S1 E22: Author, Author

FDs1e22-0Airdate: May 5, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writers: Don Seigel, Jerry Perzigian
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
In this review, I call Frasier and Niles “the doctors” and “the Cranes.” I was going to call them “the boys,” but I’ll leave that to the real fans. If their names were switched, I could never have named this blog “Niles Denied.” However, if I did name individual reviews, that is exactly what this one would be called.

I hope that you, dear readers, are approximately divided down the middle between the straightforward and ironic varieties of fan. Could it be that I am divided down that middle myself? I’m thinking it’s probably 70/30, majority ironic.

Whatever the case, this is the worst episode yet. We will be keeping an eye on these writers, because they chose to bring us a Niles episode, but they don’t know very much about Niles. He’s quite out of character for the premise, much of the dialogue, and the climax, so, regardless of your personal Frasier orthodoxy, this one is likely best enjoyed ironically.

Our episode Synopsis:
Open at Café Nervosa. The barista announces Frasier’s usual and serves him a latté with cinnamon and nutmeg.He tells her that that is actually Niles’ usual, while his own is a double Kona with cream. All this hard work has finally paid off! I have totally busted Frasier for a lack of continuity in the Crane brothers’ coffee preferences. Let’s flash back to my review of the pilot:

“Frasier and Niles’ café latté supremos don’t technically present a retroactive continuity error— certainly, a person can order a different coffee every day of their life without presenting any paradox whatever— but it’s worth mentioning that in this pilot episode Frasier orders the drinks for himself and Niles quite readily, as if it is their usual order, and in the series, they never order them again.”

Niles enters, in a bit of a panic about a meeting with his publisher. Also, Niles has a… publisher. He was contracted to write a book, but the idea had already been done by someone else, and he is due to present a new premise, but he has not been able to come up with one. His publisher, Sam Tanaka, arrives. He recognizes Frasier and is a fan of the show.
FDs1e22-1Niles doesn’t have to admit that he has no ideas, because early in the conversation Tanaka suggests a book about sibling relationships, co-written by Frasier, at which Niles laughs nervously (which doesn’t count as Niles smiling) and claims that the sibling psychology book was just what he had in mind. Sam invites them to go out to celebrate. He exits briefly to cancel his other plans.

Frasier refuses to be involved with writing the book and begins to leave. Whatever alien or specter that has hijacked Niles’ mortal frame for the duration of this episode says that he has never wanted anything more than to be published.
FDs1e22-2Scene 2: It Was Probably Lake Smith
(Incoherent. Also: Ugh. You can’t make a joke about something we haven’t seen yet. This is the kind of over-the-top, confused scene title I’m referring to in contrast to one that typifies the Frasier aesthetic. It’s just overt.)

The doorbell rings: Frasier answers. It’s Niles. Frasier tells Martin they are going to start writing. Martin protests that the Sonics game is about to start. Frasier presents him with the gift of some new wireless headphones.
FDs1e22-4The doctors attempt to get to work on the book. Niles notes that unlike their dissertations and theses– which are their only previous writing experience– the book has to be interesting. This is both claptrap and entirely true.

Martin affectionately jokes that he could contribute stories about Frasier and Niles themselves. It occurs to them that this might in fact be the basis for a good intro, and they ask him what he would include. Martin says that they had fought a lot when they went trout fishing as a family once. Frasier and Niles ask him to continue the story, but instead he keeps trying to remember which lake it was that they had gone to. He rattles off a dozen American gradeschool child’s gibberish versions of Native American sounding names, and Frasier and Niles ever-too-quickly escalate to pleading with him to stop focusing on that and continue the story.

It’s not that Martin isn’t being a weirdo, but the heightened emotions on Frasier and Niles’ part are delivered with a sitcom economy that is just jarring. (Maybe this should have been an hour-long show, so they could have taken a few more seconds to justify, deliver and integrate half of these interactions.)

Frasier suggests that they use his radio show to gather case histories, with Niles as guest and the callers contributing stories on their sibling-related issues.

