S2E9- Adventures in Paradise: Part 2

fd_s2e9-zzS2 E9: Adventures in Paradise: Part 2
Airdate: November 22, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writers: Ken Levine, David Isaacs

(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
I am so please to return to Frasier Crane’s beige Seattle with you. We rejoin our tormentor as his tormentor appears at the worst possible time. Actually, I’m sure we are both thinking that there is no good time for Lilith to show up, but… people, I have a “# of women Frasier has slept with” category to tend to here, and so far, Lilith is the only one on it! Then again, I suppose Frasier’s perpetual failure in this area of life is a crucial part of his tortured persona.

Before the episode itself, there is a recap of part 1—several clips, over some of which Frasier narrates. Not Kelsey Grammar, mind you—Frasier Crane, in character. I had forgotten that this used to be pretty common in late ‘80s/early ‘90s sitcoms. Cast members would also say that the show was taped in front of a live studio audience during the theme or credits. In fact, I suppose even now it’s usually one of the show’s actors who says “previously on (whatever show)”.
fd_s2e9-02Episode Synopsis:
Open at the grass cottages by the beach. Frasier asks Lilith what she is doing there; she returns the question without answering. Frasier invites Madeline out. He calmly asks Lilith if she has a date, which she does. Frasier protests that Lilith has brought someone else to “their place”—which is perfectly hypocritical, since he has obviously done the same. Madeline is understandably frazzled that her date’s ex-spouse has “joined” them for their getaway.

Lilith’s boyfriend, Brian, returns from snorkeling. Frasier is surprised that Lilith shows the ability to laugh at a joke, but she quickly reverts to her familiar, humorless demeanor. While barely breaking eye contact, Frasier and Lilith try to out-kiss each other with their respective dates, who quickly grow uncomfortable. Brian asks if perhaps the four of them should have cocktails together later, and Madeline suggests that they all in fact have dinner. What an amazingly terrible idea.
fd_s2e9-01Scene 2
Frasier and Madeline return to their cottage after dinner. Rather than finally enjoying some time alone with her, Frasier gives the impression of lingering feelings for Lilith, first by angrily complaining about Brian showing him up while the couples were out together for dinner, then by inferring (from the silence coming from the other side of the wall) that Lilith and Brian are making love. Madeline convinces Frasier to refocus his attention, which he does. However, she decides to take a shower to wash off the sand from spending time on the beach.

Frasier uses this time to shout and rock the bed, so that Lilith will think that he and Madeline are getting busy, which is completely absurd, since they are in fact about to begin doing so, hence there is no reason for him to pretend they are. Well, I suppose, no reason beyond assuring that Dr. Crane remains a tragic figure, that is. Frasier goes positively crazy on the bed, which is kind of a great TV moment. He then stands and thrashes the bed canopy against the wall rhythmically while continuing to shout in comedic mock sexual ecstasy.
fd_s2e9-03Madeline emerges from the bathroom. Lilith and Brian also come into view through the window, which has been open this whole time. They watch him, understandably somewhat in awe. When at length Frasier notices them, he says nothing, but shrugs in fatigue and despair. Again, we are savoring a tragic struggle with sanity, and again it is in a social context.

If faced with this scenario, the Fresh Prince would have come up with a flimsy but sufficiently entertaining excuse, which would have kept the audience (and his date) on his side. If this were Who’s the Boss?, Tony would have been a perfect cross between Frasier and the Fresh Prince— offering an excuse that is funny, but not quite smooth enough to assure that he will get lucky. If it were Perfect Strangers (Larry being the one jumping on the bed), he would have a superlatively lame excuse, which would secure him several weeks of chastity, and Balki would tell a touching speech about being a virtuous person, over a slow interlude featuring heavily on melodica. Here is the official Frasier Denied stance on this issue: At such a momentous juncture as this, Dr. Crane is the only person in the (sitcom) universe who is pathetic enough to merely sigh and look down at his feet.
fd_s2e9-04Scene 3: Paradise Lost
Frasier’s KACL radio show is on the air. He gives Madeline a detailed apology, heard by his entire listening audience, and laments the potential loss of the connection that they have shared. There is a tender pause as he explains that he genuinely cares for her. Roz signs for him to wrap it up and he goes off air for the traffic report break. Roz enters the booth and kindly assures Frasier that Madeline will most likely respond well to his explicit, public plead.

