently. Daphne of course understands all of this, yet she pretends not to so as to allow Niles to have his dignity and avoid the air of scandal. For now.

Martin asks Frasier to participate in a celebrity bachelor auction for charity, along with Bulldog.

Niles suggests that no one will bid on Frasier. If you watch this part of the episode a couple of times, you will notice that Niles’ eyes have gone black, as if to warn the world that his soul has, if only for a fleeting moment, gone entirely cold. That’s how I know I chose the right show: It permits me to make assessments like that without exaggerating. It’s really quite astounding, considering the show’s chipper xylophone veneer.

Honestly, this particular “Evil Niles” moment is most likely merely a minor blemish– a little wrinkle of nuance-deficit. Then again, perhaps most sitcoms work this way. Perhaps it is the format (not just this show) that allows such ghastly, inhuman grotesqueries to occur before us and either escape our notice entirely or actually draw laughter out of our throats (this mortal coil will probably only be able to handle carrying out an episode-by-episode treatment of this one series, though– gotta be honest with you about that).

Scene 3: Going Once…
(Another cliché fish in my Frasier barrel.)

A tuxedo’d Bulldog is backstage at the auction with several other handsome fellows. Frasier enters; complains of a “high estrogen level out there.” Bulldog points out that women want sex as much as men do. Frasier claims he won’t be “putting out” on his date. Now. I have called Frasier a lot of things, but this is the first time that I have fathomed accusing him of not being human.
FDs1e14-05Frasier complains again, this time to Martin, that the bidders are going crazy. Martin introduces himself to a football player, who is clearly afraid to face them.

Scene 4: Going Twice…
(Why do I ever doubt you, Frasier? Why?) (Don’t anyone answer that.)

Frasier and the other contestants are still backstage at the auction. The football player enters, expositing that the woman who bought him was aggressive and seemed crazy. Roz enters, asking where to pay. Get it? ‘Cause– the woman who bought the football player was her? Like, so, she’s the aggressive, crazy person? HA HA HA HA HA!

Frasier is shocked. Roz talks to the football player like he is a dog, and it’s actually kind of fun. Frasier is next to be auctioned off. Martin expresses his appreciation and spanks Frasier enthusiastically.

Scene 5: …Gone!
(Well, my first impression was that this was a confusion between the phrases “going… going… gone” and “going once… going twice… sold.” I even googled “going once, going twice, gone,” which I didn’t think was an expression at all, and it got twice as many results as “going once, going twice, sold,” which I remember hearing plenty of times. I do not know what planet I am from. Carry on.)

Only Bulldog remains backstage at the auction. A flustered Frasier enters. Bulldog exits to the stage. An attractive woman enters; introduces herself as Frasier’s winning bidder. He lights up like a Christmas tree, teaching us that love and happiness all hinge on the arbitrary genetic advantages of your partner.
FDs1e14-06He stutters and oggles. She tells him that she is a model. He lights up even more, teaching us that the only thing more important than the arbitrary genetic advantages of your partner is the astronomically more arbitrary matter of whether they arbitrarily pose with arbitrary retail items arbitrarily on or near them. Blorch.

They arrange the date for Friday at 7:00. She exits. Bulldog enters; describes his winning bidder as a “chew toy.” Daphne enters. He spanks her and leaves to urinate. (Why are you looking at me? I’m not going to defend him. I only said I like that he’s honest. Obviously, his skull should be knocked a little for this. I’m with you.)

Frasier asks Daphne how she ended up winning Bulldog. She explains that hers was the opening bid, requested by Martin.

Scene 6: Untitled
At the apartment, Frasier has prepared an elaborate array of fancy foods in expensive-looking dishes. The doorbell rings. He checks his breath, checks the mirror, and opens the door.

It turns out that Christina has to go to work and intends to have Frasier babysit her daughter, Renata. He agrees. Christina hurries off. Renata asks to use the phone.
FDs1e14-09Scene 7: Shrink Rap
(Neither cutesy nor cliché. Actually, maybe it’s both.)

Renata, still on the phone, is feeding Eddie cheese curls on the couch. Frasier takes the phone away; exposits that it has been an hour and a half.

They go to the kitchen to get some food. Renata explains that Christina often does this. Frasier offers to listen if Renata wishes to talk about it. She claims that Christina lies about her age and is often neglectful and controlling.

Scene 7: Driving Miss Daphne
(This scene title is an impossible, magical combination of equal parts cutesy and cliché that results in a perfectly Frasier scene title. I will need to discuss all of the “perfectly Frasier” elements– namely jokes and scene titles– for the season recap.)

