S1 E18: And the Whimper Is…

FDs1e18-04Airdate: February 17, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writers:
Denise Moss, Sy Dukane
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
I wanted to give a salute to Billy Superstar, who just finished the project that inspired this one: Full House Reviewed. The first episode on that site was posted on March 13, 2010. He never missed a week for very nearly 4 years. He will next be reviewing Saved by the Bell, I hear. I’ll let you know if I find out anything before you do.
FDs1e18-10Having been right in the spotlight on the previous episode, Niles takes an obvious backseat in this one. He perpetrates a running gag throughout, in which everyone treats him like a waiter, and I totally approve. It’s genuinely funny– not just funny in the detached, post-ironic sense, like most of the time.

Our episode Synopsis:
Open at KACL. On the air, Frasier is just finishing a call. Still on the air, he asks Roz who the next caller is, then turns to find that she is not in the control room. Frasier recovers, signing off for a commercial break, and goes to look for Roz.
FDs1e18-01He sees her rushing back to the control room and hides behind the door. He scares her from behind, which makes me think some more about their relationship. Last episode, they had a conversation in that very room in which Frasier indicated that he didn’t care to listen to Roz talking about her feelings (she was very upset; we don’t know why), then he asked her for sex advice. It’s beginning to look to me like Roz and Frasier’s relationship is meant to have a sibling dynamic.

Roz explains that she was completely neglecting the broadcast so that she could find out about the SEABA nominations– which itself is a pretty good example of a reason that she and Frasier shouldn’t be listed among them. Twice in the next minute, two people unknowingly mislead them to think that they got the nomination, but there is no actual news yet.

Scene 2: Untitled
Frasier and Niles are at Cafe Nervosa. Bebe Glazer, Frasier’s agent, enters. She notifies Frasier that The Frasier Crane Show indeed got the SEABA nomination. Bebe orders a double double decaf to go.
FDs1e18-05Niles voices his low opinion of the “celebrity” route that Frasier has taken in their profession. The brothers bicker about it briefly. Bebe is amused.

Niles exits; Roz enters. Frasier and Roz mutually congratulate with a hug. Roz reports that her date for the ceremony is going to be Brad MacNamara, a handsome TV reporter. Roz and Bebe introduce themselves. Bebe asks Roz to fetch her coffee. Frasier nods helplessly to Roz, as if to say, “There is nothing I can do– you have to go obey her.” As Roz does so, Bebe invites herself as Frasier’s date– it’s ambiguous to Frasier whether she’s joking, and he doesn’t ask to clarify, which is the second thing Frasier does to reinforce my sense that Bebe can tell anyone she wants what to do, and her clients are the only ones who are shown mercy. She exits.

Scene 3: Roz and Frasier Hatch a Merry Plan
At the apartment, Frasier, Martin, and Daphne stand around the table. Frasier is holding a $200 bottle of champagne. He attempts to elaborately, and somewhat condescendingly, explain his method for avoiding spillage, and on his first turn of the cork, it takes flight and champagne sloshes out freely. Daphne scrambles to get some glasses (nice job not having those ready, Frasier), and Eddie laps some champagne off the table.
FDs1e18-06Frasier pours. Martin toasts Frasier for the SEABA nomination. They clink glasses. Martin quickly slips into the kitchen; returns filling his glass with a beer can. This means he dumped about $50 worth of champagne. What the hell, Martin?
FDs1e18-07Daphne thanks Frasier for treating her as part of the family. The doorbell rings– it’s Roz. Martin and Daphne congratulate her; Daphne gets her some champagne. Roz asks if she can borrow a push-up bra for the night of the ceremony. You can never have too much gratuitous contrast at the Cranes’ place!

Roz produces a folded up magazine page and hands it to Frasier. It’s a full-page ad in which one of their competitors thanks the voting committee for her nomination and expresses “hope” for the award. Roz suggests that they do the same; cites similar ways that other broadcasters are trying to enhance their image and improve their chances. Frasier agrees. He suggests they brainstorm for something unique and memorable, such as personalized gifts from Tiffany’s.
FDs1e18-02Amid their inspired flurry of gift suggestions, Martin picks up the Tiffany’s catalog as he protests, calling them out for bribery. He exits, tossing the catalog into the fire.

Roz and Frasier sulk for a brief moment, then redouble their unanimous intent to follow through.

Scene 4: The Plot Thickens
(See the closing thoughts for these writers’ cumulative scene-titles record.)

