S2E10: Burying a Grudge

Airdate: November 29, 1994
Director: Andy Ackerman
Writers: David Lloyd
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
It has been a long, long break. I am happy to see that people are still reading, and, by extension, I am ashamed to have slacked off for so long! Having twins and finishing school are my flimsy excuses. As far as my own television viewing, so as to stay attuned to the insanity of sitcom logic, I must admit that I have been watching quite a few Friends episodes lately. It’s where I turn right when I get to that point where I will not be able to follow a contemporary show’s plot, and may even not be able to stay awake for that matter, but do not want to go to bed. I actually refer to decent shows as “not stupid enough” when my wife suggests something with substance at that hour and I specifically have Friends in mind. I am not making this up— but as I am sure you can tell, I use the word “stupid” with a certain affection in these moments, some of it deriving from the late night desire for pure nostalgia, for “brain candy.” Shows, films, even commercials from the nineties have such a distinctive ‘nineties flavor,’ and it is the decade of my teen years, so I settle into a great sense of ease and comfort when I veg out on them. Recently, Will and Grace (often directed by Andy Ackerman, as this and many other Frasier episodes were) came to hulu, and I found that it has the greatest nostalgia factor of any other show. I can wake up just long enough to hit the ‘next’ button, so I can drift off to dreamland to the sound of that delightful, energetic piano theme.

Even beyond the shallow value of pure nostalgia, I do not want to disparage sitcoms altogether. As someone with an English degree, I am under lifetime contract to tell you that there is no ‘high-brow/low-brow distinction— any story, in any medium, is apt ground for discussion and enjoyment. It now occurs to me that I may not need to tell you this, for you can already see that I am setting a fair amount of time aside to write about good old Niles Crane’s show— I mean… Frasier’s— and I’ll be drowned, damned, and wed to Maris if it all only amounts to naysaying. Indeed, if the legit (which is to say ‘unironic’) Frasier fanbase does not write me off as a hater, then I will have managed to keep the Frasier-roasting, a measure of cogent analysis, and the guilty-pleasure factor all in balance.

That seems crucial for a blog like this, because irony is slowly disappearing. I am not sure that it is actually possible to like something ironically. I mean, I now play a slow acoustic version of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and if someone puts on “Ice Ice Baby” for laughs, I tend to get bopping and recite all of the lyrics (until someone pulls the plug, which they always do before that song can play all the way through). So it is pretty clear to me that I actually like Niles as a show. I mean Frasier. It might be that what we think is irony is just sincere fandom with an accompanying audience participation, an actual bonus comedic discourse on the side. That is probably the best way to describe what I mean by “denying” Frasier. I mean Niles. No— I had it right that time. Sorry.
Reminder: Lines of text appearing on the screenshots are subtitles from the show. So it’s almost like Niles is sitting right among us, participating in the conversation! No, I meant Niles that time.
We now have a new category! Martin episodes.

Episode Synopsis:
Open at KACL. Though two minutes to air, Roz is just arriving in the booth. Frasier impatiently opens the door and demands “Where have you been?” Roz says she has been preparing his schedule for the next day, which includes sending flowers to Maris in the hospital (she is getting an unnecessary facelift). Roz tosses some extra copies of the schedule in the recycling bin. Frasier suspects that Roz made the unnecessary errand as an excuse to be around the young, new intern. He is correct. And he acts like a dick about it.

Whatever the opposite of slut-shaming is, Roz seems to represent that. She is a sexually independent woman who takes no shit. Along with adopting an increasingly unironic appreciation of the show’s humor, I am also for the first time recognizing some admirably progressive elements in it, like Roz owning her sexuality with no apologies. Obviously, Frasier was not an earth-shattering iconoclast of newly recognized gender equality, but Roz certainly helps put the show on the right side of history.
Roz enters the control room and puts Frasier on the air. His first caller, Linda, is calling from a car phone. She and her husband are trying to find the antique mart and her husband is refusing to stop and ask for directions, which is what she wants Frasier’s help with— you know, since he’s a psychiatrist and all. Roz is able to produce a map, but Frasier refuses her help, just like the caller’s husband.

Scene 2: Quick! Get Manila on the Phone
[I have watched the episode twice in preparation for this post, and I still have no idea what this title means. I wash my hands of it before you all.]

At the apartment, Martin is berating Eddie for playing with a doll. First of all, this is the first time it has ever occurred to me that the dog may have been named after Eddie Vedder, since the show takes place in Seattle in the nineties. At this time, Vitalogy was just coming out— in fact, this episode aired exactly one week after its release. Anyway, it’s a little odd that they chose to explore this issue with a dog, but Martin is clearly shaming him for choosing toys not prescribed for his gender. Martin even goes so far as to say that he needs to get Eddie a G.I. Joe. And there is no wink. I don’t know whether the show is trying too hard to paint Martin as the senile conservative, or to defend our pets’ rights to enjoy the toys of their choice without the constrictive expectations of our prejudiced society. No, really— you simply can’t tell.
Niles enters. He is on his way to visit Maris at the hospital. She is getting plastic surgery for most of her face, and he is going to accompany her so that she can enjoy the comforts of home. Martin scoffs at Maris’s vanity. Frasier counters that it is instead a matter of insecurity, adding that women are subjected to impossible standards of beauty, particularly as they age. Niles goes into a daze, naming body parts in an initially hypothetical description of all the ways that women are pressured to look good, which devolves into a drawn-out, barely-veiled gawking of Daphne, who is playing solitaire at the table and not apparently paying attention to the conversation.

Niles asks Frasier and Martin to go to the hospital in the morning to offer moral support for Maris. They agree. Niles exits.

Scene 3: No Guts, No Gravy
[One of the greatest accidental punk band names I have ever seen. Carry on.]
At the hospital, Niles and Frasier are in the waiting room. Maris’s doctor emerges and greets Niles. The doctor reports that Maris did very well and will be ready for visits shortly, then exits. Frasier and Niles sit down. Frasier reports that he just saw Artie Walsh, Martin’s old partner on the police force. Artie is in the hospital for follow-up on some bad test results. Artie and Martin, once best friends, have not been speaking to each other for years. Both refuse to reveal what their fight was about, and both blame the other for it.

Martin enters, having just picked up his dinner at the cafeteria. He is thrilled about the food, and offers it to Niles several times.
Niles tells Martin that Artie is in the hospital and he is not doing well. Martin says he is already aware of it— a friend from the police station told him. Niles asks if Martin is planning to visit Artie; Martin says he couldn’t think why he should. Frasier states what should be the obvious reason: That Artie is a friend who is sick. But Artie didn’t visit Martin when he was in the hospital with a gunshot wound, Martin counters. Frasier, perturbed at Martin’s pettiness, insists that he go to visit his friend. Martin doesn’t budge. That is, until Frasier claims that Artie said Martin didn’t have the guts to visit him. This tactic works right away. Martin hands Niles the remains of his dinner and storms out of the waiting room, toward Artie’s room.
Frasier, with Martin close behind him, opens Artie’s door. Artie and Martin greet each other icily. Martin immediately takes interest in Artie’s condition, though he asks his questions in a reserved tone and avoids eye contact. Artie confirms that the prognosis is bad, but tries to maintain some skepticism about it. They begin to warm up to each other, but Martin bestows on himself the honor of “being the big man” by coming to visit.
Predictably, they start shouting at each other, making accusations and insulting each other. Frasier begins to follow Martin as he leaves the room. Martin yells that Artie is always looking to get the last word.

Scene 5: Albuquerque Is Approximately 136 Square Miles

At the apartment, Daphne is giving Martin his physical therapy, which in this case involves leg stretches as Martin lies on his stomach. Eddie telepathically accuses Martin of hiding Eddie’s doll. Martin denies it. Eddie telepathically tells Martin that he doesn’t believe him. Martin caves, saying that it was in Eddie’s best interest. Martin says Eddie has been “the joke of the park” because he was not playing with a ‘gender appropriate’ doll. No— Really. Eddie then guilts Martin into taking the doll out of its hiding place and giving it back.
Niles enters the room from the kitchen, finishing a phone call with Maris. Daphne asks if Maris is doing alright. Niles reports that she is actually not getting along with any of her nurses. Niles asks Martin how his visit with Artie went; Martin says it was lousy. Daphne asks what started their long-running fight. Martin says that Artie spread a rumor at the department, that Martin had cried at a movie, prompting the other officers to nickname him Boohoo Crane. Then, He reveals that the bitterness coming from Artie’s direction is that Martin insulted the size of Martin’s wife’s rear end.
Strangely enough, Martin had been trying to insult his own wife— as in, he was jokingly implying that she was awful, but at least he could count his blessings, since her butt was not “the size of Albuquerque.”

Martin also mentions again that Artie always needed to have the last word, followed by a gag where Martin repeatedly pauses, then adds a cliché reiteration of the phrase “needing to have the last word.” Martin goes to the kitchen for a snack. Niles leaves, to stay with Maris at the hospital for the night.