They go back on the air. The control room phone rings; Roz answers. Frasier begins listening to an on-air caller, but Roz leans in and says that Madeline is on the phone for him. Not only is Roz flipping the caller, the audience, and the station the bird with this cruel interruption, but she is certainly being picked up by Frasier’s microphone— an act of reckless neglect that would surely have gotten her fired. Frasier jumps at the chance to take Madeline’s call and, as if to eagerly encourage the station to fire him too, and despite Roz’s frantic silent protests, he dumps the caller over to her line so that she can hear the caller’s issue and advise him.
fd_s2e9-05Scene 3:
At the apartment, Niles enters the living room and exposits that he, Daphne, and Martin are going to the ballet, to see Maris in a non-dancing part. Daphne gets her binoculars so that she can get close-up views of the male dancers’ personalities. Frasier is rather flustered. He actually says to everyone in the room “Will you get out of here?” He chastises himself for his behavior in Bora Bora, but Niles encourages him not to blame himself. Daphne is hopeful, as Roz was, that Madeline will understand.

Niles, Daphne, and Martin exit, just as Madeline arrives. She and Frasier timidly reconcile. She interrupts his apology, charitably interpreting the events but making it clear that she likely cannot handle any more “complicated” crazy from Lilith and Frasier’s situation.

Scene 4: What Number Sunblock Must She Use?
(This is a pleasantly scary foreshadowing. For the scene-title typist to sympathize with the family’s disdain for Lilith is genuinely pretty funny—though I may be taking it too far if I infer that they, like the Cranes, suspect she may be a vampire.)

Later at the apartment, Frasier and Madeline are eating mangoes on sticks and drinking pitcher Mai Tais. “Well, we never got around to sampling this tropical delicacy while we were in the islands,” Frasier says. The most important thing that we learn from Frasier is that intelligence and sanity are two entirely different things, and the latter is far more crucial to social fulfillment. Pointing that out in every episode is probably our mission here.
fd_s2e9-06They verbally indicate that it is time to get busy, but Madeline halts everything and confides that she has had unsuccessful relationships with divorced men. Frasier assures her that no romantic ties remain between him and Lilith. They resume kissing, and Eddie jumps onto the couch to keep them company.
fd_s2e9-07Frasier picks him up and heads down the hall. There is a knock on the door. Madeline answers; it’s Lilith. Madeline is horrified. Lilith claims that she has something urgent to talk about with Frasier. Madeline, now out of patience, exits forever.

Alone, Lilith sits in Martin’s chair. Frasier emerges from the hall and dims the lights. Lilith stands and when he sees her silhouette, Frasier howls in pure terror. He first seems to suspect that Lilith has killed Madeline, then angrily laments that Lilith has once again stolen potential happiness away from his grip.

She rolls her eyes and sits on the couch. The “urgent” news is that Brian has proposed to her. Frasier gives her his blessing, and she reports that Frederick, their son, is very fond of Brian. As they are hugging, Niles, Daphne, and Martin enter.
fd_s2e9-08When Martin sees Lilith, he bellows in horrified abandon—it seems that he may have a heart attack. Frasier tells them the announcement; when it is clarified that he is not the one whom Lilith is marrying, Martin drops his cane and limps hurriedly across the room to “congratulate” Lilith. His joy, of course, only derives from the knowledge that she may now be finally getting out of their lives for good.

Frasier walks Lilith out and says that he ought to try bringing Madeline to Bora Bora again.
He then does go back, and to the very same cottage.

…with Niles.

Credits vignette:
Niles watches as Frasier runs around the room attempting to kill an insect with a shoe.

Closing thoughts:
When (over the course of the first 7 years or so after it was published) I would hear the Radiohead song “Air Bag”— the opening track of their 1997 masterpiece OK Computer— I misheard a lyric from the chorus. Where I heard “I’d like to say to you…” Thom Yorke was in fact singing “I’m back to save the universe.” Can we misinterpret art of every sort in just this way? When we infer Frasier Crane’s daily existence as a deplorable chaos of awkwardness and frustration, might we equivocating? Might we have missed some underlying essence of tormented genius, hence “Denying Frasier” for reasons that are in fact unjustified?

