S1 E20: Fortysomething

FDs1e20-00Airdate: March 31, 1994:
Director: Rick Beren
Writers: Sy Dukane, Denise Moss
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
New to the blogroll!: Small Wonder Reviewed. Go check ’em out. This is becoming quite a community. Why don’t you do one?

This is an almost-love interest episode. I have to admire how they did that so often, really. At the time, Seinfeld and Friends were both giving some strong representation to that corner of the Multiverse where every romantic interest definitely involves sex and maybe involves a speaking part.
FDs1e20-02Our episode Synopsis:
Frasier is on the air. When he signs off, he forgets Roz’s name. She supplies it indignantly. Once off the air, Frasier goes into the control room. He apologizes to Roz. She isn’t upset, but he is troubled by it, as he has recently been forgetting things more often. Roz reminds him of a hair appointment. He is surprised and doesn’t remember making it. Roz breaks into laughter and admits to gaslighting him.

This makes me wonder how much of the audience knows what that is. It also makes me wonder how much of the audience actually enjoys not understanding a cryptic reference (for instance, last episode, when Frasier and Niles were at the furniture store, Niles actually said to the salesman: “Ideally, we’re looking for something with the presence of a Mies van der Rohe and the playful insouciance of an early Le Corbusier.” Yes. Do you think I would have known anything about that stuff without subtitles and Google?)

Anywho, it’s good to see Roz sticking it to Frasier. He’s been an outright bastard for the last few– oh. Nevermind. He’s kind of always a bastard. Move on.

Roz then does it to him again, claiming that it’s her birthday, and Frasier forgets to go back on the air for their final hour.
FDs1e20-03Scene 2: The Short Blonde Man with One Wet Shoe
(It’s been a while since we had an incoherent scene title. I was beginning to worry that you would forget that we are keeping track of that. Dukane and Moss tend to take this category too far for my taste, though, honestly. Usually they choose some excruciatingly inconsequential aspect of the scene and contort it into an obnoxious abuse of English, like a grindcore song title.)
FDs1e20-04Niles and Martin are playing cards at the apartment. Eddie is messing with Niles’ shoe. Martin tells Niles he must scratch Eddie’s ear in order to make him stop. Niles does so, using his kerchief so he doesn’t actually have to touch Eddie.

Frasier enters; asks if it’s alright for him to play the piano. He begins to play Beethoven’s sonata no. 5, Opus 10, until he draws a blank as to how to continue. He tries a few more times. Frustrated, he gives up. Niles and Martin both commiserate with him about growing forgetful in middle age. Frasier, 41 at this point, protests, estimating “middle age” as one’s mid-fifties.
FDs1e20-05Daphne enters from her room and gets her coat on. Niles is giving her a ride to meet some girlfriends for darts and beer. Frasier asks her whether she sees him as a young man or an older man. She refuses to answer. She and Niles exit.
FDs1e20-06Frasier goes to the kitchen for aspirin. Martin joins him. Frasier is unable to read the label on the bottle. Martin points out some of the problems and considerations that become relevant as one grows older, and Frasier is sorry to find that he identifies with them. Martin admonishes against fighting it. He takes out a photo album and shows Frasier a picture of himself in 1974, during his own midlife, uh, crisis. He had dyed his hair black and bought a motorcycle. Frasier hadn’t been aware, because he was at college.

Scene 3: It’s This or an Alfa Romeo
(Incoherent is the only game in town.)
FDs1e20-07Frasier and Martin are at a department store, shopping for clothes. Daphne is also with them, but she is only there to buy underwear for Martin. Martin suggests pants with an elastic waste for Frasier. As Martin exits, shouting at Daphne for picking the wrong kind of underwear, an associate, Carrie, approaches Frasier to help him look around.

Carrie is 22. She estimates Frasier’s age as 34, and they flirt as he goes to the changing room.

Still at the store, Martin enters and approaches the changing room. Frasier tells him about Carrie. Martin immediately points out that Frasier is perpetrating one of the telltale signs of a midlife crisis by considering dating a woman half his age.

Scene 4: Untitled
Frasier is on the air, signing off at the end of his show.
FDs1e20-09Bulldog enters. Carrie enters, carrying a garment bag. Bulldog hits on her four times, then exits. Carrie suggests that Bulldog is compensating for homosexuality. Before Carrie leaves, she asks Frasier out. He is reluctant, citing their age difference. Before she leaves, she makes it clear that the offer is still on the table.

Roz and Bulldog enter. In turn, they both admonish Frasier to seize the.. um, day and that sort of thing and go out with Carrie.
FDs1e20-10Scene 5: Stanley Barrister Must Be Really, Really Rich
(I’m convinced that Moss and Dukane do the titles last, and by that time in the night, they’re exhausted and booze-addled. I must say I never thought I would pine for cliché scene titles. You are worthy opponents, Moss and Dukane!)