Daphne sits with Martin and brings up Artie and Martin’s relationship in a matter-of-fact way, attempting to get him to realize that his friend is important to him. Martin tells a story about Artie buying a boat and trying to teach Martin how to fish. There is a half-tender pause as Frasier listens to the stories of Martin and Artie fishing, and how they thought they would spend more time in the boat together after retirement, and a pseudo-tender pause as Martin gazes off wistfully and pretends to fall for Daphne’s plan. He says that he sounds like a fool holding this grudge, then wildly exaggerates his would-be reunion with Artie and sticks his tongue out at Daphne like a nine-year-old. (So we are going to clock that in as one tender pause.)
Martin calls Eddie, to go for a walk. As they both head toward the door, the phone rings. Frasier answers it and immediately takes a hushed, dignified tone. He says “I’m sorry to hear that” and “I’m sure they did everything they could.” It seems that Artie has taken a turn for the worse. Martin watches with baited breath as Frasier closes the call. After Frasier hangs up, Martin plays it cool, pretending he doesn’t care what the caller wanted. Still, he asks, as casually as he can.
Frasier says they can talk about it later. Martin’s concern obviously increases, though he tries even harder to conceal it. Then, he decides it is too important to brush off and asks Frasier if everything is alright. Frasier remains coy, still avoiding the subject. When Martin articulates his concern clearly, Frasier lets the truth out: The call was not from the hospital. Martin is forced to admit that Artie is still important to him.
Martin admits that he wants the fight to end and asks what he can possibly do. Frasier offers to drive Martin to the hospital to talk with Artie.

Scene 6: Well, We’ve Come This Far without a Bedpan Joke…
At the hospital, Frasier and Martin enter Artie’s room. Artie is apprehensive at first, but Martin immediately accepts the blame for his part of the fight and apologizes for what he has said to hurt Artie’s feelings. They both give each other’s sides of the story. Martin shows Frasier a picture of Artie’s wife Loretta. Frasier’s eyes bulge out in sublime paralysis. The audience complies, telling us that it is hilarrrrrrrious that Loretta has a big butt. Perhaps in response to the old wound being exposed again, and this time with Frasier as party to it, Artie and Martin go back to insulting each other. But they also realize that they are both being hypocritical and they each admit their own faults, which appears to diffuse both their momentary argument and the long-standing fight itself.

Martin asks Frasier to leave so that the two friends can talk privately. Frasier babbles as he leaves; Martin closes the door on him. Artie and Martin get back into the swing of their old conversational style. They reminisce, retell inside jokes, and laugh together.

As Frasier is waiting in the hall, Niles comes around the corner with his arms full of gifts and treats from the gift shop. He explains that all of Maris’s nurses are having trouble dealing with her, so the gifts are to bribe them, not into giving Maris any special treatment above and beyond the call of duty, but in fact just to bribe them into remaining in Maris’s presence at all and doing their job. One of the nurses rounds the corner and informs them that visiting hours are over. Niles piles some of the bribe gifts on her.

Frasier goes back into Artie’s room to tell Martin it is time to go. The old friends are enjoying each other’s company and laughing. Frasier says goodbye to Artie and exits. Martin wishes Artie a full recovery, in a sincere, tough-guy kind of way where he is insisting on it. They say their goodbyes and Martin exits. Before he closes the door, he lets Artie get the last word.

Credits vignette:
Eddie is playing with his vintage G.I. Joe action figure on the couch—which, for a dog, of course, consists of chewing its legs into tatters. Martin enters, crosses to the couch, and gives Eddie an approving rustle on the head. Martin goes into the kitchen, then Eddie abandons the G.I. Joe, pulls his Barbie doll out from the other cushion, and starts chewing its legs.

Closing thoughts:
This is David Lloyd’s second writing credit for Frasier. His first was S1E15: You Can’t Tell a Crook by His Cover, also a Martin episode. It is nice to check in with Martin, to fill in some of his past, and give him some more air time than usual. We also see more of how Frasier and Niles relate to him.

What is interesting about Martin’s refusal to admit he cares about Artie is something you get a very clear glimpse of when he admits it to Frasier: He has a sour expression on his face, as if he is being forced out of cramped space and it is ruffling his feathers all to hell. Since it is not due to pretending he cares— which we know because admitting that he cares is the very thing he is doing at that moment— it is clearly a matter of being right, arbitrarily. Or being “strong.” Recall that both of the friends’ grudges derived from a violation of vulnerabilities, the sorts of which tough and ‘got it together’ types like Martin and Artie are not comfortable with: The open show of emotion and the body image of a spouse. Frasier is forcing Martin to get out of a pseudo-comfortable place of being “right” and being “strong,” to confront the pain of living without his best friend’s companionship and all the vulnerabilities and trust that go with it— at a moment when Artie’s mortality threatens to take away the opportunity forever. If we had a category for ‘# of times that Frasier has acted as a good therapist,’ this would be the first one.

I always wonder whether Maris is supposed to be a beautiful woman, or just rich, or what. Martin and Frasier certainly seem to hate her, of course, and Niles describes her negatively in this sort of way where he is just realizing it as the words come out of his mouth.

As I constantly mention, Frasier has a way of taking on a sort of cartoon logic— absurd decisions and zany utterances abound. But when I watch other 90s shows, like Friends or King of the Hill, the weirdness is easy to infer as a credit to the creators. Perhaps Frasier has had me in his pocket all along. It’s not like I’m going to change the name of the blog or anything— it still applies to the character Frasier in various ways— but I can credit the show itself for much more irony than I had previously supposed.

Unnecessary conflicts:
I suppose I have no call-out to make on Martin and Artie’s quibbles, or the unfortunate long silence that they led to. Besides, both of their offenses are funny, which the show is obligated to make happen, and a funny infraction is always going to seem like an unreasonable one for real life friends to be upset enough about to refuse to speak to each other for years on end.

Continuity errors, etc.:
Frasier’s caller asks for directions from her location on “Cherokee and 14th Street.” It should be Avenue.

# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [0]    series: [4]

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

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [1]    series: [21]

# 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: [8]    series: [95]

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

# of tender pauses:
Episode: [1]    series: [16]

# of times Niles has smiled:
[Episode: [1]    series: [12]

Kind of great TV moments:

Kind of great Frasier moments:
Daphne calling Martin a “hateful old sod.”

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “When Maris checks herself into the hospital for some plastic surgery, Niles asks Frasier and Martin to join him in the waiting room for moral support.”

S2 E5: Duke’s, We Hardly Knew Ye

fd s02 e05 00Airdate: October 18, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writer: Linda Morris, Vic Rauseo
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
More than one of my discerning and generous facebook (click that to “like” Frasier Denied) friends sent me this link of Frasier bloopers. I now give it to you.

Now, here’s a Martin episode.

Episode Synopsis:
The Frasier Crane Show is on the air. Frasier says that Roz has an important announcement. He turns to introduce her for it, but she is not there. He reads the announcement from her notes; goes to commercial break.

Out in the hall, Roz is beating on the vending machine, trying to get some chocolate. She explains that she has just completed a “7-day magazine diet” to make herself calmer and healthier.
fd s02 e05 01I don’t suppose Frasier relies too often on generic contrast gags (this one being between Roz’s psychotic breakdown and the “calm” in the description of the diet), otherwise this would get under my skin more.
fd s02 e05 02Niles enters. He asks Frasier if he wants in on a real estate flip with a 12% return. Roz does a quick Freudian analysis of Niles– she asserts that he is trying to make up for being emasculated by Maris by demonstrating some financial competence.

fd s02 e05 04(I want to note that two previous jokes about the Cranes’ chosen schools of psychology have contradicted each other, leaving us uncertain as to whether Frasier is of the Freudian school. I mention it because if he were, it would make this funnier. In fact, Frasier Denied is going to officially recognize that he is, because Niles’ joke about there being “no blaming it on mother today” was more recent—and 100 times funnier—than Frasier self-identifying as “Jung at heart.”)
fd s02 e05 03Niles doesn’t care. He asks again. Frasier agrees.

Scene 2
At home, Martin is cutting coupons. As one might. Daphne emerges in a very nice dress, part-way through preparations for her third date with the never-seen Derek.
fd s02 e05 05The doorbell rings. Daphne answers. Niles identifies her fragrance by name. It’s interesting to me that this is painted as a way for Niles to show his affection for Daphne. I don’t mean that in a Denis Leary, “I’d punch a man if he said I had nice jeans” kind of way—quite the opposite.
fd s02 e05 06I completely get it in the context of real life. With our twenty-two minute dosages of this reality, though, does that hold up? I suppose it does—Niles probably only knows this because he’s studied Daphne’s perfumes specifically, not because of a seasoned knowledge of fragrance in general.

Daphne exits to wash off her perfume.

Niles tells Frasier the good news that their real estate scheme is now expected to return 15%. They decide to celebrate with dinner. Martin invites them to Duke’s. He exits.
fd s02 e05 08Frasier and Niles are dumbfounded. Martin has never once betrayed the slightest inkling to be seen with either of his sons at his favorite bar—nor their mother when she was alive. They discuss it with Daphne. She tells them they should just go.

Scene 3
At Duke’s, it’s packed. Frasier and Niles enter. They notice Martin and remark at how happy he is. Martin’s friends know Frasier from his radio show.

The bartender pours Frasier and Niles some boilermakers.
fd s02 e05 09Martin silences the entire bar to make a toast (have you ever done that? I’ve never done that). Martin explains in his speech that Duke’s is being torn down and replaced with a mini-mall.

Scene 4
At Café Nervosa, Frasier and Niles are discussing how there is no way for them to convince the developers to move the project to a new site. Roz returns to the table; gives Frasier a cappuccino and Niles a latte. She says the coffees are on her.