I doubt it. However, this forum gives us the room to carefully separate some of the conceptual layers that comprise the show’s overall jive, so we can in fact avoid dismissing it as pretentious schlock or cheap sitcom claptrap. It has elements of those, but I find that the creators have knowingly placed those aspects—toxic as they are in high homogenous concentrations—in the overall Crane gang panorama, among the element of social mayhem that results from Frasier’s madness. There are fansites out there that simply treat Frasier as a great work of televisionary art. I don’t want to detract from the experience those folks have—nor, especially, from the contribution they make to analysis and criticism of the TV canon alongside me, but I could never stand to go without examining the insane and otherwise unimpressive parts as well as the entertaining and enlightening ones when I sit in front of this perplexing beast of a show.

What I want to point out is perhaps a sharpened recognition of its nuance, when compared to the more generally Frasier-positive sites. It’s as simple as that. I have mentioned before that the “ironic-to-genuine ratio” in my affinity for Frasier is about 70/30, and this is important to our design. The satirical blog medium is not well-served with drooling fandom—not even a little; not ever. The humor I contribute to the meta-TV canon (and, strangely enough, to the Frasier canon itself) has a lifeblood of mild disdain at a resting heart rate—a baseline of polite cynicism, if you will.

But that is nothing new. Show review sites exude varying levels of sincere enthusiasm for their subjects. What did shake things up for me a little was in a book I was reading in my free time (you know, when I’m not on my couch counting how many times Niles smiles), namely Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter:

“With many television classics that we associate with “quality” entertainment—Mary Tyler Moore, Murphy Brown, Frasier— the intelligence arrives fully formed in the words and actions of the characters onscreen. They say witty things to each other, and avoid lapsing into tired sitcom clichés, and we smile along in our living room, enjoying the company of these smart people. But assuming we’re bright enough to understand the sentences they’re saying—few of which are rocket science, for that matter— there’s no intellectual labor involved in enjoying the show as a viewer. There’s no filling in, because the intellectual achievement exists entirely on the other side of the screen. You no more challenge your mind by watching these intelligent shows than you challenge your body watching Monday Night Football. The intellectual work is happening onscreen, not off”        (p. 64).

Johnson’s thesis is that with time, all entertainment media increase in complexity and require more focus, patience, problem-solving skills, and better memory on the part of their viewers. The best-known comparison from this book is a subplot-count in a Dragnet episode vs. a Sopranos episode, in which the former deals with only one plot—solve the crime of the week, while the latter has around twenty interrelated plots for nearly all of the characters. Anyway, for our Frasier-Denying purposes, Johnson’s analysis contributes a few things:

1. It’s possible for someone to consider Frasier a “smart” show.
2. There is a difference between keeping up with the complexity of a show’s content/themes/etc. and typing up a detailed, ostensibly intelligent synopsis of it.
fd_s2e9-00It’s all in how you watch. In the sense that Johnson is describing, in my personal experience, watching a Beavis & Butthead episode is more thought-provoking than watching a Frasier episode. “What?! Then why are you typing reviews of Frasier, rather than Beavis & Butthead?” you may ask. “Shouldn’t you be going where the material is most fertile for intelligent analysis? And by the way, are you shitting me? Beavis & Butthead—seriously?” you may also ask.

I answer those questions thusly: Because, on a meta-medium such as this, Frasier is far funnier subject matter, Beavis & Butthead comes with the meta-analysis already packed in, and said meta-analysis is too ethereal for this medium—it’s better suited to the couch itself, with a giggly companion and a bag of nacho chips. In short, Frasier is flawed, but it is complicated enough that those flaws are up for debate. Tongue-in-cheek, we call that debate “Denial.”

***

When Lilith appears at the apartment and the rest of the cast comes home from the opera, it’s just like the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader is standing at the table in cloud city (and Martin is Han Solo. I suppose that makes Niles Chewbacca. How could we have predicted that comparison? Well done, my friends).

