S1 E19: Give Him the Chair!

FDs1e19-02Airdate: March 17, 1994:
Director: James Burrows
Writers: Chuck Ranberg, Anne Flett-Giordano
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
The title of this episode counts as one point in the ‘Dad’s Chair Is Awful’ jokes” category. Even as it ever so cutely refers to executing Martin by electrocution, it also plainly sums up how the episode resolves.

I had remembered the “Dr. Crane” brothers’ disdain for the chair as a bigger part of the show. Not surprisingly, I liked this episode a lot. Only a few separate Frasier episodes really stand out as my favorites (for the most part, I tend to care more about key moments and recurring character traits, hence I keep more track of those in terms of favorites than episodes), but this is one of them.

Give Him the Chair! is the fifth episode written by Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano, making them, as a duo, responsible for more of the Frasier canon (so far) than anyone. This will in fact continue to be the case until the end of season 4. Flett-Giordano also wrote for Kate & Allie and Desperate Housewives (Wow. That’s over three decades of work, when you count her care for our beloved Denied one.) Ranberg also wrote for Desperate Housewives. In the post-Frasier interim, he wrote plays off-Broadway, and she apparently did things that IMDB doesn’t keep track of, like napping or fishing.

Our episode Synopsis:
On the air, Frasier introduces his guest for the second hour, Helmut Bruga, author of The Menopausal Male (why not? Sure). Roz patches Dr. Bruga in, calling from his office at UW. Frasier and Bruga say that they’re mutual fans. Bruga says he often disagrees with Frasier’s analysis of his callers. Although Niles has openly criticized Frasier’s choice to take the “celebrity route” in psychoanalysis since day one, it is only now that I become curious about how consistent this running joke will become: a PhD declaring over the air that Frasier is bad at his job.
FDs1e19-14Frasier begins the interview with a question about the book. Dr. Bruga cuts him off; asks to say hello to Roz. She reciprocates. Frasier goes back to discussing the book, and I pause it to write what will happen next: Bruga interrupts again, speaking directly to Roz. I unpause it, and he does. The third time he interrupts, he asks Roz out to dinner. She is flattered and pleased to receive the attention over the air. She begins to respond affirmatively, but Frasier holds up the book to reveal the author’s picture on the back. Seeing Bruga’s age and looks, Roz interrupts her own train of thought, openly expressing her disappointment, then emits a sour and decisive refusal.

Frasier’s patience has also completely run dry for his guest, so he dismisses him promptly.

Scene 2: Sitting Pretty
(I’m not going to do a scene-title breakdown for these writers, for two reasons. First, they will still be providing a lot of work yet, and secondly, even when they go cliché, cutesy, and/or incoherent, they consistently maintain the Frasier aesthetic– in fact, I’m starting to suspect that they invented it.)

The doorbell rings. Daphne answers the door; it’s Niles. He has come to hide Maris’s birthday gift– an emerald necklace– at the apartment until her birthday.

Daphne looks at the necklace; admires it. Niles offers her to try it on. He helps her; it drops down her shirt. Frasier enters as Daphne retrieves it, comically getting the impression that Niles and Daphne were easing into second base.
FDs1e19-01As Daphne exits, Niles explains the necklace. Frasier still calls Niles out on getting so close to Daphne. I’m a big fan of Frasier’s general disapproval for Niles’ benign but perpetual involuntary indiscretions– hence our slogan, “NILES!”