The brothers continue to discuss their dilemma. Roz’s advice is to keep it quiet. They agree.
fd s02 e05 10

Scene 6
It’s the middle of the night at the apartment, Eddie is asleep on Martin’s chair. Frasier enters from his bedroom. He switches on the “Duke’s” bar sign, which is on top of the piano, and begins to tell Eddie of his troubles. Eddie hurriedly runs out of the room. Martin enters. He admires the bar sign as it blinks. Frasier follows him into the kitchen and confesses that the real estate deal is the reason that Duke’s is getting demolished. He explains that he and Niles didn’t know when they signed up for it and that they tried to change it but couldn’t.
fd s02 e05 11

Martin is mad that they didn’t speak up at the bar—or at least tell him. He says he might have gone to Duke’s too often when Frasier and Niles were kids. Frasier says it meant a lot to have that drink with his father. There is a tender pause.

Martin suggests that they go to the shelled-out Duke’s with their own open container, since the wrecking ball won’t be hitting until the next morning.

Daphne enters. It’s obvious that she had some special sexy time fun on her date.

Scene 7
At the place formerly known as Duke’s, Martin and Frasier are sitting on crates, singing songs.
fd s02 e05 13Martin tells stories of good times that he has had at the bar. Frasier talks about Cheers. He never says the name on this show. I guess it’s for the sake of mystique. After all, they never said “The Cosby Show” on A Different World, am I right?
fd s02 e05 14It’s dawn. Niles runs in. He intends to stop the demolition. He gives a short, impassioned speech about how bars like Duke’s are important to good people.

The wrecking ball actually comes through the window.

Frasier and Martin run away. Niles hesitates, then runs away.
fd s02 e05 15

Credits vignette:
Nine of Martin’s buddies are drinking at the apartment. Frasier sprays air freshener, puts down coasters, etc. It’s just like the end of the Flintstones when the cat puts Fred outside.

Closing thoughts:
It’s good to see actual changes happen. Taking down Duke’s forces the Frasier crew to stop falling back on the same narrative nooks and crannies—now Martin will have to change his behavior, either by finding a new place to go or beginning to participate in other activities (such as dating, one would hope).

Unnecessary conflicts:

Continuity errors:
Roz could scarcely have exited the control room without Frasier noticing.

# 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: [1]   previous cumulative: [14]   series cumulative: [15]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [4]   series cumulative: [5]

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

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
Episode: [2]   previous cumulative: [13]   series cumulative: [15]

# of mentions of Maris:
Episode: [3]   previous cumulative: [74]   series cumulative: [77]

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

# of tender pauses:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [13]   series cumulative: [14]

# of times Niles has smiled:
[Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [7]   series cumulative: [8]

Kind of great TV moments:

Kind of great Frasier moments:
Martin and Frasier sitting in an abandoned building drinking beers is nothing short of fabulous.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): For years, Martin has been a regular at Duke’s, a local watering hole that Frasier and Niles have never seen.”
fd s02 e05 1666

S1 E21: Travels with Martin

FDs1e21-00Airdate: April 14, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writers: Linda Morris, Vic Rauseo
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:

Frasier Denied is on Facebook now! I’m not going to use a verb in quotation marks to tell you what to do about it. If you like us, I trust you can decide what to do next.

The transcript for this episode on KACL780.net includes links to transcripts of the cast members introducing their favorite episodes.

This episode’s writing duo– a husband and wife team– will go on to bring us 7 total episodes, through season 4. They received Primetime Emmy Awards for their work in seasons 2, 3, and 4.

While typing this introduction, I watched a season 11 episode, and I was reminded of the shark-jumping soulcrush that ensues beginning with season 8. The entire episode fit under our “conflicts that occur because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way– most often by not explaining something mundane” category. Just like Floyd, Sabbath, and Queen, man. The godliness runs out. But let’s think of better times– let’s think of now.

For this week’s episode, I took the no-pause approach. As you might well imagine from the name, this means that I take all of my notes while watching the episode straight through. I do this sometimes so that there is some variety on my perspective from week to week. Other times, I either type while watching or write longhand, in either case pausing to include greater detail.

I have considered other methods, such as watching the whole thing without taking notes, then writing out the synopsis from memory, or watching two episodes at the same time and writing a double-episode review. The latter will likely not fly for a regularly scheduled episode review, but perhaps we might see it as some bonus material or such (maybe I’ll watch all of season 8 on 24 screens at once).

Cue the xylophone, my friends! They’re denyin’ to do.

Our episode Synopsis:
Open at KACL, off the air. Roz stands over Frasier’s shoulder as he opens his mail, a box of vacation brochures. Frasier is overjoyed, intending to pamper himself as Martin and Eddie “fend for themselves.” Roz mentions that her next vacation will involve taking her mother somewhere. As he has before, Frasier tells Roz he admires her relationship with her mother.

Scene 2: Untitled
FDs1e21-01At the apartment, Daphne is giving Niles a massage. He moans in hapless ecstasy. He explains that he threw his back out lifting Maris’s luggage. Martin nonchalantly reads the paper all the while.

Frasier enters; gives Niles a silent “Niles!” (which we don’t count as an official “Niles!”— not to worry.)

Frasier turns his attention to Martin and shows him the brochures. They’re all for exotic and elaborate vacations, like riding turtles. Martin is pleased and a little incredulous. He asks if they can do whatever he wants (I know that sounds a little weird, but that’s actually how it happens). Frasier, glad that Martin has accepted, agrees.

Martin asks if they can see America in a Winnebago. It’s a big Frasier joke, especially between Frasier and Niles. (Actually, is there any other kind?) Martin and Daphne go to the kitchen to prepare some snacks. The scene intercuts between rooms as Frasier asks Niles to come and Martin asks Daphne to come, since it will be awkward for Frasier and Martin to be alone on a week-long trip, but, as they both in fact express aloud, neither wants to disappoint the other.

Niles puts his foot down, refusing to be associated with anything involving an RV. Martin and Daphne enter from the kitchen, and Martin announces that Daphne will be coming on the trip.

Niles fires all ‘immediate decisive diametric contrast cliche’ cannons at once, joyfully “announcing” that he will also be going.

Geez– care to invite Roz and Bulldog too, while you’re at it? They’re the only recurring characters who won’t be getting into the RV and going on this trip.

Scene 3: The Whoopin’ Cranes
(So that’s why these writers got the Emmy.)
FDs1e21-02(Please allow us to remind you that all of the captions in the pictures are just subtitles straight from the show.)

Everyone’s headed down the highway in the RV. Frasier is driving. He’s actually enjoying himself. Or pretending to. Martin tells him to start slowing down for a turn 5 miles ahead.

Frasier asks Martin why they are going to Mount Rushmore (also, they are going to Mount Rushmore). Martin explains that the time it takes to get to Rapid City is half of the time they’ve set aside for the vacation (1 week). Martin is glad to do nothing but driving for the whole week (they don’t address where they are camping). Frasier suggests that they instead wander. He refuses to take the turn to Mount Rushmore.
FDs1e21-03Martin goes a little nuts.

Scene 4: Untitled
Martin is driving. He expresses some joy at traveling without an agenda. Niles and Frasier both request destinations off the highway, shouting repeatedly as Martin ignores them. Hence, they haven’t really managed to enjoy the trip together at all yet. They’ve really only been happy one at a time in the driver’s seat, taking turns at frantically and helplessly protesting each other’s decisions.

Martin sees a sign for a gift shop where you can get your picture taken with a live grizzly bear. Everyone agrees to stop there.

Scene 5: Untitled
At the gift shop, it turns out the bear is stuffed. They have the grouchy proprietor take their picture– a Polaroid for ten bucks– and Martin reveals that they’re in Canada. At this, Daphne howls in horror just as the flash goes off. They’d crossed the border while she was asleep. She explains that her last green card interview isn’t for another three months, and she’s prohibited from leaving the U.S.
FDs1e21-04Martin hatches a plan: They will simply sneak her back across the border. Frasier is very unhappy about it; Niles is worried.

Scene 6: The Hole in the Head Gang
(Current title-holder for best scene title in the series. That opens a new category for us, folks! I wish that the Morris-Rauseos had been hired to write scene titles for the whole run.)

Frasier is driving. Everyone is getting psyched up to defraud the U.S. government. Martin reminds them to simply “act like Americans” (the cast, not the government). As they pass through the border, they’re waved through. Then, seconds later, they’re pulled over.

Scene 7: Checkpoint Charlie
(And here I was thinking we might go back to recognizing the scene titles as act titles.)

Daphne is nervous. Martin tells her to keep her answers short. An immigration officer enters the RV and asks everyone some standard questions. Niles is too curt, Frasier is too wordy, and Daphne just answers every question with the only thing that she can say in an American accent, “sure.”
FDs1e21-05The officer takes Frasier’s license and the rental registration and goes back to his car. Martin berates everyone for being so nervous. The officer returns. He asks Daphne why she’s so quiet. She simply smiles and sort of shrugs with an unresolving sort of tentativeness. Martin misdirects by “confessing” that Eddie’s rabies certificate isn’t in the vehicle. He shows the officer a picture of Eddie at the Space Needle, which also happens to show Martin with a badge. The officer lets them go.

Scene 8: Untitled
At night, Martin is driving. Frasier sits in front; asks if they might chat. Martin says he doesn’t ever know what to talk about when the two of them are alone. They both admit that is why they invited Niles and Daphne. Frasier qualifies that that’s not why Niles agreed to come, and Martin, by enjoying the humor in that, reveals to the audience that he too is totally aware of Niles and Daphne’s growing love thing.

