S2 E7: The Candidate

s2e7-00 Airdate: November 8, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writer: Chuck Ranberg, Anne Flett-Giordano

(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
The Frasier Denied facebook page is HERE!

This is an episode that deals with politics. It’s also an episode in which one of the regular characters moons the whole city and doesn’t even charge for it. Thanks for sticking with us through such a long break. I experienced about every major life event possible since October (besides someone dying. No one died. Unless they kept it a secret). I do have a more than hour-long combined daily commute now, so perhaps I will rig something so that I can project the TV screen onto the inside of my windshield, then do a whole review on voice-to-text. Seriously though, I often drink coffee at 8 PM now, so let’s have me carve out some regular Frasier time for us. Anyway, what have you been up to? Oh, sorry. Shh. The episode synopsis is starting. We’ll talk after.

Episode Synopsis:
In the living room, Frasier, Niles and Daphne are sitting on the couch. Martin is standing behind them with the remote control. He turns on the TV and shushes them; a political ad for conservative congressional candidate Holden Thorpe comes on. In the ad, Martin himself is sitting on a bench and speaking to the camera. He gives a speech, blaming his career-ending gunshot wound on the “bleeding hearts” in congress. Yup.s2e7-01After the ad, the TV goes mute (as it tends to in situations like this), and while Frasier and Niles stare incredulously at it, Daphne congratulates Martin and goes to the kitchen to get him a beer. Martin explains that he was at a rally and Thorpe’s handlers, after learning he was an ex-cop, Thorpe’s handlers offered to put him in an ad. Frasier protests that they were exploiting Martin. Martin shakes his head; says that he genuinely supports Thorpe’s politics. As Daphne returns with Martin’s beer, he parrots one of Thorpe’s campaign promises (to put more police on the street), while Niles and Frasier broadly trash Thorpe’s policies. It’s just the kind of conversation you would expect their family to have during election season. Daphne remains neutral. s2e7-02The phone rings; Frasier answers. It’s Duke, calling to congratulate Martin. Have you noticed how incredibly often sitcom characters of the 80s and 90s would score commercials, news pieces, and other TV appearances? They always knew exactly what time their spot would air, too— right down to the second, and their friends and family would all tune in. It was long before YouTube and Hulu, so you actually had to pay attention to the giant telebox for the only time that it aired everything. Considering this, although it certainly was a primetime comedy trend, we must call B.S. on the supernatural convenience with which the ad queues right up for Martin. They could have easily made it far more believable by simply having him tape it earlier and play it for everyone.

Speaking of convenient, Duke tells Martin over the phone that channel 14 is playing Martin’s other ad, which is how we find out that another ad exists. Martin switches the channel, unmutes the TV, and disregards the phone. As the ad plays, he grins like a 3-year-old on crack. This time, we only get the audio portion of the ad. Martin’s voice on the television says “…crime isn’t pretty, and if you don’t believe me, look at this.” Then, Frasier and Niles’ reaction shot informs us that Martin is… what? Showing his ass on television? Is that it? I think he’s showing his ass on television.

Scene 2

At Café Nervosa, in order to underline the Cranes’ political differences relevant to the episode, Frasier is scripted as having trouble ordering: He cites objections to Kenya, Brazil, and El Salvador for various violations of his social conscience (and you can see why they wanted to ascribe Frasier with a touch of serious opinion here– most of the time he and Niles convey the courageous convictions of their lifestyle simply by drinking sherry and yapping about operas). Niles enters. He confirms that it is indeed Martin’s butt in the second campaign ad. He also exposits that this ad seems to be the more popular one.

Niles suggests that they ought to support Phil Patterson, Thorpe’s opponent. Niles has already contacted Patterson’s people, and they would like Frasier to endorse Patterson publicly (presumably with his pants on). Frasier is apprehensive. He finds it would likely upset the conservative portion of his radio audience. Niles emphasizes that Phil Patterson cares about people. A contrast-gag follows, in which Niles impatiently shoos a school child selling chocolate bars as a fund-raiser for summer camp.
s2e7-07Scene 3
(You don’t miss the scene titles, you say? Good! See? I told you we didn’t need them.)

On the air, Frasier thanks a caller and signs off for commercial break. The ad is for Holden Thorpe. Frasier cuts the monitor in the booth. Bulldog enters. He slaps Roz on the butt, and she grabs his tongue and hits him in the face. Comedy!

Roz goes back to the control room; gives Frasier a ten-second warning. Frasier sarcastically talks over the political ad a couple of times. He signs back on briefly and announces the news; goes off-air again. Bulldog reminds Frasier to be impartial on the air, though Bulldog himself supports Thorpe. Frasier openly disagrees about Thorpe of course, as does Roz.

The next caller that Roz puts through is Thorpe himself. He hoses some predictable voter-bait about patriotism, family, and his military service, then suggests that America will be a better place when Frasier and “everyone like him” gets off the radio (I guess he means all liberals– I don’t know). Then comes my favorite thing ever to happen on the show. Yes, it’s the sweet, sublime sound of a dial tone.

Frasier begins an impassioned rejoinder, but Roz informs him that before any of it was audible over the air, she had to take them back off in deference to the traffic report.

Scene 4
There is a film crew in the apartment. Frasier has decided to do an ad for democratic congressional candidate Phil Patterson. Niles is trying to have some kind of involvement, but only ends up being a distraction. Daphne, Martin, and Eddie return from a walk. Martin sees Patterson and introduces himself. Martin and Daphne both embarrass themselves when they attempt to talk to Patterson. Frasier offers to get some fresh air with the candidate on the balcony.
s2e7-04Now that they are able to speak privately— and after Frasier promises impromptu doctor-patient confidentiality— Patterson frankly tells Frasier that he was abducted by aliens 6 years ago. Frasier is nonplussed. Niles, speaking for the crew, interrupts to call Frasier and Patterson back into the apartment for the next take. Patterson complies immediately, but Frasier refuses for as long as he can to budge from where he stands on the balcony.