At the awards ceremony, Frasier and Martin enter, both wearing tuxedos. At this moment, I realize how glad I am that this isn’t one of those shows where, when a lead actor enters dressed up, the audience goes “WOOOOOOO!”

Daphne enters, cursing her uncomfortable shoes. Two members of the voting committee thank Frasier for gifts.
FDs1e18-09Martin sees an anchor he admires; goes to meet him. Roz greets Frasier. She reports that Brad MacNamara had to cancel. Noel is her date instead.

Noel meets Daphne. She asks him to rub her feet. Frasier shouts “Daphne!” Niles shows up, and, you know what? I’m actually kind of sad that the audience does not applaud like they did for the Fonz whenever he initially entered. Frasier thanks Niles for coming.

Niles greets Daphne. She asks him to rub her feet. He says “yes.” This time, Frasier doesn’t snap the catchphrase version of “Niles!”–  instead, he says it calmly, as if Niles were a child backing away from the edge of a cliff and Frasier didn’t know whether he would in fact throw a tantrum and fall off. Realsies: they give it the tense, silent breathing time that it deserves, resulting in what I consider the most funny moment in the series so far.

Frasier sends Niles to get him a scotch. Martin returns to the table; reports that Frasier’s competitor Fletcher Grey has been nominated for the award 11 times and not yet won. Grey comes to the table and says hello. Grey’s mother also comes over to meet Frasier. She laments Grey’s repeated losses. Frasier is obviously starting to feel guilty about bribing all of the judges.

Grey and his mother return to their table. Bebe enters. Niles returns with Frasier’s scotch; Bebe “orders” champagne from Niles.

The announcer begins the ceremony. Frasier tells Roz he’s feeling bad about campaigning for the award. The announcer informally makes mention that Fletcher Grey will be retiring this year. The “Outstanding Achievement for Informational Programming in Radio” award is the first one of the night, which brings about one of those moments where the artifice of the 2-dimensional world swings about like a lanky wart on a bruised, aching thumb.

You know how sitcom characters go to a big sports event or a concert and you’re perpetually aware of how small the room they’re actually in is? This was that kind of thing, only in the fourth dimension, I guess. There’s no waiting in sitcom world– no false starts, no unexpected delays. The cast goes to the ceremony to find out about the award, so when the ceremony starts, that’s the award that is presented. Contemporary comedies have solved the small-space problem by shooting on location and the artificial convenience problem by simply favoring painfully awkward silences and ordeals for their comedic value (plus, we’ve got the wobbly camera, making everything real).
FDs1e18-11Leading up to the announcement, Frasier is apprehensive about accepting the award if they win. Roz is not.

The announcer reads the nominees. Fletcher Grey gets the most applause. The results are a tie:

Neither Fletcher Grey nor Frasier and Roz are in it. They both lost. Not bad.

Scene 5: The Thrilling Denouement
Most of the guests have left. Frasier and Roz are sitting at the table drinking. Martin tells them sorry that they didn’t get the award. Frasier declines to ride home with Martin and Daphne. They exit.
FDs1e18-03Fletcher Grey approaches the table. Niles hands him a drink, then exits. Grey makes a speech about how the only thing that is important is whether you are satisfied with your work– not awards (and presumably, not even an audience.
FDs1e18-12That reminds me, I have to call my mom and ask her if she liked my band’s new compact disc). Anywho, Fletcher Grey almost does a tender pause, but not quite. He exits.

Frasier summarizes Grey’s speech for some reason. Then, there’s a tender pause. Roz cries, and it seems like it should be comical, but it isn’t for a moment. Then, the attractive event cohostess asks Frasier to join her for a drink and he abandons Roz.
FDs1e18-13Credits vignette:
Roz and Fletcher Grey’s mother are drinking daiquiris. Roz sobs. Mrs. Grey steals Roz’s drink.

Closing thoughts:
This is the fourth episode brought to us by writing team Denise Moss and Sy Dukane. As is custom, let’s check their scene title stats for the series so far.

To review, we judge every scene title on whether it is cutesy, cliché, or incoherent.