Frasier suggests that they go to Yellowstone, which will require driving all night. They briefly consider dropping Niles and Daphne off in Seattle first, but just in case we didn’t infer from the two scenes already dedicated to illustrating that they don’t want to be alone together, they both grow immediately tense and squirrelly as they verbally correspond in contemplating traveling that far with just the two of them.

They decide to drive all night to Yellowstone and surprise Niles and Daphne with the destination.

Credits vignette:
A view of Daphne sleeping, through the lens of Niles’ video camera, closes up on her until she awakens and looks into the blinding camera light with horror. The camera then turns to a disapproving Frasier entering the cabin.

I… have to officially state that the antics in the short, mute clips featured during the credits must not be intended as canonical. I mean, sure, they’ve always been comical, and even a little surreal, but Niles is sort of committing a crime here, and it’s not as if it will be addressed again.

Closing thoughts:
I have found that my favorite Frasier episodes all involve the cast taking trips away from Seattle. This episode, the ski lodge episode, the ice fishing episode, and the duck hunting episode are all my favorites. I’m not sure why.

I did a youtube search for “Frasier review” so I could lead into getting my work started as I finished my dinner of nachos, and I found this segment from That Modern Rock Show, aired December 1, 2012 on WFDU 89.1 in Teaneck, New Jersey. Check it out. There are too many highlights to mention. I was endeared and enraged in turn, repeatedly.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Martin would definitely have taken some interest in whether Daphne can legally leave the country, but it was a good scene.

Continuity errors or anachronism:

# 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: [3]   previous cumulative: [7]   series cumulative: [10]

Mentions of Maris:

Episode: [2]   previous cumulative: [57]   series cumulative: [59]

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

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

# of tender pauses:
[Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [11]   series cumulative: [11]
(I thought for sure they would take the opportunity to have a “we really care about each other” moment, what with father and son driving an RV together on an all-nighter, but I suppose it shows integrity that they instead chose to reinforce the difficult and slightly troubled relationship that Frasier and Martin have.)

“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): “Inspired by Roz to do some father-son bonding, Frasier invites his father on vacation.”

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.”

S1 E15: You Can’t Tell A Crook by His Cover


Airdate: January 27, 1994
Director: Andy Ackerman
Writer: David Lloyd

(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
I did not put on a Frasier drinking game this week. I also didn’t watch two episodes at once. I did take a “No-Pause” oath and type as quickly as I could as the episode played, then went back and filled in everything else. Perhaps my mind will marinate Frasier’s many madnesses in a different manner when they fire off uninterrupted.

The title is cliché and a pun, but is manages to tell a story.
So that’s three things it’s got going against it.

Our episode Synopsis:
Open at KACL. Frasier is giving Martin a tour of the station. Martin fiddles with all of the equipment in the booth. Roz enters. Frasier exposits that Martin is going to stay for the show.

Roz asks Frasier to borrow some cash, because she has given her last $10 to a man who needs to go to the Australian consulate. (Pseudo-meta-exposition? Damn, Roz. We are in awe. In awe!) Martin recognizes it as a scam that was previously reported multiple times. Frasier chides Roz for not being able to spot a criminal. Martin scoffs, asserting (correctly) that Frasier has no such skills himself. Frasier rebuts in his usual ever-elaborate/never-eloquent, straight-faced stammer, spritzed and seasoned with the audience’s abundant tolerance.

Martin tosses in one of the thicker exposition bricks of the season, engaging Frasier’s watery claims with the announcement that the evening ahead just so happens to be Poker Night at the apartment, and all but one of the guests coming over to play are former policemen, the other, an ex-con. The bet, of course, is whether Frasier can pick the criminal out amongst the cops.
FDs1e15-03I have to point out that both Roz and Martin would obviously crush Frasier in terms of demonstrating this skill. Picture the three of them trying to read a line-up, in turn. Martin looks back on an entire career of chasing criminals, and Roz is more worldly than mid-swing, balls-bound brass knuckles.

Roz gives the $10 to Martin, to take the same bet, against Frasier.

I have two things to say before we move on to the next scene. First of all, the evening’s event is conveyed as Martin’s weekly Poker Night. I believe we see him through another game later on at some point, but it’s still a valid time to bring it up: Let’s add “solitary, supposedly regular events” to our official Tropes to Deny list, as we mercilessly probe sitcom history under the throat-splitting noon sun with our Cracker Jack magnifying glass.

Though Frasier will apparently manage to (barely) acquit itself of this particular sitcom crime, it fits snugly on the list. Before you go carving our hero’s name in a tree over it though, I will remind you that this phantom blip of momentary integrity atones for but a minute measure of comparable iniquity– there remains yet a hell’s lot of unpaid penance on our divine Denial ledger.

Secondly, when we do come to that other Poker Night (which, I think, features Roz beating everyone), I am not going to take advantage of that satire softball, which in fact offers me two bitter, supple orbs of comedy all but bursting as they run aground in the dusty soil. (Does a mixed metaphor count as a double cliché?) Nay indeed, I will neither claim that the writers fell back on an already-used plot device, nor that they offered too little too late when it comes to justifying Martin’s “weekly” Poker Night.

Scene 2: Pick a Con, Any Con
(Another cliché/pun combo, which, of course, puts writer David Lloyd on trial.)

Frasier, Daphne, and Martin are at the apartment. Martin is setting up the poker game. The guests– Linda, Frank, and Jimmy– arrive. Frasier goes over the rules: he can’t ask anyone if they’ve done time or what their profession is, but they must otherwise answer his questions truthfully.
FDs1e15-06Daphne serves snacks. She exits to give Eddie a bath, which is a more intriguing sub-plot than Frasier’s bet.

Scene 3: Untitled
Later in the night, Frasier is still studying the guests. Jimmy helps Daphne clean up. Linda is the night’s big winner. Martin asks Frasier to deliver his guess. He says it’s Frank, then Linda. The ex-con turns out to be Jimmy, meaning Frasier in no way could have possibly done worse.
FDs1e15-07Frasier pays up. The guests leave. Martin exposits that Jimmy was a jailhouse sneak for the SPD, which introduces a plot more interesting than Frasier and Martin’s bet, but still not as interesting as Eddie needing a bath:

Daphne exposits that she has agreed to go on a date with Jimmy. Martin tells her that she cannot go. She yells emphatically and effectively about how uncool it is for Martin to even try to treat the situation as if he were her father and she were 16 years old. There is a tense pause. It isn’t the first tense pause of the season, but it shows us that Daphne is much more lethal than Martin if you are unfortunate enough to have given her a reason to strike.
FDs1e15-08Scene 4: Untitled
(Sticking with untitled scenes now, are we? Wise choice.)

Frasier and Niles are at Cafe Nervosa. They both order nonfat decaf lattes.

Remember, in the pilot, when they ordered Caffe Latte Supremos, and I said that we would be on the watch through the whole series to determine whether that was a continuity flaw in the making? Yeah. It’s starting to look like they simply order different things depending on their mood, which is pretty realistic. Hence, as your appointed Frasier demi-god, chosen to sift, purify, and exalt its insanity for all the world to see, I am sorry to have to close that continuity error case.


If you happen to be doubting me on this, later in the pilot– yes: in the same episode– Frasier ordered a double espresso. This one is indeed dead and desiccated. But come on– chin up! There’s plenty of cringing and face-palming to come. If our entire viewing history here is any indication, it’s just around the corner. (Double cliché!)

Frasier explains that Jimmy did time for fraud. Niles agrees that Martin should not have been so judgmental. Frasier then, however, explains that Daphne is going on a date with Jimmy. Frasier and Niles work themselves into a frenzy and decide to “rescue” her.

Scene 5: Oddball in the Corner Pocket
At The Topaz Room, Daphne is playing pool with Jimmy and a couple of guys. Their opponents offer to bet on the last ball, and Daphne, who turns out to be very good at pool,
takes all. Everyone applauds. Daphne exits to the restroom.
FDs1e15-11Frasier and Niles enter; ask the bartender where Daphne is. Frasier bumps into a man and blows his shot. He informs Frasier that the shot had a $200 bet on it. Daphne returns; offers double or nothing plus the right to beat up Frasier and Niles, on sinking 6 balls in one shot.
FDs1e15-12unusedShe takes her shot. In slow motion, we watch the first five balls go in and the sixth barely miss. Daphne, Frasier, and Niles run out of the bar like cartoon characters.

Credits vignette:
Eddie follows a trail of biscuits through the apartment. The biscuits lead to Daphne, armed with a sponge. She attempts to lunge at Eddie, but she misses.

I TOLD you that was the most interesting story in the episode.

Closing thoughts:
This week we have axed the End theme closing and brought subtitles back into the screenshots. But you already knew that. I also removed the link to the blank “Template,” since the only category still unopened is “# of women Frasier has slept with,” and we might as well stop reminding ourselves of it.

I was always delighted with how the creators of The Simpsons gave each episode an introductory plot that ran roughly as long as the opening credits. I was going to call it a “throw-away plot” (like the first panel in the Calvin & Hobbes Sunday cartoons, in place to preserve the main story for papers that put the Sunday C&H in a smaller space), but the initial plots on Simpsons episodes were always used as a springing point for the main story.