Unnecessary conflicts:
Lilith showing up at the apartment entirely unannounced.

Continuity errors, etc.:
Niles, Daphne, and Martin seem to get home from the ballet a little early. Niles assured them on the way out that they would be gone for a long time. Not a technical flub, but a little bit of lazy “sitcom convenience.”

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [1]    series: [4] (same woman as in part 1, of course)

# of women Frasier has slept with:
Episode: [0]    series: [1]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [0]    series: [20]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [0]    series: [6]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
Episode: [0]    series: [12]

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
Episode: [0]    series: [17]

# of mentions of Maris:
Episode: [3]    series: [87]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [0]    series: [16]

# of tender pauses:
Episode: [1]    series: [15]

# of times Niles has smiled:
[Episode: [1]    series: [11]

Kind of great TV moments:
Frasier jumping around on the bed.
fd_s2e9-yzKind of great Frasier moments:
The “confidential” message that Frasier gives to Madeline over the air.

Niles identifying Maris’s part in the ballet as “Ulrich, the hunch-backed draw-bridge operator.”

Frasier screaming at Lilith that he doubts driving a stake through her heart would kill her.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “As Frasier and Madeline prepare for a romantic night in Bora Bora, Lilith and her new boyfriend coincidentally show up in the cottage next door.”
fd_s2e9-09


S2E8- Adventures in Paradise: Part 1

s2e8-10S2 E8: Adventures in Paradise: Part 1
Airdate: November 15, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writers: Ken Levine, David Isaacs

(episode transcript)
s2e8-00Opening thoughts:
Here we have the series’ first two-parter and another Lilith appearance! The last Lilith show got an enthused response. She is a powerful and captivating villain indeed.

For old times’ sake, I was going to include the scene titles for this episode and comment on whether each of them was cliché, cutesy, and/or incoherent (for those of you who don’t know, this was standard practice for season 1).

However, the episode was light on scene titles, and so will part 2 be. These writers do return with scene titles that are strictly cliché in episode S2 E16 , so I’ll do it then. (Scene 3 of this episode is titled “Busman’s Holiday,” which is so orgiastically incoherent, I wanted to make sure to loop you in).
s2e8-02Episode Synopsis:
Frasier goes on the air after a commercial break, with only a few seconds of air time left. A caller, Chester (voice-over by Art Garfunkel), has been criticized by his wife for not getting anywhere in life. He interrupts Frasier a couple of times, not understanding him. Frasier tells him they can talk in greater detail off the air.

After announcing that Bulldog’s sports show is next, Frasier signs off. Only acting very slightly like a sociopath, he goes into the booth and chats with Roz about Seattle Magazine’s new list of the ‘hottest men and women in town.’
s2e8-03After searching in vain for himself (holy hell, if that isn’t our slogan now), he notices someone named Madeline Marshall and declares that he is in love. Roz suggests that Frasier ask Ms. Marshall out. He refuses and, for some reason, Roz insists again. When he again refuses, she calls Ms. Marshall’s office herself.

Bulldog enters. He brags about how tight his glutes are. It’s… genuinely adorable. I know that sounds impossible, Niles, but SEE FOR YOURSELF!
s2e8-04Bulldog ogles the magazine while Roz gets an answer on the line. She announces that Dr. Crane is coming to the phone. As Roz and Bulldog watch, he stammers and stutters through proposing a dinner date that night. Something funny happens (as of now, we shall cease spoiling jokes that aren’t somehow tied into the plot. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me until now).
s2e8-05Scene 2
At the apartment, Daphne is writing a letter to her mother while Martin, in his chair, opens a box of Cuban cigars. Niles enters from the kitchen; Martin offers him a cigar. As Niles lights Martin’s, Daphne says that she finds a cigar-smoking man quite attractive and tells a completely horrifying story about her grandfather.
s2e8-06Frasier enters from his bedroom, asking Eddie to give back his socks. Eddie fetches them from under a couch cushion. Frasier brags about Madeline Marshall’s 47th spot in the hundred-or-whatever ‘hottest’ people in Seattle and exits.

Scene 3: Busman’s Holiday
(on par with the most incoherent of Frasier scene titles. Bravo.)