Niles and Frasier meet at Café Nervosa. Niles does the chair-dusting gag for the first time since the pilot. Frasier asks Niles about whether he ought to date Carrie. Niles insists that his own opinion is not important. He does ask Frasier to determine whether he is interested in Carrie because he wants to deny his age or because it may develop into a relationship. Frasier says that he is unsure. Niles encourages him to find out, which seems like terrible advice, since he would in effect be– ah, nevermind. We have to get Frasier laid again before the end of the season! You see, just like Niles and Frasier, I am a very unskilled psychiatrist.

Scene 6: I Wonder If That Alfa Romeo Showroom Is Still Open
(Remember what I said about how Anne Flett-Giordano and Chuck Ranberg apply cliché, but it’s done in such a way that the Frasier aesthetic comes through gracefully? That is to say, it’s charming, unassuming, and just a little overt– but the overtness is like a pinch of salt tossed over it. Moss and Dukane, however, instead attempt to accomplish that with the incoherent approach, but they just end up getting too excited. It’s like dumping a whole bottle of water on someone’s head instead of spritzing cool and calming mist on their face with a nozzle. Either that, or they’re actually the masters of the Frasier aesthetic and I happen to not be as much of a fan of its “true” essence as I think I am.)
FDs1e20-14At the department store, Carrie is folding some shirts. Frasier enters and explains that he has been unsure of his motives. She explains likewise. She was afraid that she was only attracted to him as an outlet for issues that she was having with her father. Because of this, she rejects him, and he punches a mannequin on the way out.

Credits vignette:
Daphne folds laundry at the apartment as Eddie stares at her.
The last couple of credits sequences have had pretty tenuous attachments to their respective episodes. I actually kind of dig that. I picture them coming up with it on the fly. Maybe some of them were in the scripts and others weren’t.

Closing thoughts:
As we are now offering these posts within a month of the twentieth anniversary of their original airdates, I notice that it makes us late for the Frasier party, but only in a certain sense.

Obviously, the premise of a blog like this has a few layers. Primarily, there is an ostensible affinity for the show itself– this is what I have in mind when I attempt to turn people on to it. Strangely though, the next layer, a satirical reading bordering on disdain, in the current tradition of the current “Such-and-such reviewed” blogs, is where I take most of the reader interest to be centered. Next, there’s a nerding layer, where we deconstruct things like the habits of specific writers and the show in the context of other prime time programming– technical and cultural stuff. Next, we have some frills, like the series counts (say, this is the first episode yet with a totally clear board– nothing happened at all!), and the scene title criticisms. Some of these types of things we have also stopped doing, such as the (Double cliché!) signifier I used to inject into my own prose, to illustrate how the script had forced me to sink down to its level, or the pejorative use of the verb “exposit” to criticize the writers for spoon-feeding plot elements to us.
FDs1e20-13Anywho, being “late to the party” files under the “technical/cultural” layer for sure. Some observations become decreasingly intuitive over time (like the fluttering minutia in a Robin Williams stand-up performance), but I don’t mind realizing something 20 years after the rest of America did– that’s part of what nostalgia is about, and all such conversations are vulnerable to it.

Here’s an example of what I mean: during this episode, I wondered whether the Frasier crew meant to make fun of the psychological enterprise– or, more specifically, the state of psychology in the 1990’s. (Are you saying, “I realized that in 1994!”? That’s what I mean by me being late to the Frasier party.)

In this episode, Frasier tells Carrie that he practices Jungian psychology. That seems to fit, I suppose, but Frasier constantly reminds us of how carelessly these professional psychiatrist brothers have really learned from their own expertise.
FDs1e20-08Frasier gives good advice, but never takes it, and Niles– well, Niles just gives bad advice. It’s always clear that they are bad examples, but I say again: they’re cartoon characters (you don’t consider Daffy Duck or Wile E. Coyote role models, do you?); rather than placing lit sticks of dynamite in each other’s mouths or pushing each other off of cliffs, they provide a mental slapstick and exist in a perpetual social chaos that somehow renews itself every few seconds as the tinny “laughter” rolls in again.

We may have caught Niles smiling. Would you call this a smile?
FDs1e20-12No? Oh, OK. Good.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
I seriously doubt that Martin would have Daphne locate and select his underwear for him.

Continuity errors or anachronism:

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]
(Sorry, buddy.)

# of women Frasier has slept with:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]
(Real sorry, buddy.)

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [6]   series cumulative: [6]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [4]   series cumulative: [4]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [11]   series cumulative: [11]

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:

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

Mentions of Maris:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [57]   series cumulative: [7]

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

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [11]   series cumulative: [11]
(I shouldn’t, but I’m letting Frasier off the hook for punching the mannequin. It’s really only because the gang pitched a perfect game. Otherwise, I would have totally busted him on it.)

# of tender pauses:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [11]   series cumulative: [11]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:

TV Guide version (© Netflix):Frasier fears senility is just around the corner when he finds himself becoming forgetful about everything from Roz’s name to his favorite songs.


2 thoughts on “S1 E20: Fortysomething

  1. Pingback: S1 E23: Frasier Crane’s Day Off | Frasier Denied

  2. Pingback: S2 E5: Duke’s, We Hardly Knew Ye | Frasier Denied

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