This particular episode of Frasier gives us a short introductory plot, very much in the Simpsons style (in fact, it also places a plot in at the end– almost making it a symmetrical triumvirate, if you don’t count Eddie’s bath). It’s the first time in our series run that I have considered this aspect of the show. From what I remember of my overall life-time tally on the sitcom couch, most shows in fact have a strict plot/subplot format for each episode. It’s like your burger & fries or drinks & dancing– it has a balanced pacing that fits the combined context comfortably.

I don’t know why we’re wonking/wanking so much on Seinfeld lately (more to come next week– sorry), but tell me David & Seinfeld didn’t in yet another way shake the whole sitcom world apart when they committed to doing four plots per episode. The only other series I can think of that so drastically abandoned the 1 plot/1 subplot oath (and utterly capably at that) was Arrested Development, 10 years later. If someone is capable of nerding that for me, that would be great, but as I remember it, A.D. went nine standard plots overall on each episode, right? Didn’t they have a plot for each character at all times?

Nerd me this as well: I have honored Seinfeld and Arrested Development alone for bravely departing from the potato chip and nickel-infested cushion club and its “plot-and-a-half” ways. Are they truly alone?

I enjoy getting to know fictional characters. It’s key that for any given behavior– or, I suppose, any given choice to enact a behavior, strictly speaking– you can nearly always tell what they would or would not do. A fictional character is a self-contained, ketchup-packet caliber measure of ethical study. Some characters in mediocre, poorly executed story structures (and b-movies– which don’t “try” in the same sense) are made to violate the substance of their own conscious constitution– as if a puppeteer is whipping the character off of the wrist mid-performance, in order to effectively scratch a sudden and pressing itch on their buttocks.

When you’re radically changing a character’s apparent inner workings (which are synonymous with the term “character” itself in some contexts), the hows and whys of placing such conditions amidst the timeline and meta-timeline (in the psychologies of those characters) are ridiculously delicate. At some point, it becomes a matter of taste– both in terms of accepting a psychological jerk of the wheel on that character’s behalf, as it were, and judging to what extent it sours the entire story structure.

There’s more room for varying results in that evaluation than you might initially think:  Is the story surreal in the first place– at least ambiguously? Have that character’s back story and motives been sufficiently enigmatic? Has the overall execution so far been competent enough that information yet to be revealed on the subject may merely add to an increasingly novel “big picture”? You can, of course, immediately judge whether any of these is the case.

Unless, of course, it involves Doctor Frasier Crane.
FDs1e15-13Somewhere between “guilty pleasure” (which is just how modern people beg off being judged for liking things that suck) and legitimate enigma, Frasier’s choices (and candid utterances) continually contort the canon of the show into something that has so far managed to ensnare great minds– yours and mine at least (which is enough to say so, yes?)– for dozens (and, for my part, hundreds, my friends: hundreds) of hours.

Perhaps we finally have what we need for a Frasier Denied t-shirt:

What Wouldn’t Frasier Do?

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Since Daphne had to give up all of her pool shark winnings, it’s kind of sad that she, Frasier, and Niles had to flee the scene like Pokemon characters. It’s supposed to be because Daphne had made beating the brothers up part of the bet, but there were so many terms hurriedly crammed into that wager, including adding the sixth ball at the last second– you can hardly blame them. (Double cliché!)

The excitement was probably worth $200 anyway.
FDs1e15-15Continuity errors or anachronism:
There is a bed & breakfast in Seattle that offers accommodations in something that they call the “Topaz Room,” but there was not a bar by that name in Seattle in 1994, so far as I know.

If you remember what I said about Martin’s “weekly” Poker Night, it really takes us into uber-wonk territory like an avalanche underfoot if you take it any further than we already have.

Picture this: Until the next (and only remaining) Poker Night that we see (Oh. I have internet. OK– it’s S6 E17), we take note of every time the day of the week is mentioned on the show and graph it up with all the detail our true nerd-worthiness affords, then we rule out every night that involves any evening activity on Martin’s part, and–? It falls the hell apart. During this episode, there isn’t even an indication of what day of the week it is.

This is good news for the continuity mall-cop in all of us, though. If you consider a season’s worth of story time, how much time, on average, does a weekly episode cover? Sometimes it involves about a week’s worth of time in the characters’ lives, sometimes only a few hours. Is “approximately a week” an apt guideline for elapsed story time in between episodes, such that the pace of life (in original airtime, mind you) matches the pace of our own?

Now that we have Netflix original series, we can simply “binge” a show into the dirt in one night, so in time, this will be recognized as a discussion of sitcoms in the “pre-digital” age, when entire work weeks and all of their obligations separated the episodes.

(Not to mention the Burger King and bathroom cleaner commercials that splintered the episodes themselves. Remember taping shows on VHS, and pausing for commercials? Huh? Remember the despair when you missed the return from the commercial!? It seemed that something was lost forever! It sure was great to have those collected, commercial- and closing credits- free shows. That was how we binged when I was your age.)

Anywho, broadcast TV’s Halloweens, Thanksgivings, and Christmases certainly match ours. But does this mean that the whole cast of characters “takes the summer off,” in terms of submitting to our surveillance (as they do when they use the bathroom or foul language)? If you evaluate for this in the respective worlds of sitcoms, I doubt you’ll get anywhere with it at all (Unless it’s 30 Rock, whose creators were savvy enough to synchronize the seasons with the characters’ annual schedule as they film a TV show).

What then? Does the typical sitcom cast’s annual, fictional timeline proceed (after New Year’s, anyway, having begun around Labor Day) spacing its episodic increments until May in a 5/4 ratio of time-consumption, such that the season finale in fact bridges our still-delaying lives to summer’s end? What are you looking at me like that for? I think about this shit so you don’t have to.

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

# 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: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [28]   series cumulative: [29]

# 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]
Though there was a tense pause– first time anyone other than Martin did one, too!

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
Daphne shouting at Martin and Frasier and having them (and the audience) shut the hell up.
FDs1e15-14This episode put a ton of mileage on Daphne’s character development. She took no sexist pandering from either Martin or Frasier, and when Frasier and Niles tried to fool themselves into thinking that she needed their guidance and protection, it was she who saved them. If you remember, that is precisely what happened when Luke Skywalker thought that he had to rescue Leia in The Empire Strikes Back (except Frasier doesn’t get his arm cut off).
FDs1e15-02TV Guide version (© Netflix): While visiting Frasier’s radio station, Martin hears Roz talk about being scammed by a local con artist.”

EDIT: While capturing screenshots, I noticed that Daphne in fact grabs her $200 off the pool table before running out of the bar. Daphne: 1, World: 0.

S1 E13: Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast?

spreadshirt me NOWAirdate: January 6, 1994
Director:Andy Ackerman
Molly Newman
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
Netflix describes Frasier as “cerebral.” I’m just going to leave that one alone.

Andy Ackerman would continue to direct Frasier episodes until February 14, 1995, having directed his first Seinfeld episode on  September 22, 1994 (actually, those are airdates). He would ultimately direct a total of 89 Seinfeld episodes.

This is the only Frasier episode written by Molly Newman.

This was the first episode that I viewed with subtitles on. They were in Helvetica, all-caps– very tasteful. I vastly prefer to view with subtitles. Everything. All the time. You find out how exotic names are spelled (did you know that the hitman on No Country for Old Men was named Anton Chigurh? Either you are lying or you read Entertainment Weekly, and in whichever case, STOP), you get to hear entire sentences that are obscured by noise and mumbling, you get to process entire sentences before or after they are spoken when, for whatever reason, you don’t get a chance to hear them, and finally– and most importantly, for me– you get to process all of the dialogue two separate times, with different parts of your brain (I guess).

After a dozen episodes, I have started paying attention to things like who’s writing, who’s directing, and what Frasier‘s overall voice sounded like amidst the tinny choir of other ’90s sitcoms. We continue to look (often in vain) for patterns and make value judgments about minutia banal and bizarre alike– that’s what one expects in the television blog genre, I take it– but it seems to me that bringing the crew and the other shows in the original primetime schedule into the conversation gives us more content and more perspective to work with when we listen for this beast’s pulse.

FDs1e13-2Our episode Synopsis:
Open at KACL. Frasier takes a call from 13-year-old Ethan, who reports that he has an I.Q. of 160 and is routinely pestered by his schoolmates. Frasier suggests that the bullies are jealous; tells Ethan he can look forward to having the last laugh. (Double cliché! It’s been a couple of weeks! Good work, everybody! Take the rest of the night off.)

Ethan is disappointed and insults Frasier at length. Frasier responds by telling the bullies, over the air, “if (they’re) listening,” to go to Ethan’s house and beat him up. Frasier then, of course, hangs up.

I’m pleased to announce on this occasion that I have decided to disqualify displays of sociopathic behavior on Frasier’s part in the “mental illness” series-count that he shares with Niles, because it happens too often, and I’m afraid it simply isn’t sporting. Think of it this way: Here is a character who has prompted us to stop counting the number of times that he does things like inciting an audience of half a million into beating a thirteen-year-old, because it happens too often to be interesting. That will serve as this week’s reminder that Frasier looks insane and then some on paper, and the world must know!

(OK. OK. While that indeed was a good reminder of all of those things, in the end I decided that discounting a certain type of occurrence in any category because it happens too often would entirely defeat the purpose of endeavoring to count anything in that category, hence qualifying sociopathic decisions of Frasier’s will stand. I repeat: sociopathy will stand. You guys are killing it this week– are you sure you need me?)

Frasier signs off. Roz touches up her make-up for a date with Noel, from the sales department. She doesn’t even like him. I think that she is attempting to date someone “nice” for a change or something like that, but it really isn’t clear.