Frasier and Madeline are seated at Degas, a best-kept-secret type place run by a mother, father, and daughter from France. Madeline admits that she doesn’t listen to The Frasier Crane Show.
s2e8-07She does, however, demonstrate sommelier skills, which impresses Frasier and the restaurant owner. Both Frasier and Madeline reveal that they are divorced.

The owners begin shouting at each other in English (so that it can affect the story). The daughter is pregnant, and the father repeatedly demands that she tell him who her lover is. The… (busman? Yeah? That’s a thing? Well, OK). The busman becomes very nervous. The father can then be heard again from the kitchen, shouting that he will kill whoever is responsible for impregnating his daughter. Our beloved busman then flees.
s2e8-08Daughter and mother enter from the kitchen. The mother recognizes Frasier; calls her husband into the dining room, and loudly asks Frasier for advice. The owners yell at each other in a derogatory crescendo, until Frasier stands and demands silence. He asks them to tell each other how they actually feel, and they all magically melt into a glom of acceptance and peace. The clientele applauds. You know, because those French people are just all like that.

Fan fiction: After this, business was better than ever. The daughter and her five children go on to take over the restaurant. They change the name of the restaurant to Busman after their father dies on an escargot hunt.
s2e8-09Scene 4
At KACL, Roz is doing some paperwork. Frasier enters the control room from the hall and thanks Roz. She exposits that it has been two weeks since Frasier and Madeline’s first date. Frasier is genuinely smitten. Since Roz has had such trouble with dating lately, she is annoyed at his descriptions of how perfectly things are going. Undeterred, he declares that he suspects Madeline may be…you know. Roz doesn’t care.

Madeline enters the booth. Frasier rushes to her frantically, yammers indecipherable introductions, and closes the door between the booth and control room. Madeline asks him if he would like to spend a weekend away with her. Let me remind you that in the 32 episodes so far, the only person whom Frasier has known biblically has been his ex-wife.

Attempting to find some mutual free time in their schedules, they come up short for months to come. Saying goodbye, they make out fervently, finally deciding to fly to Bora Bora the very next day.
s2e8-11At the apartment, Niles is playing the piano, and he and Martin are smoking cigars. Niles exposits that they have been doing this for many nights in a row. Daphne enters from her room, with a cigar of her own. The whole main living area is downright cloudy with cigar smoke.
s2e8-13Frasier enters. He chides Martin for not smoking on the balcony. I don’t know if this is because everyone else would surely follow him out, like a small, stogie-puffing gang, but Frasier doesn’t really seem to care anyway. He’s also pissed about the fact that he has promised to take the trip to Bora Bora the next day. He talks through it and is unhappy with all of the potential outcomes.

Niles exits. Martin asks Frasier if he has genuine feelings for Madeline. Martin reminisces about meeting Frasier’s mother. Still puffing thick clouds into the air, Daphne recommends that Frasier go on the trip.
s2e8-14Scene 6
At a grass hut in Bora Bora, Frasier and Madeline enter with suitcases. They begin to kiss on the bed; Madeline pulls away and goes into the other room to get, like, ready. Frasier goes out onto the balcony. Madeline calls for Frasier. On the neighboring patio, Lilith says “Frasier?” and stands up. Frasier shouts in horror.
s2e8-15Credits vignette:
Roz continues to look through the pages of Seattle Magazine for a hot person that might say “yes” to a date as easily as Madeline did to Frasier.

Closing thoughts:
The cigar thing is so kooky and fun. I wonder how late in the writing process they decided to lace that subplot in there. Niles! I quite approve.

This is the first of seven episodes to that were written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs, who have also written together for M*A*S*H, Cheers, and The Simpsons.

Here is an unsolicited refresher on the TV schedule at the time this episode aired.
Tuesday 1994-1995 Here is the Frasier Denied facebook page, for “liking” and updates and such.

Unnecessary conflicts:
Frasier and Madeline thinking they have to travel all the way to Bora Bora just to fool around is balls-brains insane— straight out of a 1950s sitcom. They could have booked a nice hotel right in town. That wouldn’t have cost $5300.00
s2e8-appendix 1Continuity errors, etc.:
Of course, we’re calling bullshit on Lilith being in the next hut over, after Frasier has traveled thousands of miles.