Niles is both objectively appalled and personally delighted, another example of failed subtlety that we wouldn’t tend to expect from him.
FDs1e22-5Scene 3: The Mother Lode
(You know how the security guards at, say, a Phish show don’t bother to bust anyone for having narcotics? That’s how I’m starting to feel about these scene titles. Anyway: cliché!)

At KACL, Frasier is in the control room with Roz and Niles is in the booth. Frasier announces the Niles-related format, and Roz refuses. Frasier threatens to leave, and she immediately acquiesces. Wouldn’t he just get fired if he did that? Why the hell would that matter to her? Perhaps the eclipse of Niles’ identity by some attention-fixated caricature of himself inspired Frasier to exaggerate his own diva (I was gonna say “inner,” but…)

They go on the air. Niles gives a highly energetic, goofy greeting over the air. Frasier mashes the cough button and tells Niles to act normally. He pushes it again and introduces the topic. Niles interrupts, reading rapidly and monotonously from his own notes. Frasier cuts him off and prompts Roz to put on the first caller.

Scene 4: Untitled
Later, a caller named Laura (voice over by Christine Lahti) tells of when she was younger and she shaved her head and, so she wouldn’t feel out of place, her sisters shaved their own heads. Frasier is astonished and commends the relationship that Laura and her sisters have, as exemplified in that selfless act.

Frasier signs off. Through the whole show, Niles has been taking extensive notes. He is pleased to have gathered so much information. Sam Tanaka calls; Frasier puts him on speaker. Tanaka says he caught the show and loved it. He asks about their writing progress, and Niles, still in fact referring only to raw notes, says they have about 3 chapters. Sam says that Reader’s Digest may be interested in featuring it; he asks if they can send him what they have so far.  He gives them until Friday.

They resolve to lock themselves in a hotel room until they finish that much of the book.
FDs1e22-6Scene 5: George and Ira
(I don’t care if it does reference the authors Frasier mentioned in the last scene as his inspiration for the hotel room method. It’s still officially incoherent.)

Frasier and Niles enter a hotel room. I think it’s the same set that they always use for hotel rooms. I don’t mean that as a criticism– it doesn’t bother me at all.

Did you ever see Louis C.K.’s first show Lucky Louie? They chose to take a minimalist approach on the sets, reminiscent of The Honeymooners, but they got all kinds of shit reviews, criticizing them for “not bothering” to get a more elaborate set. It’s interesting how large a role intent plays in presentation.

Speaking of which, Frasier paces, talking about what of kind of tone they should set at the beginning of the book. Niles types throughout, then interrupts, declaring that he has had a breakthrough: He presents a pretty solid opening line. Frasier specifically calls it “interesting” but “not good.”

Niles invites Frasier to make an attempt. He hesitates. Niles taunts him. They cut right to later, both of them with their coats off, having not made a dot of progress. Frasier finally proposes an opening line, and Niles compliments him on it, then adds to it. This is exactly what they should be doing, but Frasier takes offense. They squabble, then shout.
FDs1e22-7Later still, they’re both down to their t-shirts. Frasier drains a little bottle from the mini-bar. They’re still trying to come up with a second sentence (also, they’ve run up more than a $200 bill just from the mini-bar).

Frasier opens the curtains and discovers that it’s dawn– on Friday. He says they should just give up. Niles gives a drunken speech about how he is always second at everything (this adds another dimension of character violation, but it really doesn’t matter at this point). He describes a handful of his professional successes, then actually culminates by bitching that Frasier is the one with his face on the sides of buses. This is more out of character than Pat Robertson in pasties. These folks didn’t write any Niles.
FDs1e22-09They then shout insults about each other’s appearance and start to physically fight. They end up with Frasier strangling Niles on the bed. Frasier gets up, curses the book, and leaves.

Scene 6: Untitled
At the apartment, Martin is reading the paper. Frasier enters from his bedroom. He gets a muffin and denounces Niles’ existence.

The doorbell rings; Daphne answers it. It’s Niles. He insists on communicating with Frasier through Martin, conveying an expectation that Frasier cover half of the hotel bill. Frasier refuses. Niles then speaks directly to him, insulting him. They go from zero to ninety again, yelling back and forth like second graders, again.