Scene 2: Boy in the Hood
(Yes, yes: cliché. And I don’t know how the singular prevents it from being cutesy, OK? It just does.)

At the apartment, Daphne is preparing dinner. Niles asks if he can keep her company. He manages to fall off the counter and slam his head on the fridge. Frasier enters and scolds Niles for milking Daphne’s willingness to tend to him on the floor.

Frasier takes Niles aside; requests that he take Martin out to free the house up for an upcoming date. Niles agrees.

Martin and Eddie enter. Niles makes Martin the offer to spend time with him on Friday. Martin refuses; correctly guesses the reason that Niles is offering the invitation, and Frasier confesses. Martin agrees on the condition that Frasier return the favor on Thursday, for Martin’s date with Elaine Morris, from 1412. You see, it isn’t exposition if it’s revealed in questions and answers (How refreshing. Let’s see if we can get through a whole episode without exposition.)

Scene 3: Foot in Mouth Disease
(If we were hanging out in person, I would do this elaborately exaggerated preparation for a fake sneeze, and say the word “cliché!” really loudly into a kerchief, and everyone would give us ironic high-fives, but everyone would actually enjoy it, so they would really net as unironic, but that wouldn’t come up.)

In the kitchen on what will be revealed to be Friday morning, Daphne is preparing breakfast and Frasier is drinking coffee. Martin enters. Frasier and Daphne inquire about Martin’s date with Elaine, and she enters.

Frasier and Daphne introduce themselves. Frasier stutters into 1,284,679 Freudian slips about sexual intercourse when attempting to converse with Elaine. They sit for breakfast. Frasier fires off another half-million or so entirely non-intuitive single-entendre dirty verbal staggerings linked to plausible conversation with an acrobatic sort of logic usually only accessible via catatonia, and my roommate tells me to stop the damn yawning.

(Oh, now I’ve got you doing it.)

Daphne serves the food, but Frasier starts to speak again. Elaine excuses herself; leaves. Martin sits again. He isn’t that mad. People of Frasier-Denial Land, I must ask that you put down your yogurt for a brief moment and pay attention to what I am about to announce:

Martin has gotten some before Frasier has.

Carry on.

Scene 4: Untitled
KACL caller Marianne (voice-over by Piper Laurie) has required her 22-year-old daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend to sleep in separate bedrooms when visiting; her question for Frasier is whether this is the right approach to hosting them. Frasier details the whole Elaine episode over the air. Marianne hangs up on him. He signs off for commercial.

Scene 5: Untitled
Daphne and Martin are at the apartment. Martin is upset about the show. Frasier enters and says hello to Eddie. Eddie and Daphne exit. Martin confronts Frasier about explaining on the air that Elaine had spent the night; exposits that she now won’t speak to him.
FDs1e13-3I can’t believe I didn’t notice when it happened. Martin has a very good point. Frasier has scored two sociopathy points in one episode– also, we didn’t make it through without exposition. Thank you for trying, though.

Eddie runs over to Frasier and stares at him.

Scene 6: Untitled
On-air at KACL, caller Al (voice-over by Henry Mancini) talks long, low, and dry about how he does not enjoy the sound of his own voice. Frasier and Roz make faces at each other and try not to laugh over the air. Frasier hangs up on him.

Roz puts Moon River on, and Frasier speaks over it with a plea to Elaine, to come to have dinner with Martin at 8:00.

Scene 7: This Is Where We Get Off
(Cutesy and cliché. You know you’re doing it wrong if a double entendre actually seems to redeem the thing.)

Frasier and Daphne are in the kitchen. Daphne explains that she’s making outgoing psychic transmissions to Elaine (I would have called this out as exposition if she were referring to something that was actually happening).

Martin emerges with a suit on. The doorbell rings. It’s a large mob of people who heard the show and are rooting for Martin, who comes out as Frasier starts yelling at everyone to leave. Elaine’s elevator opens; she freaks. Frasier enters the elevator, pulling Martin with him. Martin makes Frasier turn around, since in sitcoms you can’t hear anything that you can’t see; asks Elaine to stay. She agrees.

They return to the 19th floor. The mob applauds. Frasier orders them to disperse. Martin and Elaine enter the apartment.

Frasier and Daphne share a moment of tension as they actually stand in the hall, asking each other what “two grown, able-bodied adults” could possibly be doing together, which is kind of a great TV moment.

Then, they do the laundry.

Credits vignette:
Noel enters the producer’s booth and fiddles around.

End theme closing:
“Thank you!”

By now you may have noticed that there are only 5 closings to the end theme. I’m starting to wonder if this shouldn’t actually be called the “Closing theme ending.” Perhaps we’ll alternate that by season. Seriously, though, these are obviously chosen at random, so I’m not sure what the future holds. The most gracious way to deal with it would probably be a clean break at the end of the first season. However, much like Frasier himself, we who further his Denial don’t necessarily base our decisions on what is sensible, no– we go by feeling, Niles, FEELING!

Closing thoughts:
Frasier is a cartoon. If I could only accomplish one thing with …Denied, it would be to help you see this. Seinfeld and 30 Rock are also cartoons, but there are different ways in which they identify as such: On Seinfeld, everything that happens could possibly happen, but of course never would. In 30 Rock, we inhabit the realm of concept, and don’t even really have a fourth wall. Also, about 15% of what happens is entirely tangled in meta– it’s outright dream logic. On Frasier, the physics are natural enough, but what’s unreal is the social and psychological features of its characters’ world.

When you remember Frasier and Niles, you remember that they liked fine wines, Frasier had a radio show, Niles was in love with Daphne, and their father was a little cranky but loveable. However, if you read this blog (or have merely watched it and reflected on what you are seeing as we do here– I should always give you that much credit), you find a troubling and senseless continuity of petty conflict and frantic narcissism.

But that’s not why I brought this up. 30 Rock and Seinfeld have both treated us to episodes with cartoon endings (with Kramer getting chased by police on the highway and Liz Lemon shooting Wayne Brady in the butt, respectively), and I wonder whether Frasier is going to provide us with one of those (in seasons 1-7, of course. Season 8 on might as well be Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and I’m sure there are endings, beginnings, and middles that simply feature the characters on a trampoline over a shark tank with carrots hanging out of their mouths– who the hell knows?)

Just to be sure we’re all together on this, by “cartoon ending” I’m referring to an ending with narrative “knots” that the writers have no intention of “untying.” You know how Tom and Jerry would chop each other’s tails up or eat dynamite or blow off into the sky like a balloon, then reappear intact and energized 5 seconds later? That. When the next episode begins, there are no consequences or memory of the event.

Speaking of narrative continuity, let’s keep thinking about Seinfeld and 30 Rock for a moment.

In season 5 of Seinfeld, George lives with his parents. In season 6, he is hired by the New York Yankees. During the whole Frasier series, Frasier goes through about as much growth and change as George does in those two sentences. Same with 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon. She has the career, then the other thing (which I won’t spoil, because the series finale was within the past year), and that’s it. Come to think of it, I suppose I only used George instead of Jerry because Jerry really doesn’t have anything happen to him at all (and kudos to him and Larry David, of course, for intentionally making it so).

Anywho, these are all different layers in the substance of the show, sure. But when you think about 30 Rock, you know that there’s an opaque fourth wall; when you think about Seinfeld, you know that it’s “about nothing.” Frasier, on the other hand, somehow seduces you into consenting to its chaotic socio-surrealism, and, even long after you and I have written and read all 168 of these, I’m sure we will simply retain that anesthetized, mild-mannered version of the show that only ever truly existed in our minds in the first place, where Niles says “wow” as he looks at Daphne and Frasier puts coasters under their chardonnay glasses. But I have to try. Dammit, I have to try.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier’s inability to speak to Elaine at breakfast without accidentally talking about sex a dozen times is kind of an embarrassment to the English speaking world.

FDs1e13-1Continuity errors or anachronism:
Frasier says “hello” to Eddie.

And I would call writing in a moment of legitimate sexual tension between Frasier and Daphne a problem, but it’s tricky. As you can see, I’ve crowned it with our highest honor, “Kind of a great TV moment,” because it’s simply so damn novel, but it also seems to ripple troublingly against the canonical Frasier-Daphne narrative as a whole. I won’t speak of it again if you won’t.

And here’s a little bit of non sequitur (because I love you so much):
FDs1e13-7# of women Frasier has dated:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [2]

# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [2]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [3]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [5]

# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”:
[1]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [3]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [25]   series cumulative: [25]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [9]   series cumulative: [10]

In this episode:
Frasier (sociopathy)— when he is an accomplice in the physical beating of a minor.
(I know. I know.  Why do you think I call it “Denied”?)

(It was a close call, but we aren’t in fact going to count talking about Elaine over the air as the behavior of a psychopath. It’s remarkably negligent and insensitive, but I have to call it somewhere. Hey, at least that aspect of the category survived this week’s review, eh, tiger?)

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

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
Frasier and Daphne experiencing sexual tension for one moment of the entire series.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Martin invites his neighbor Elaine over to the condo for an intimate dinner for two. The next morning, Frasier is unnerved to discover that Elaine has spent the night.”