Niles uses a butane lighter for Martin’s cigar, instead of wood matches.

The Degas family scream at each other in English.

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [3]   series: [4]

# of women Frasier has slept with:
Episode: [0] Close though!   previous cumulative: [1]   series: [1]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [20]   series: [20]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [6]   series: [6]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [11]   series: [12]

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [16]   series: [17]

# of mentions of Maris:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [83]   series: [84]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [16]   series: [16]

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

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

Kind of great TV moments:
(none)

Kind of great Frasier moments:
Niles playing the piano while he and Martin smoke cigars.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Frasier reveals his infatuation with Madeline Marshall, a stunning MBA who’s been named one of the city’s ‘hottest’ women.”
s2e8-zzs2e8-zzb

S1 E16: The Show Where Lilith Comes Back

FDs1e16-07Airdate: February 3, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writers:
Ken Levine & David Isaacs
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
This episode presents Lilith’s first appearance on the show. It’s always interesting to get a chance to examine the seams sewn between sitcom universes. When I’m reminded that Frasier was a spin-off, I tend to remark on how vitally different it is from its parent show, Cheers. As far as I’m aware, there are no wrinkles in continuity between them, but the psychic format determining the tone and value of whatever occurs– the hows and whys of the characters’ motives and relations on each show– is as different as Beatles and Melvins.

The only time that Frasier ever seems to even touch on a wisp of Cheers jive is during the tender pauses (and the “Kind of a Great TV Moment” moments, perhaps). That’s neither for better or worse– sometimes you feel like Beatling; sometimes you wanna Melvin– but our Frasier wonking noggins enjoyed Lilith’s contribution to the Frasier canon. She brought a stiff dose of her n(eg)ative reality– heretofore only available on Cheers episodes– which, to be specific, is a hell of a lot more straight (no pun intended) than anything the Crane boys have afforded us.

Maybe it’s because of the Cold War. Maybe it’s because a show set in a bar had to work a little harder to be taken seriously. (Double cliché!) Whatever the case, it’s a feat to reconcile the cartoon-grade psychological surrealism of Frasier with the stoic, gritty adult drama of its wooden-floored East Coast ancestor.

Anywho, this one’s for you Lilith fans. She certainly gives the show a little range. As for the title, I initially wondered whether the crew wanted go with “The One Where Lilith Comes Back,” but altered it to eschew Friends mimicry (since Friends begins each episode title with “The One with…” or “The One Where…”) but according to Uncle Internet, Friends would not premiere for another 7 months. Friends was, however, directed primarily by James Burrows for the first season, so maybe he recalled directing this Frasier episode, thought fondly of Lilith (as we all often do), and made history with the cutest possible way to title each Friends episode. (Scrubs also does this, starting each title with “My…”)

As we continue our Frasier Denial, I’m glad that Lilith strolled in and brought all this up. I think the most important point her frosty, funerary presence raises has to do with atmosphere. I find that good art takes the right balance of “grit and soul,” and (if you haven’t already noticed) Frasier is a sort of bastard child in the sitcom section of my viewership. Grit is something of which it has almost none. I might even say it has only “plastic grit,” preferring that its darker elements stay disposable, slapstick-glossed, or both.

Rebuttal: Then, we remember that Frasier has Martin Crane. Then, we scratch our chin for a bit, nod curtly, and apologize to Frasier for calling him a bastard. For now.
FDs1e16-02Our episode Synopsis:
Open at KACL. Frasier is on the air with Hank (voice-over by Timothy Leary) who, despite his every effort, is unable to lose weight. Frasier has him hold to be referred to a local psychiatrist.

The next call is from Lilith, Frasier’s ex-wife. She disagrees with Frasier’s advice to Hank, and she insults Frasier at length, not to mention his methods in general and the direction his career has taken.

Roz suggests that Frasier and Lilith have dinner together. Because she has done so over the air, Frasier is magically compelled to comply.

Scene 2: The Return of the Magnificent Sternin
(Nice and incoherent. We at Frasier Denied like our coffee black, our steak raw, and our scene titles barely in God damned English, yep.)