S1E2-Space Quest:
1: neither
2: cliché
3: neither

S1E6-The Crucible:
(1 was untitled)
2: incoherent/half-cutesy
3: neither
4: half-cutesy (but redeemingly esoteric)
5: cutesy and cliché (very on both counts)

S1E10-Oops!:
1: cliché (very)
2: cutesy and cliché
3: cutesy and cliché
4: cliché (very)

S1E18-And the Whimper Is…
(1 & 2 were untitled)
3: half-cliché
4: cliché-and-a-half, plus half-cutesy
5: cutesy (but redeemingly sarcastic)

Moss and Dukane’s overall score after this episode is:
Cliché: 10
Cutesy: 6
Incoherent: 1

They will only write one more episode, S1E20, so we’ll see how they do. I must say that’s a pretty good score for incoherent. Counting for the “very” entries (which are worth double points– while redeeming qualities subtract half a point), that’s a 1 out of 17. However, given how alarmingly high the team rates on cliché, it may have in fact paid to make a little less sense every once in a while (and I have to say I think that’s an important thing for us all to remember about life).

In grabbing screen shots for these past few episodes, I’m noticing that it is often hard to snag a colored corner of the frame– often only one corner isn’t black (see for yourself). This demonstrates how soft and dark the show is on the eyes. I admire how the whole setting so prominently features the colors of a psychiatrist’s office– all dignified browns and grays.

And the Whimper Is… gave us the first tender pause in a while, bringing the series count to ten. God knows those tender pauses are a pretty good bump of cheap-deep for your plastic moral center, but what I really love to see on this show is when someone gets legitimately angry, the audience falls stone quiet, and we have an off-the-menu “solemn pause.” Those make this whole thing worth it.

We are within less than a month of exactly 20 years since the airdate of this episode.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
It’s completely absurd for Roz to leave the control room in the middle of a show to check on the nominees for the award– it’s not like she had to be somewhere to make a timely bid or purchase quickly-selling tickets for something. There was no time-sensitive aspect to hearing the announcement whatsoever.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
Bebe doesn’t pay for her coffee.

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]

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

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [5]

# 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: [1]   previous cumulative: [6]   series cumulative: [7]
Strictly speaking, he shouted “Daphne!” but they put me in charge because I know how to deal with these things.

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [2]   previous cumulative: [48]   series cumulative: [50]

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

# of tender pauses:
[Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [9]   series cumulative: [10]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
(none)
FDs1e18-08TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Frasier’s agent Bebe informs him that he and Roz have been nominated for Seattle‘s annual broadcasting awards.”

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S1 E17: A Midwinter Night’s Dream

FDs1e17-01Airdate: February 10, 1994
Director: David Lee
Writers: Chuck Ranberg, Anne Flett-Giordano

(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
Some series commit to a romantic connection between characters and find themselves toppling in mid-air over a toothy, salt-water predator. Others plot it out, center legitimate story and character elements over it, take a chance, and find a dash of luck, I guess. Frasier is an example of the latter, and this is the episode that initiates the transition in earnest. I’m talking, of course, about the inevitable courtship of Niles and Daphne.

This isn’t the first time I’ve sat through the whole Frasier canon– I binged it a couple of winters ago. Even as we frame it negatively by definition, gleefully indicting clichés and nonsense in the format and narrative and decrying the largely psychotic behavior of its characters, I hope the fact that I’m bothering to examine it this carefully speaks to its appeal, and the Niles/Daphne element might very well be where we find that appeal– it may be the only reason I watch Frasier at all (outside of Midwestern hotel rooms, of course).

Our episode synopsis:
Open at Cafe Nervosa. Niles orders a non-fat half-caff double cappuccino with cinnamon. Before Frasier orders, Daphne enters. She is getting coffee beans for the apartment. The waiter, Eric, flirts confidently and elaborately, calmly offering repeated executions of coffee-related double entendre, all of which Daphne happily welcomes. They both go to the register to ring her up for the beans, Eric not having taken Frasier’s order at all.

Daphne stops again at the table on her way out; announces that she has made a date with Eric for that coming Saturday. Niles is shell-shocked and can barely conceal his discomfort as Daphne expresses her excitement. She exits.

Niles claims he is upset only because Eric is a “community college type,” but clearly, Niles means to take ownership of Daphne’s would-be affections. Thus, for the first time, his infatuation with her is discussed outright on the show. Frasier voices his concern that, while it initially seemed like a harmless crush, Niles’ obsession has had obvious effects on his behavior. Frasier reminds Niles that he is married; suggests that there may be a lack of physical affection or a communication issue that Niles and Maris ought to address.