S1 E8: Beloved Infidel

Director:Andy Ackerman
Writer: Leslie Eberhard

(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
In this episode, we see a little more of Roz, but she has still not once been involved in a story. The reason the “# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone” category has been so awkwardly hanging out for a while now is that it has a co-category which has just been opened: “# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone.” I want to be able to compare them because the latter soon becomes a permanent fixture on the show, and it will nice to be able to recognize just how much it is being exaggerated.

Our episode Synopsis:
Scene 1:
Open at KACL. Frasier asks caller Danielle (voice-over by JoBeth Williams) to repeat her question. She tells him in a cement-thick French accent that she is “having a big problem” with her “monsieur.”

First, I thought that it was ridiculous to convey someone translating an entire thought except one word, and I was going to offer counter examples and just burn the whole crew new asses (you could give someone a new ass with fire, right?), but I realized that people do plenty of silly and stupid things, French or not. (The French also use the same word for silly and stupid —Ed.) I felt like considering it impossible for a French person to make such a mistake was kind of racist of me.

Anywho, Frasier has no idea what she means. Roz does, but she doesn’t get a chance to interrupt. Frasier of course offers irrelevant generic advice and hastily hangs up on her, then closes the show.

Roz has a date that night. She explains that he is quite well-off. (Double cliché!) He isn’t. Niles enters. He does remember Roz’s name, but does not remember that she works with Frasier and asks her why she is at the station. She exits.

Niles explains that a lecture that he and Frasier had planned to attend was cancelled. They decide to go to dinner.

Scene 2: Not Now… Now!
(Incoherent. And gawd: the syntax on titles in general is some deplorable mayhem.)

Frasier and Niles are seated at Anya’s restaurant.

Exposition grants us the knowledge that Niles’ car is parked illegally in front of an adjacent strip mall. He wonders whether he should patronize one of the shops to justify his use of the spot, but Frasier tells him not to worry. (Uh-oh!)

Niles spots Martin across the restaurant, seated with a woman. Frasier exposits that Martin had claimed he was going to his usual place, Duke’s, to watch “the game” and such. (I will call this meta-exposition: explaining that someone explained something. I want to be really happy about it too, but this is just a case of being very good at doing something very bad.)

Martin looks their way and they cover their heads with menus. Niles peeks. Though they are seated at the same table, it’s somehow established that only Niles can look without being discovered, so he peeks indefinitely and explains that Martin is holding the woman’s hand. She starts crying; exits. Niles recognizes her as Marion Lawlor, a family friend from decades ago, and he hyper-exposits that their families used to rent cabins together until one summer when there was a mysterious falling out.

Niles’ car gets towed.

Scene 3: The Lady Vanishes
(There’s a difference between cliché and a good reference. 8 episodes in, but still.)

At the apartment, Eddie is on the couch, lying on his back and growling indulgently. Daphne enters and scolds him gently as she removes him from the couch. She exits; he gets back on the couch. Frasier enters; Eddie hastily gets off the couch again.

Frasier calls after Martin. Daphne explains that Martin has gone to watch “the game” with the neighbors.

The doorbell rings. It’s Niles. He has brought his old journal so they can investigate whether Martin had an affair with Mrs. Lawlor. Niles reads some passages from it and concludes that an affair was likely. Frasier objects. Niles finds a few photos of Martin posing with a woman, her face cut out of it. Niles is all but convinced; Frasier remains skeptical. Daphne suggests inquiring with Martin, and Niles suggests calling their Aunt Vivian. Frasier protests in both cases.

Martin enters. Daphne goes ahead and asks him. Niles explains that he and Frasier were at the restaurant. Martin asks Daphne to leave. Martin announces that he did have an affair and demands that it never be discussed again. (Double cliché!)

Hey—holy shit!! There was no tender pause last week! OK, so there isn’t a tender pause at this moment either, but it’s sort of a semi-tender atmosphere. Instead, though, Niles offers cheap comic relief. (There is still time, though, tender pausonites. Remain steadfast!)

Scene 4: Dr. Shecky Crane
(Truly, passionately incoherent)

Frasier is seated by the bookshelves at Café Nervosa. Niles enters; asks how Frasier is feeling. He’s still pretty upset. Niles is not. He suggests that Frasier get past it.

Scene 5: Things Best Left Unsaid
(Cliché enough to raise the dead)

At the apartment, Eddie is on the couch. Frasier enters from his bedroom with his coat on; chides Eddie, who jumps to the floor.

The doorbell rings. It’s Mrs. Lawlor. She asks Frasier to tell Martin she’s sorry for leaving dinner so abruptly. He tells her he learned about “what happened,” which tells us that she is about to reveal to us that what happened was something entirely different., which tells us that, of course, it was Frasier’s mother who had actually had the affair—with Mr. Lawlor.

Mrs. Lawlor tells Frasier this. She also reveals that he recently died (Mr. Lawlor, not Frasier).

Scene 6: Like Father, Like Son
(This title is so cliché it single-handedly combusts all of the karma for another whole series worth of scene titles. This title is so cliché that it actually feels kind of cheap pointing it out.)

Daphne contorts Martin into his physical therapy stretches. She exits. Frasier enters; asks to speak about the affair. Martin refuses. Frasier explains that he knows the truth. Martin is upset, but he doesn’t do a tender pause. Frasier shares that Lilith also cheated, and he doesn’t do a tender pause either. Martin makes fun of Frasier for being with Lilith at all, what with how generally awful she was, which is just, like, totally hilarious. Martin explains that he has forgiven Frasier’s mother. Then, an actual, 100% tender pause happens.

Frasier sheds a tear. Martin tells Frasier not to hate his mother and reveals that he had lied about it to protect her, since Niles and Frasier “already had problems” with him.

This made a little bit of sense to me at first, but, as we often find, typing it out made me realize its deeper and more disturbing implications. It’s actually pretty messed up for Martin, still alive, to convince his two sons that he had contemplated and carried out an affair only so that they would still think well of their now-dead mother. For one thing, the truth has something of a significant handicap because it’s, I don’t know,  the damn truth? And isn’t it more important for those who are living to have the best relationships they can? At least we got a tender pause out of it.

Martin also explains to Frasier that the cut-up pictures were of his mother and she had cut them herself because she was unhappy about her weight.

Credits vignette:
A slow pan of the apartment, finally revealing Eddie indulgently scratching his back on the couch.

End theme closing:
“Thank you!”

Closing thoughts:
When Mrs. Lawlor rang the doorbell, I suddenly wondered what had happened to Irene, from the telescope episode. Either Martin is a confident but quiet ladies’ man, or the Frasier crew takes care to ensure that episodes have sufficient narrative autonomy to be potentially shuffled in syndication. Another show that does this is King of the Hill. Actually, that’s the most extreme example of it that comes to mind. It doesn’t seem like a lot of shows do it that aggressively, but as I think I’ve mentioned before, I used to watch shows like Friends in syndication without even really being aware that there was a cohesive ongoing narrative at all.

I promise to learn Frasier and Niles’ mother’s name next time her memory is integral to a plot. All we know now is that her middle name is not Marie. I want to keep things that way for a little longer. Watch this: I’ll even look up the name of the dog who plays Eddie, just to show that I’m omitting not-middle-name-Marie’s name on principle. OK—it’s Moose. Aww. And he died in 2006, just like Bruno Kirby. Damn you, Internet!

Hold on, hold on. Wikipedia says that Moose’s “occupation” is “actor.” I’m not sure that it can be said that a dog has an occupation. Do you perceive a precedent for a dog getting compensated for working? If he did not appear as Eddie, and his owners rigorously trained him to do all of the same things that we see him do on the show— which amount to stage blocking: getting on furniture, staying in one spot, and looking at Kelsey Grammer— would it make sense to say that his occupation was a “sitter/starer?” More to the point, would his “income” have a distinct substance whatsoever from what his owners no doubt gave him for his on-camera efforts (food, treats, toys, more food)?

Nay—the occupation of his owners, on the Frasier payroll, was trainer, and they were compensated for it with trainers’ salaries. Am I totally out of it on this one? Are K-9 search dogs cops, or are they just doing arbitrary tricks for raw hides and Milk-Bones? I’m pleasantly ambivalent.

This review is a little bit thinner than I like ‘em to be. In order to make-up for my upcoming vacation, I did two posts in about the time I usually spend on 0.75 posts. I shouldn’t be whining about it though, right? I mean, if I were unhappy with the results, I should just have waited, yes? Since you are reading this (if you’re reading the English version), you can tell that I in fact was happy with the results—they’re just a little shorter than usual. I valued getting it pulled together and keeping the schedule consistent over taking the usual added day and a half to let it breathe and grow some more meatier references and such.

I think the fact that I suggested using fire to endow something or someone with a new ass tells us everything we need to know.

(For the hell of it I did a word count. 2 weeks ago was 2649, last episode was 2978, and this one is 2128.)

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
It is entirely insane to suggest that someone as obsessed with high brow culture as Frasier would not recognize the word “monsieur,” but the detail that goes in this category is his failure to acknowledge Roz’s attempt to help and her inability to speak into his headphones and clarify.

Frasier and Martin covering their heads with menus.

Martin figuring that he might as well be perceived as an unfaithful husband for the rest of his boys’ lives rather than simply tell them the truth of the decisions that their mother made long ago.

Continuity errors or anachronism:
Anya’s and Duke’s are both fictional.

# of women Frasier has dated:
[0]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]

NEW CATEGORY: # of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone:
Episode: [1]                           series cumulative: [1]

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
[0]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [2]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [5]

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

Mentions of Maris:
[0]   previous cumulative: [17]   series cumulative: [17]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
[0]   previous cumulative: [9]   series cumulative: [9]

# of tender pauses:
[1]   previous cumulative: [6]   series cumulative: [7]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
Niles’ depiction of his younger self from his journal.