At the apartment, Frasier, Martin, Daphne, and Niles have gathered to have dinner with Lilith. Martin emphatically describes how much Lilith weirds him out, and Niles explains his feud with Lilith, which began when she snickered at Niles and Maris’s wedding when they were giving their vows. For some reason, that really seems to drive home how much of an Ice Royalty she is (may as well not be sexist about it).
FDs1e16-01Daphne receives a copious amount of psychokinetic “evil” waves from Lilith. Lilith continues to taunt Niles and insults Martin prolifically, while with cold subtlety.

They all sit down for dinner. Lilith catches Frasier up on Frederick’s activities. He has been at summer camp, and his allergies are causing lots of problems. This is because of the 1980s “nerd” stereotypes no doubt still lingering in the collective unconscious.

Scene 3: Look What I Found With the Dust Bunnies
(What this scene title lacks in coherency, it gains back triple in sheer courage.)

Martin tries to converse with Lilith. Even though Martin is a completely honest person who never gives anyone grief unless they truly deserve it (double cliché!), Lilith insists on responding to everything he says with heaps of passive-aggressive condescension.
Daphne continues to receive painful waves of evil from Lilith. Martin goes to bed.

Niles dismisses himself. On his way out, he asks Lilith to apologize for ruthlessly insulting him all these years. She does so, after prefacing with an elaborate description of how little real value the apology will have. Niles gratefully accepts.

Now alone with Frasier, Lilith admits that she is in fact not in Seattle to attend a convention. She produces a letter, which she explains, through some twisty exposition, to have been left by Frasier a month ago. She reads the letter aloud. It expresses love and a longing to reconcile.

Frasier reports that the letter was in fact over a year old– he had written and left it before moving to Seattle. They surmise that the letter had merely fallen out of view behind the furniture, then recently recovered by the housekeeper.FDs1e16-06-08Scene 4: Untitled
Frasier and Niles are at Cafe Nervosa. Niles is holding the letter. Frasier is once again torn about whether he should reunite with Lilith.

Frasier decides to see Lilith again that night.

Scene 5: Untitled
Lilith is alone at her hotel room. Her hair is down. There is a knock at the door. She answers it. It’s Frasier. He is especially attracted to her with her hair down.

Scene 6: Fried Eggs and Other Small Tragedies
Frasier and Lilith are asleep in the morning, with both standard TV-sex tropes in use: (a) they had a full night’s sleep together, naked except for boxer shorts on the male, and (b) the bed sheet is tucked and krazy-glued around Lilith’s breasts.

Room service brings breakfast. Frasier rejects Lilith. She weeps and confesses that she is afraid to raise Frederick alone, which she now realizes is the reason she has pretended to still be in love with Frasier. They agree that life is better this way and eat breakfast peaceably.

Speaking of which, though, given all the options that the world might afford, is it really necessary that Frederick only sees his father once a year (on average)? Freddy barely shows up more often than Maris. I mean, I know he was born in a taxi, but for some reason, it seems that Cheers would have managed to maintain that Dr. Crane would be in his son’s life more than just every other Christmas. The lesson that we learn from this is that access to the pleasures of West Coast living is worth becoming a ghost to all of your known relatives.

Credits vignette:
Daphne lies on the couch with tea and a hot water bottle. Cut to Lilith’s plane taking off. Daphne rises, delighted that her evil-waves migraine has lifted.

Since the Frasier canon maintains that Daphne is psychic, if Frasier and Cheers are to qualify for mutual trans-series continuity, then Cheers must endorse Lilith’s role as a legitimate satanic spirit incarnate.
FDs1e16-04-05Closing thoughts:
Currently, Netflix is the best way for me to watch Frasier (and when I watch it on my computer, I use Internet Explorer. I prefer its white, sentence-halving subtitles to Firefox’s yellow ones– though the font is better in Firefox). I do have some TV shows on DVD, but I reserve that space for shows on which I really want to needlessly binge, especially when ‘making of’ featurettes are included in the implication of ‘Play All.’ (Thank you, Seinfeld!) There are also the commentaries and deleted scenes, of course, and that’s really the clincher for DVD ownership. (There are rumors that Netflix is going to be offering those soon, so hooray for holistic sitcom wonking).