Martin tells them both to sit down. It’s a tense moment– 100% quality Martin. He stands and tells the story of an old partner he had when he was a cop. Martin had been an only child, and this partner was like a brother to him. They’d gotten on each other’s nerves on a stakeout, then stopped speaking, and soon after, the partner was stabbed.

Daphne excuses herself for a hanky, which, honest to God, would have been a tender pause if the damn audience didn’t chuckle it up for no reason (if you carefully mute it, you can enjoy a genuine tender pause– but we can’t count it as a real one, obviously).

Frasier apologizes, still maintaining hope for an actual tender pause that we can score for the season. He compliments Niles’ career and character. Niles responds in kind, and Martin extinguishes all tender pause potential by telling them to stop acting like girls. Mm-hmm.

Martin goes to the kitchen. Daphne is crying over his loss. He confesses that he made up the story about his partner, and Daphne hits him.
FDs1e22-13Credits vignette:
At three in the morning, Eddie jumps up on the counter and eats a muffin, which is the most well thought out detail of this episode.

Closing thoughts:
This one was a particularly excruciating “monster of the week” sort of debacle.

That doesn’t actually fit this situation, strictly speaking, and there’s surely an official TV Trope that would be more appropriate here, but I would rather call this Niles imitator an ephemeral villain and leave him behind.
I’m so thrilled to plug another show review blog! I am especially excited about this one. It’s a daring and detailed review of Star Trek the Original Series! Check out Warp Speed to Nonsense now. Now! Go do it.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier and Niles have no reason to get upset with Martin for spending ten seconds trying to remember the name of the fishing lake. They ought to have been brainstorming and jotting down notes. At that point, it seemed like they were a lot more focused then Martin, didn’t it? It turns out that they may have done well waiting for him to get his atlas, then progressing steadily. Remember, they only wrote one sentence. Ever. At all.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
1.) This whole episode is an error. Niles wanting to use his skill for fame is asinine. In the opening scene, he says that being published will make him feel what Frasier feels– that he’s “somebody.” This isn’t like Niles at all (and for God’s sake, no one would think that about Frasier). It runs entirely contrary to everything he has had to say on the subject until now– he has in fact always ridiculed Frasier for taking the “celebrity route.”

2.) Judging by how badly the wireless headphones that I bought in 2004 worked, I doubt that wireless headphones were anything but prohibitively expensive, if available at all, in 1994, and Martin never uses them again.

# 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: [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: [2]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [12]

Mentions of Maris:

Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [59]   series cumulative: [60]

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

Episode: [2]   previous cumulative: [11]   series cumulative: [13]
(They both act completely psychotic the whole time they’re in the hotel.)

# of tender pauses:

[Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [11]   series cumulative: [11]
(Not counting the honorary mute tender pause when Daphne weeps after Martin’s story.)

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:

Current best scene title of the series: “The Hole in the Head Gang”: S01 E21

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Niles is discouraged that his ideas for a psychiatric book have already been done.”

3 thoughts on “S1 E22: Author, Author

  1. “Niles notes that unlike their dissertations and theses– which are their only previous writing experience– the book has to be interesting. This is both claptrap and entirely true.”
    Amen, brother. While going through thesis writing, we were forced to read thesis papers by school alumni, and I got so bored I frequently forgot what the papers were even about. Knowing how boring those papers were, I decided to take full advantage of the fact that I was earning an art degree, and that meant that I could think out of the box while still being academic. So I took a chance and wrote my thesis paper as fan fiction. It got nominated for a writing award. I guess the teachers were as sick of dry papers as I was.
    I have a huge complaint as far as psychology papers go: those in that field are terrible writers. There is nothing wrong with it technically or grammatically, but I was once tempted to make a painting entitled “Jung Headache”. Forced to read psychological treatises for art history class, I lamented the fact that the authors were frequently dealing with the most fascinating subjects, but had managed to grind it down into an almost un-readable paste, arranged in long paragraphs. I understand that, academically, they must follow suit and use three-dollar words in every sentence, but I maintain that the writing is atrocious. I have never been able to determine if Freud’s writings on humor are meant to be that dry intentionally, or if it’s just a really early trolling.

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