Scene 2: Untitled
Frasier arrives in the control room at KACL. He asks Roz how she is. Visibly upset, she asks if he actually wants to know; he outright specifies that he is just “making conversation” (I’ve never been quite sure what sort of definition of “conversation” this expression is meant to uphold, but there you go).
FDs1e17-03In the next breath, Frasier asks Roz to give him bedroom advice (on Niles’ and Maris’ behalf). Roz is happy to help. Her suggestion is fantasy role play meant to convey to the woman that the man is a powerful, capable lover.

We never find out what Roz was upset about, hence this scene was apparently meant to explicitly convey that Frasier takes Roz’s friendship for granted– yet it doesn’t address that either, so I’m not sure what to think. In a perfect world, Roz’s advice would have some element of sabotage as Frasier’s comeuppance, but perhaps fate will serve it to him cold. She’s certainly more at peace with herself than he is, so maybe that’s part of it. It seems that each episode in some way maintains Frasier’s character as a how-not-to primer for relationships.

Scene 3: Ahoy Matey
(Oh, incoherence. We have to do this more often.)FDs1e17-04It’s the middle of the night at the apartment. The doorbell rings. The lights go on; Frasier emerges from his bedroom in his pajamas and robe. He gets the door. It’s Niles, who explains that Maris has kicked him out. Oh– Niles is also wearing a pirate costume.
FDs1e17-05(It’s the nineties, am I right?)

Martin enters and simply says “I don’t want to know.” Niles’ exposition tells us that he hid in the closet and left a treasure map for Maris to find him. He also specifies that he was only wearing his eye patch at the time.
FDs1e17-06Anywho, it was not Maris, but the maid, who found Niles naked in the closet. Maris returned presently, and– well, what would you think? Martin tells Niles he can stay at the apartment that night; assures him that it’ll blow over. Martin exits. Frasier gets bedding for Niles. As he settles in on the couch, Niles explains that he never cries.

Frasier goes to bed and turns the lights out. Daphne returns from her date, kisses Eric goodnight, and goes to her room without noticing Niles. Comically, Niles generously jams our contrast receptors, weeping under the covers.
FDs1e17-08Scene 4: Untitled
Martin and Frasier are at the breakfast table. Daphne is refilling coffee. She says that she may be falling for Eric.
FDs1e17-09Niles enters; exposits that Maris has gone to Arizona to book some time at her favorite “coping” spa. Daphne mentions Eric again. Niles screams, protesting that she’s always talking about Eric.

Frasier suggests couples therapy. Martin scoffs at that and prescribes flowers and a home-cooked dinner. Daphne offers to help cooking. She begins to explain that she has a date with Eric that night and actually masks his name by awkwardly adding another syllable to “Eric” with an “A”, then fabricates an explanation that she has an elderly aunt by the name of Erica.

The Niles-and-Daphne fan in me wants to call this out as placating Niles’ furiously fervent, ever-thinly veiled feelings (we can even call them intentions) for Daphne, but his outburst mere minutes ago calls for just this sort of little cover-up and then some.

Niles reviews Maris’ dietary restrictions.
FDs1e17-10Scene 5: It Was A Dark and Stormy Night
(Did we do cliché already? Wait– oh, good. One incoherent; one cliché. Proceed.)
Second Title: No Really
(This self-conscious postscript makes it clear that the Frasier crew is perfectly aware of our scene title requirements. If one did not openly tend toward the cliché and the incoherent, why would It Was A Dark and Stormy Night require such clarification under these circumstances?)
FDs1e17-11At Maris’ mansion, a heavy thunderstorm is in progress. Niles and Daphne enter the living room. Niles tells the story of how he and Maris met. Daphne explains that Eric broke up with her and cries as Niles consoles her. The phone rings. Maris tells Niles over the phone that the storm has prohibited her from returning to Seattle. He hangs up and explains everything to Daphne. The power goes out.
FDs1e17-12Scene 6: Untitled
(I would have called it I Would Walk 500 Niles.)
At the apartment, Martin is on the phone with Daphne, who is informing him that she’ll be staying at Niles’ house. Martin hangs up the phone and informs Frasier. Frasier nods. Martin then explains Maris’ being kept from returning home. Frasier panics and grabs his coat. He and Martin exit.FDs1e17-14Scene 7: Untitled
(I would have called it Fool in the Rain. See? I’ve already fulfilled the “cliché” and “incoherent” quotas, and I don’t even work here.)