Currently, the only TV shows on my shelf are Seinfeld and The Office. This blog gives me all the meta-Frasier I can handle, and my other favorites are either not available, sufficiently memorized so as to render ownership unnecessary, or, as in Frasier’s case, quite honestly, satisfactory without special features. For some reason, I’d rather not see John Mahoney without his Martin mask on.
FDs1e16-03Since this is a Lilith episode, hence I know my personal Film Nerd Community informant will be reading this:

Remember when I brought up the distinction between “muffled” and “bright” formats in sitcoms? (It’s in the episode 10 review if you missed it or want a refresher– skip to the Closing Thoughts.) It turns out that the distinction is actually simply between film and video.

I know, right? Because this is foremost a comedy blog, I will leave that post intact, including my disclosure that, in attempting to convey the film vs. video distinction, “muffled and bright” is probably less professional an articulation than most screen-swiping 5-year-olds of today would have been able to muster on the same Tuesday, and as I crush Cheerios in my own pudgy fists, I’ll just copy the following description from the notes I took while my patient friend explained.

He tells me that “film looks like fantasy.” I can’t argue with that. A Perfect Strangers clip would do just fine as a dream sequence for a Full House episode or a soap opera.

On film, you have 24 frames per second. For video, it’s 30 frames per second. With film, there are also black bars that alternate with filmed content frame to frame, but since it alternates so fast, the brain perceives smooth motion. That may sound screwy, but we’re talking about 480 horizontal lines (in the U.S., that is. Overseas, it’s 540).

One can only hope that I have butchered that description sufficiently that our film nation ambassador will insist on clearing it up for the citizens of Frasier Denial. (Ah!– there’s my phone buzzing right now.)

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Lilith’s spell on Niles is nonsensical. There are two distinct problems with it. Firstly, where does Lilith get the motivation to exact such punishing mockery on someone for years on end? Scorning someone’s wedding vows ranks pretty high on the list of shitty things that you can do to a person with mere speech, and someone of Lilith’s intelligence would reserve that kind of ammo for a party who has somehow earned it with equivalent nastiness, I would think.

Next, Niles just takes it without ever tiring, protesting, or feeding it back to her. These are two unusual, vastly exaggerated behaviors that combine for a completely absurd interaction one can only hope to soon forget. At the very least, I hope that Lilith’s next guest plot leaves this “Bugs and Daffy in hell for no reason” trope out of it.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
This episode features the only time that we ever see Frasier refer a caller to a local psychiatrist. Not a flub strictly speaking, but worth mentioning.

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]

NEW CATEGORY! (thank friggin’ God):
# of women Frasier has slept with:
Episode: [1]                                          series cumulative: [1]
FDs1e16-10# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]

# 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: [3]   series cumulative: [4]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [4]   previous cumulative: [29]   series cumulative: [33]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [10]

# of tender pauses:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [9]   series cumulative: [9]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
Frasier and Lilith waking in the same bed is one of those shots that would qualify for a category that accounted for “Kind of great Frasier moment” moments, but we don’t have that category. Because I continue to list them here, however, at series end, we will have a list for that category anyway, so.. everybody wins.

This moment was key not only because it addresses trans-series continuity, as we have already sufficiently discussed, but it is also one of the few events in the whole run (along with her other appearances, Frederick’s appearances, a couple of career complications, and Niles and Daphne’s romance) that take Frasier, the man, out of the King of the Hill-caliber homogeneity of “the ensemble’s general adventures.”

Check out the King of the Hill (or as we call it at home, “Unka Hank!”) series finale. It’s just another day in Arlen. We don’t learn anything, no one has a baby, gets married, moves to Europe, dies, or gathers in their living room to glurge all over ours.

I find this a strength, by the way. King of the Hill and Frasier both suit that approach pretty well (and I’ll save you the time– I do realize that Luanne had a boyfriend die and got married, but in 259 episodes over 13 years, that was it.)

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Frasier is surprised to hear the voice of his ex-wife Lilith on his radio show.”
FDs1e16-09