Scene 5
Filming is still underway. Frasier goes through all of his lines, but he is so troubled that it seems to outright pain him to let the words out. He trembles and often hesitates. When he emits the tagline, “The sane choice,” he nearly bursts out crying.

s2e7-03

Get it?

During a break, Frasier asks Niles to join him in the kitchen. Niles suggests he pretend to be Frasier’s psychiatrist so that Frasier can violate his own doctor-patient confidentiality, and Frasier reveals Patterson’s perceived history with alien visitors. Both Frasier and Niles panic. Perhaps Frasier is terrified that his reputation will be ruined if it becomes publicly known that the candidate he endorses openly professes his impression that he was visited and stolen away by extra-terrestrials.
s2e7-06He tells Niles that it will at best prevent Patterson from being elected, leaving Thorpe unopposed. Niles points out that having Patterson drop out of the race and seek help (which is what Frasier suggests) will have the same result.

Frasier surmises that Patterson may have experienced a single hallucination, brought on by excessive work during campaigns or his other public service-related work. s2e7-05Scene 6
At the station, Roz and Frasier are off the air, looking over some paperwork. Bulldog enters. He announces that the news about Patterson’s delusions has made it to the press— so we think.

Frasier is concerned; he exposits that it is the day before the election and goes into the booth, determined to set things straight. Bulldog’s continued conversation with Roz indicates that by “aliens” he means unregistered immigrants allegedly working for Patterson. By this time, Frasier is already sound-proofed in the other room, getting his headphones on.

He goes on the air and explains in very great detail— far beyond anything that was uttered by Patterson himself— what the alien visit might have entailed and “defends” the candidate, citing the great amount of pressure, lack of sleep, and diligent work required in the months leading up to the election as likely cause of the hallucinations. Meanwhile, Roz frantically tries to get Frasier’s attention from the control room, but he is committed to his tirade and does not so much as look in her direction.
s2e7-08At the apartment, Daphne and Martin are watching the results of the election (Thorpe has won with 92%), while Frasier sulks in the background. Martin taunts him and exits. Frasier sounds just like Lewis Black when he says..
s2e7-09The doorbell rings. Frasier opens the door; it’s Patterson. He has come to return a “lucky tie” that Frasier let him borrow. Frasier asks whether the alien visitation really happened; Patterson assures him that it did. Frasier repeats “Anything is possible” as he paces pensively in the apartment after Patterson leaves.

Credits vignette:
At Café Nervosa, Roz tweezes her eyebrows at her table. The boy selling fund-raising chocolate bars approaches her. She blows an eyebrow hair at him. ..Because the main characters are all a-holes, right? Hilarity.

Closing thoughts:
OK, so Frasier is some decent brain candy. Have I never mentioned that before? As you can see by the way this very blog entry rolls out of me, I find the show can be viewed with a kind of affectionate disdain, and really, that equilibrium is quite unique. Friends is brain candy too, but I don’t have to go meta there—I simply enjoy it. However, it ain’t Troll 2 either. If I suppose that Frasier‘s creators intended at least the measure of irony with which I view it, Frasier’s musical counterpart would be… Spinal Tap.
s2e7-unused-02I had kind of an epiphany this week, about sitcoms in general. Is it possible that Frasier was in fact ahead of its time and it paved the way for today’s “mockumentary” format shows? If you project self-awareness on the crew as you view it—really get in there with them and picture yourself as entirely in on the joke—there are many moments when it pays off quite well. (Just picture the tone in Kelsey Grammer’s voice when he interjects “Quite stylish” between lyrics in one of the five versions of the closing theme.)

Whether this will affect my viewing and reviewing experience of Frasier moving forward, only time can reveal, Niles. Only time can reveal.

***
All through this viewing, which was by Netflix on my laptop, there were little spurts of data-mosh, revealing the alternating lines of the original video recording. It reminded me of how they always corrupt the footage on overturned screens and video billboards, etc. for “dystopian” set motifs.

***

Mental Floss did this list of inside-baseball Frasier facts article recently, all of which I’m sure you already know.

Unnecessary conflicts:
Frasier describes Patterson as a nut, to comedic effect, literally broadcasting his own version of the telltale alien encounter in embellished detail over the air— in the form of an outright announcement, rather than making brief, tacit reference to it and highlighting at length the positive things he wishes to ascribe in order to draw attention away from Patterson’s UFO story.

Also, while Frasier is spouting off about aliens, Roz doesn’t simply cut him off and play an ad, a PSA, or her own voice covering for it.

This is the sixth of the fifteen Frasier episodes written by Chuck Ranberg & Anne Flett-Giordano.

Continuity errors:
Martin’s perfectly timed ninja-wizard remote-control skills.

The station breaks (ads, news, traffic) are also pretty insanely convenient for the plot on the day that Thorpe calls the station.

# 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: [3]   previous cumulative: [17]   series cumulative: [20]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [6]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [11]   series cumulative: [11]

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [15]   series cumulative: [16]

# of mentions of Maris:
Episode: [2]   previous cumulative: [81]   series cumulative: [83]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [16]   series cumulative: [16]
(but they both behave extremely unethically when Frasier breaks confidentiality and gossips about Patterson.)

# of tender pauses: Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [14]   series cumulative: [14]

# of times Niles has smiled: [Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [10]

Kind of great TV moments: (none)

Kind of great Frasier moments:
The on-air dial tone after a caller hangs up.

s2e7-zz

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Political differences split the Crane family after Martin announces his support for radical right-winger Holden Thorpe on television.”

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