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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