Martin and Eddie enter. Niles explains the necklace again. Martin begins to repair a tear in his chair with duct tape. Frasier pleads with Martin to replace the chair entirely. Martin of course favors it because it’s comfortable and reliable.
FDs1e19-04Martin exits. Frasier and Niles discuss the issue. Niles suggests that Frasier be more firm, since it is his place. Frasier is concerned for Martin’s feelings. Niles persists, attempting a psychoanalysis “if he may.” For this, Frasier actually lies on the couch, but Niles doesn’t acknowledge any sense that it’s tongue-in-cheek. Come to think of it, as far as I remember, Niles has never once displayed a sense of humor. Frasier does make jokes, but only for the sake of looking down on someone. Hey, wait a minute– this seems too crazy, but I never even remember seeing Niles smile (OK. Now it’s our quest to catch Niles smiling).
FDs1e19-05Anywho, Niles points out, incorrectly, that Martin needed the chair to transition to his life at the apartment. Frasier is receptive, and he plans to throw the chair away and replace it.

Scene 3: Good Vibrations
(3/4 cliché; 1/4 cutesy. But it makes me thirsty.)

Frasier and Niles are at a furniture showroom. They’re both still wearing their suits from work. I guess it wouldn’t be Frasier if they had put on casual clothes for anything other than a tennis match or bedtime. Speaking of the Crane brothers’ trademark snoot, Niles is so vocal about his disdain for every sort of recliner that it sounds like some bizarre kind of compensation for a repressed leather fetish or something.

They regard the furniture like carcasses and treat the salesman like an idiot. He invites Niles to try a vibrating chair. He is hesitant, but sits, and when the salesman switches the chair on, Niles briefly but utterly loses verbal control in his ecstasy. Frasier tries it too, completing the gag with his own immediate conversion to unselfconsciously indulgent gibberish.
FDs1e19-06FDs1e19-07Scene 4: Untitled
At the apartment, Eddie is barking and growling at the space where Martin’s chair used to be. Frasier asks Daphne what is wrong. Daphne surmises that in the absence of the chair, Eddie thinks Martin has gone. Isn’t Frasier the psychiatrist (Oh. Daphne is psychic, though). Frasier assures Eddie that any situation with a missing Martin would also entail a missing Eddie.

The doorbell rings. It’s Pearl Jam, delivering the new chair. Daphne asks him to check on a leaky faucet in the kitchen. As he does, Frasier asks Daphne to try the chair. He plugs it in; turns it on. After Daphne makes 40% of the episode’s sex jokes involving the massage feature, Martin enters. The apartment, that is. Frasier presents the chair to Martin, who immediately asks where his chair is. Frasier explains that it’s in storage. Martin shakes his head. Frasier has him sit to try the new chair. Martin is the last cast member to force a massage chair sex joke.
FDs1e19-09FDs1e19-10Martin stands and names 11 reasons why he doesn’t like it. Curiously enough, none of them have to do with its “chairgasm” mode. Frasier calls Pearl Jam back in and asks for the old chair from storage, but Pearl Jam reports that instead of storing it, he put the chair by the dumpster.
FDs1e19-08They have another couple of those arbitrary “funny that someone is stupid” jokes of which I have never seen the appeal and Frasier releases Pearl Jam into the night to find the chair.

Daphne exits. Frasier and Martin immediately escalate to tense and angry. Martin carefully unpacks the tender pause, explaining that the chair was the only thing in the whole apartment that made him comfortable.

Frasier goes batty, shouting as he soils the still plugged-in leather chair with food and beer, finally shaking Eddie over it and tossing him onto it.

You know how the comic violence of Home Alone is horrifying with the right atmosphere? This is that: If the audience weren’t persistent in delivering a cushion of bland laughter like a handball volley throughout this portion of the scene, you would get a proper sense of how off-the-handle this display really is. Truthfully, I recommend mute with subtitles for it. This is the epitome of what it means to Frasier-Deny: his behavior here is anything but funny.

However, Martin ignores Frasier’s psychopathic tantrum entirely and promptly and methodically pulls back on the tender pause catapult, ratcheting the tension progressively higher as he explains that he sat in his old chair when he watched Neil Armstrong hop on the moon, when he watched the U.S. hockey team take the 1980 Olympics, and when he got the phone call announcing his grandson’s birth (I would have just called him Frederick, but Frasier doesn’t see his son often enough for me to assume that you would know him by his first name).