FDs1e14-10

Bulldog and Daphne are in the back of a limo, stuck in traffic after a Supersonics game. They are drinking red wine, and Daphne is drunk. She repeatedly insults Bulldog and laughs. Then, she picks a fight with someone in another car. They retaliate by dragging Bulldog out of the limo. Traffic begins to move again, and Daphne continues to drink alone.

Say– Bulldog got the beating that we said he deserved! You and I, my friend, are, like, superheroes.
FDs1e14-11

Scene 8: Untitled
At the apartment, Frasier and Renata are eating raw cookie dough together. The doorbell rings. It’s Christina. Renata exits. Frasier calls Christina out on Renata’s accusations. Christina isn’t fazed; explains that Renata makes those things up.
FDs1e14-13FDs1e14-14
She is, however, actually pissed at Frasier for… being so concerned about her daughter, I guess, so she exits.

Scene 9: Untitled
Frasier and Eddie are eating raw cookie dough together, which is kind of a great TV moment.

Martin enters. Frasier explains what happened. He is most concerned with whether his son will behave the way Renata did, which is sort of like a tender pause that only happens in his head (which doesn’t count).

Credits vignette:
Frasier, Daphne, and Martin are drinking wine in the limo as Eddie looks out the window.

End theme closing:
I don’t think it matters anymore.

Closing thoughts:
The “(celebrity) bachelor auction for charity ” is one of those delightful tropes that used to run standard on primetime. I just realized yesterday that the sitcom studio audience format goes back at least 60 years, when Netflix suggested two workplace, laugh-track comedies from 1953 (Private Secretary and My Hero). I dug both.

Anywho, the settings, the filming formats, and I guess 50 or so narrative tropes: these things embed in trends that can arc for years upon years. Lace in the wistful buzz that you can always count on when you mainline an hour (or four) of Tony Danza croons (or whatever your poison), and it’s genuinely not surprising to me that we’ve been watching sitcoms for 5 dozen years.

These sitcom tropes have seemingly been passed among TV producers in a little dog-eared handbook:

The cousin visits from out of town (played by Scott Baio/Kirk Cameron/Brad Pitt/etc.);

The birthday party is ruined because of a car accident/clown not showing up/power outage/etc, and it gives us a chance to be reminded of what’s really important;

The wedding occurs under hilarrrrrious circumstances;

The birth occurs under hilarrrrrious circumstances (and 50% chance of previously undetected twins);

The main character becomes unemployed, then gets the best job imaginable within 22 minutes of air-time;

The very special episode (God, I hated these. God! What a waste of my half-hour. Say, was there ever a special episode on Frasier? Why do I doubt it? And why am I not considering that a good thing?)

Yes. We all have our favorites (or our ironic favorites, as it were). I truly hope you have just thought of 5 more, laughed with abandon, and refused to explain it to someone.

***

As soon as I started this blog, I started using a semi-colon to quickly describe two successive actions being carried out by a person, for example “Martin closes the door; reminds Frasier the basement is haunted.” Because so much is being done and said in such an efficient fashion in order to meet the tender pause’s 22-minute deadline, the use of this kind of phrasing is kind of crucial.

I have ceased to find the subtitles to be useful. It turns out they’re the kind that paraphrase the dialogue so that it can be read with the pace of the show. I guess this is probably often necessary– especially on a sitcom, with all of the exposition, not to mention the aforementioned efficiency required to balance the action and dialogue, but this is a case of consistent and especially egregious butchery of the language– unnecessary rephrasing, details left out– oh dear God. I’m critiquing the subtitles. Perhaps we should actually make next week’s review a drinking game. I feel so sad right now.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier could simply ignore Bulldog entirely when taunted on the air in the booth– it would make Bulldog look very silly on his own show, and he would most likely never do it again.

Frasier would have done well to tread lightly when approaching Christine about Renata’s accusations.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
(none)

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode:
[1]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [3]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [3]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]

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

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [3]   previous cumulative: [25]   series cumulative: [28]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [10]

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

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
Frasier and Eddie eating raw cookie dough together.
FDs1e14-15

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “As a favor to his father, Frasier agrees to take part in a celebrity bachelor auction.”

FDs1e14-07end

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3 thoughts on “S1 E14: Can’t Buy Me Love

  1. Wait, raw cookie dough is BAD for dogs. 😮

    I suppose they never talked about any minor league teams or Washington State.

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