At Niles’ house, the power is still out, and there are tall, fancy candles everywhere. Niles, in his robe, sits playing at the piano. Daphne comes down the stairs in attractive lady jammies. Niles swiftly botches his pristine piano playing when he sees her– that’s so Niles!

He is so frantic about misjudging his own will to avoid sliding into an unfaithful episode with our Daphne that he calls the apartment.
FDs1e17-22Frasier and Martin argue about which route to take to Niles’ house, and this shot of them can not appear on t-shirts of ours soon enough:
FDs1e17-21They discuss their and our mutual bewilderment over the ostensible marital chemistry of Niles and Maris. The car stalls at the road. Frasier gets out and starts up the driveway on foot.

Meanwhile, in Niles’ darkened living room, Daphne is still upset about Eric. Niles consoles her again. They lounge by the fire and tell each other that they feel very close. Maris’ clock goes off, having been silent for ages. Niles abruptly sits up. He still loves Maris, and Daphne says so aloud.
FDs1e17-15Niles gives a touching speech about what love means to him, which is kind of a great TV moment. With that, the Niles/Daphne tension has subsided for now, but the two of them have left behind any doubt that a lifelong love is growing between them. In doing so, they’ve led us to open the Niles and Daphne category here at Frasier Denied.

Daphne kisses Niles on the cheek. Frasier appears at the glass doors and, to my delight, references The Graduate with barrels of rain falling on him, which is kind of a great TV moment.

He enters, loudly protesting that lives are being thrown away. Daphne is offended. Frasier “recovers” by claiming that he was actually merely upset that the night was being wasted since no one was singing. With purpose, Frasier asks Daphne to get wine and tells Niles to meet him at the piano.

I actually love this moment kind of deeply. It’s a perfect way to let the big news settle. I find the glaring, mutual denial involved in concurring with such a hasty, eccentric pretext as “I came here to urgently tell you to sing” so familial and benevolent: From here on, that nescient love of theirs will grow in earnest, and to see that it does so properly, trust is extended between all parties, even brother Frasier.
FDs1e17-20Credits vignette:
Frasier, Niles, and Daphne drink and sing at the piano as Martin stands outside in the rain.

Closing thoughts:
It was only 4 episodes ago that the Frasier crew ever-briefly presented the possibility of amorous tension between Daphne and Frasier.

You may not have read the ‘About’ page, so we’ll review: It is the official opinion of Frasier Denied that the central story of the show involves Niles’ and Daphne’s deepening relationship. Please note that I would love to hear arguments against this, by the way. Perhaps you reason that Frasier is character- rather than story-oriented, or that the narrative of the series is about the whole family. Let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, as we Deny another day, I say again that Seinfeld‘s George Costanza and King of the Hill‘s Luanne Platter both experience more events and changes in life than Frasier Crane does on this, his beloved eponymous show. Furthermore, after the season 7 finale, in which Niles and Daphne marry, the Frasier crew has absolutely nothing to offer us.

But this is a happy time! Why am I talking about that? Frasier‘s Niles and Daphne are more likable than Ross and Rachel, they’re not stammering adolescents like Winnie and Kevin (for the most part), and they aren’t, uh, siblings like Luke & Leia. Most importantly, they are relatable. I have been entertained and endeared by many of TV’s will they/won’t they couples and their varied outcomes, but Niles and Daphne bring such a strikingly familiar personality and psychology to the screen. The only couple I’ve ever rooted for more decisively is Jim and Pam, but come on– they’re the Beatles of will they/won’t they couples– you can’t feel bad there.

Kudos to Frasier for its success in initiating a courtship between these characters. It’s about as high stakes as killing somebody off– in some circumstances, maybe more.
FDs1e17-16Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
I would think that Niles could have explained to Maris that she was the one he’d intended to find him naked in their closet. He did, after all, leave a treasure map.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
(none)

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]

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

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [2]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [5]

# 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: [2]   previous cumulative: [4]   series cumulative: [6]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [15]   previous cumulative: [33]   series cumulative: [48]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [10]
Though Frasier is a total jag for directly telling Roz that he doesn’t care how she’s doing, then immediately asking for sex advice.

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

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
FDs1e17-18Also, there were about 40 “Kind of a great Frasier moment” moments in this episode– every time Niles and Daphne tacitly communicated their latent bond with no mistaking, I nearly messed up my pedicure, and I had to forcefully stop myself from adding a dozen more screen shots.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): Niles goes to Frasier, seeking advice about problems with his wife, Maris.”
FDs1e17-17