With the tender pause set at near maximum, Martin gives it a final torque, explaining that he was also sitting in that very chair when Mrs. Crane used to wake him with a kiss every night. Then, (are you ready? Clench your buttocks!) he explains that he sometimes wakes up still expecting her to wake him with a kiss, temporarily blinding us with Frasier‘s most tender of tender pauses yet. (I tried to warn you. You’re not supposed to look directly into it.)

Better still, the fallout just lingers, as Maritn exits to bed, leaving Frasier mute and hapless, and there isn’t any comic relief before the quick fade to black.

Scene 5: Untitled
At the KACL control room, Roz asks Frasier how his weekend was. He replies “hellish,” and she says “Great!” and tells him about hers, finally repaying him for doing the same to her in episode 17. I’m glad that these writers chose to redeem themselves for that scene. I shall naively assume that they planned it this way all along.

Roz explains that on her way home from a hot date, her car broke down outside a church, and she now has a date with the minister. As we’ve discussed before, we’re already aware that Roz is considered a part of the family, but her motives don’t really have much more depth than Bulldog’s yet.
FDs1e19-03They go on the air. Frasier explains to the listeners that the chair is missing and describes it. He offers a reward for its return. Later in the show, on commercial break, someone calls with the chair’s location.

Scene 6: Best Seat in the House
(Equal near-fatal doses of cliché and the Frasier aesthetic, which, of course, entirely neutralize as room temperature water vapor.)

At a junior high school theatre, a group of students are warming up for rehearsal. Martin’s chair is on the stage. Frasier enters and tries to speak to the drama teacher about the chair. The students, including a young Luanne– I mean Brittany Murphy– keep getting the teacher’s attention before she can respond. In a quick pep talk, the teacher exposits that it’s opening night and 45 minutes to curtain.
FDs1e19-12Frasier announces that he was in the play himself; recites a monologue. The teacher isn’t moved. Frasier introduces himself and waits to indulge in her recognition. She offers none of that either. He sighs mildly and explains that he has come for the chair. She refuses, making us wonder who heard the show, spotted the chair, and called in about it.

The teacher tells Frasier he can have the chair back in two weeks, after the play’s run. He offers her $200. She refuses again. Frasier rapidly explains that the chair is his only hope to reconcile with Martin. One of the students suddenly gets a stomach flu– it’s the student playing the part that Frasier played, you see. Do you want me to spend time explaining the next part, or–? OK. The teacher offers Frasier the chair in exchange for his filling in for that part.

Cut to the curtain call. Frasier is bowing along with the students in the cast.
Credits vignette:
Frasier covers the chair with a blanket. Martin enters, removes the blanket, and sits.

Closing thoughts:
Give Him the Chair! is the second of four episode titles in the series to include an exclamation point. One of them– Liar! Liar! (S4E10)– is also by this writing duo.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier really shouldn’t have replaced the chair without talking with Martin about it.
FDs1e19-11Continuity errors or anachronism:
Neither Helmut Burga calling in as a guest on the show from right across town or Niles going to Frasier’s place to hide Maris’ birthday gift have any good reason to happen other than to make gags possible.

What junior high school runs a production for two weeks? And what junior high drama teacher would even hesitate to take two-hundred bucks for Martin’s cruddy chair?

# 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]
Now I’m beginning to wonder whether Frasier beds anyone other than his ex-wife during the first season.

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:

Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [6]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:

Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [4]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:

Episode: [6]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [11]

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [7]   series cumulative: [7]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [7]   previous cumulative: [50]   series cumulative: [57]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:

Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [11]
(If you want me to ignore the fact that Frasier behaves like a psychopath when he tosses snack foods and beer all over the leather massage chair, then shakes Eddie over it, I simply can’t help you.)

# of tender pauses:
[Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [11]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Tired of their father’s tacky plaid armchair, Frasier and Niles buy a new, modern one and put Martin’s chair in storage.”

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