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Due to a canceled lecture, Frasier and Niles change their plans, but wind up at the same restaurant where their father Martin is dining with an old family friend, Marion Lawlor.”

S1 E5: Here’s Looking at You

fd s01e05Airdate: October 14, 1993
Director: Andy Ackerman
Brad Hall
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
Just when I thought we could stop yakking about the scene-titling conventions, the issue was again complicated by last week’s episode starting with a scene that was given the same name as the episode, which I addressed by announcing that moving forward, in the case of an opening eponymous scene, I would simply omit the title and list it as ‘Scene 1.’ Then, this week’s episode opened with, you guessed it, an untitled opening scene, so now I can’t let eponymous opening scenes go unlabelled, because you won’t know whether they were eponymous or simply untitled. Hence, I will call eponymous ones by their name, and when opening scenes are untitled, I will simply open the narrative right after the ‘Our episode synopsis’ heading.

This is lame for 2 reasons (3 if you count the simple fact that the format leaves me with no choice): First, sometimes the opening scene is titled, so having an occasional missing title looks like an error (andScene 1: (Untitled)’ looks like jive-ass bullshit). Secondly, the only precedent for naming the opening scene is the very fact that it opens the episode— almost every week there are scene changes that occur mid-episode without a title.

Since each of these first five episodes has presented some kind of game-changer on the white-knuckle adventure that is titles, and since I’m better than half-certain that if I bring it up again you will stop reading Frasier Denied, any further changes will be weathered quietly (I think we may have actually seen every possible combination anyway).

This is our first cliché episode title—actually, that’s not true. Let’s say this is our first drastically cliché episode title. Damn. That’s not true either. I peeked ahead at the first season’s episode titles: only 4 out of 24 of them are cliché, and not one of them is cutesy. However, I am pleased to announce that as of this episode, we have a new scene title category: incoherent.

No, no— seriously. We do.

Our episode synopsis:
pen at KACL. Frasier is on the air. A caller (voice-over by Jeff Daniels) explains that his mother never leaves the house. He says that she “literally hangs around the house all day.”

The word ‘literally’ here obviously refers to the day, as in “I’m not just saying ‘all day’ as an exaggeration—she literally stays in the house for the entire day,” but Frasier interrupts the caller mid-sentence to “correct” his grammar as if he had meant “all day, my mother literally hangs around the house.” The caller tells Frasier off and hangs up on him (double cliché? I guess it isn’t, since the latter phrase has sufficient simplicity to justify its ubiquity. Carry on).

They go to commercial. Frasier tells Roz that Martin is not a very active person. Roz reveals that her mother is the attorney general of Wisconsin and she has plenty of hobbies besides.

Scene 2: A Room With A View
(Cliché enough to make up for about 9 scenes worth of cutesy. If we were keeping track of the cliché caliber of all the scene titles, this one would currently be #1, and if I look at the episode title, “Here’s Looking at You” side by side with this scene title, the cliché concentration makes me go blind for about 40 seconds)

Frasier’s apartment, interior, night. Frasier is making adjustments to a telescope pointed at the window. Daphne exposits that Martin and Eddie are taking a nap and that Frasier bought the telescope for Martin. Frasier is especially pleased with how much Martin, in the future tense, likes it.

Martin enters. Frasier and Daphne stand in front of the telescope to hide it. Martin tells of a strange dream about a beautiful woman with bad breath licking his face. Eddie enters. The laugh track awakens hungrily.

Frasier and Daphne step aside to bestow the telescope. Frasier immediately encourages Martin to commit voyeurism. Martin complies.

He spots a woman with a telescope. She of course quickly holds up a note that says ‘Hello’ and “introduces” herself as Irene. Martin gets a legal pad and writes back. The woman recognizes Frasier; mentions it. He waves (I warned you that writing this down reveals to us how insane every moment of it is).

Scene 3: Getting to Know You
(If we have 12 cutesy and cliché titles in a row, I will cease announcing it forever. That is a promise.)

Martin is looking through the telescope. He and Daphne are talking about all the people they “know” from the stories of Irene’s life shared through notes passed between telescopes. Frasier enters in his robe; exposits that Martin and Irene have been doing this for three days.

Frasier writes the apartment’s phone number on the legal pad. The phone rings. Martin refuses to pick it up. Frasier answers it. Martin is very nervous about talking to Irene but concedes. He kicks Frasier and Daphne out. They giggle in the kitchen.

Martin enters the kitchen; remains quiet. Frasier and Daphne pry. Martin reveals that he turned Irene down for a date.

Scene 4: Forcas Fracas
(Readers, I am proud to present the ‘incoherent’ category! It’s interesting how ‘incoherent’ and the other two (including their combination) are mutually exclusive: A scene title can be any of the combinations that we have discussed so far—a) cutesy, b) cliché, c) cutesy & cliché, d) neither— or a fifth possibility, the new category, d) incoherent. If it is incoherent it cannot be either of the other two, and if it is either of the other two, it cannot be incoherent. I can see I’m the only one who considers this significant, so we’ll move on.)

Frasier and Niles are at the counter at Café Nervosa. Niles tells Frasier he is now the president of his wine club. Niles revisits the beloved OCD seat-wiping routine not seen since the pilot. Frasier explains that Martin and Irene are not continuing their “relationship.” Niles suggests setting Martin up with Maris’s aunt Patrice.

Cut to the apartment. Daphne is pretending to look at Irene through the telescope; claims that she is pining for Martin. Frasier does the same. Martin doesn’t buy it. The doorbell rings.

Frasier gets the door. It’s Niles and Patrice. Niles introduces her to Martin. Daphne excuses herself to get refreshments; Niles and Frasier join her. Frasier chides Niles for bringing Patrice to his home. When they return to the living room, Patrice is weirding Martin the hell out.

Frasier bails Daphne, Martin, and himself out by pretending that they had dinner plans.

Patrice gives Martin an enormous hug. When she does, Martin moves away from the window. Patrice storms out with Niles trailing after her.

Frasier calls Martin out, both on moving out of Irene’s line of sight and still caring about her; asks why he won’t date her. Martin says it’s because her middle name is Rose. Frasier exposits that it was also his mother’s middle name. There is a tender pause.

Frasier encourages Martin to get on with his life; says it’s what his mother would have wanted. (Double cliché!) He also exposits that it has been 6 years since she died. Still in ‘tender’ mode, Martin is genuinely grateful; says he isn’t ready. The tenderness extends just long enough for Martin to call Frasier a “good kid.”

Martin goes to the kitchen. Daphne is preparing dinner. Martin reveals that he lied to Frasier about Irene’s middle name. Daphne suggests that Martin is simply self-conscious about his hip. She points out that he hid his cane while “talking” to Irene.

Scene 6: Gu-Gulp!
(‘Incoherent’ really is part of the Frasier Denied family! Group hug.)

Daphne and Frasier are standing near the telescope. Frasier is calling Martin into the room; exposits that Irene is going to be there soon—not just in view of the telescope, but actually there, in the apartment. Martin enters with a tie and jacket (the audience does not hoot and cheer).

The doorbell rings. Martin answers it.

The format for Martin meeting Irene is a single camera view as Irene’s first-person vantage, and when Martin greets her while Daphne and Frasier gawk, Irene doesn’t say anything either, so it’s really just a very strange 15 seconds of Kelsey Grammer, Jane Leeves, and John Mahoney looking silently through the fourth wall at you.
fd s01e05 moreCredits vignette:
Frasier is asleep in Martin’s chair, Daphne is asleep on the couch, and Eddie is looking out the window through the telescope (presumably at Martin and Irene).

End theme closing:
“Goodnight, everybody!”

Closing thoughts:
The tender pause count is indeed proceeding with a one-per-episode record. I’m surprised, if not flat-out impressed— I don’t know why I had the impression that the “very special” salt was pinched n’ thrown more sparingly than that, but I guess the assumption came from the same part of my brain that thought that the show had aired on Thursdays for its whole run.

By now you have surely noticed my disdain for exposition. You really can’t avoid it in a 22-minute show, but I suppose what bothers me about it so much on Frasier is how casually it’s dumped into the dialogue.

“Say, Bob, you know how you’re a fireman, like your father before you, and how you saved those two poodles the other night and how one turned out to be pregnant? Let me buy you a drink to say ‘thank you.’ Oh, look who’s here—it’s Sally. Hi Sally. Bob, this is my friend Sally. Sally is a widowed veterinary cosmetologist as it happens—she’d just love if we told that poodle story again, and she can react to it point by point with explanations of how else she is relevant to this episode’s gnarled lattice of plots, never to appear again.”

It truly can’t be helped—I won’t deny this, but it simply doesn’t bother me so much when I watch other shows doing it. As I’m trying to convey in that slab of bitterly satirical italics, you’ve gotta sand some nuance into the pointier edges before those parts of the narrative turn into dialogue. You need to figure out what those conversations would look like if the characters had already lived those details and were now interacting according to the present and immediate future of their lives as affected by those details. Figure it out—most crews manage to do it. That said, it obviously isn’t a deal-breaker—it’s just something I enjoy being slightly overly cranky about.

There are also other shows that have flaws of approximately the same caliber that, for whatever reason, I can’t forgive. For example, I cannot watch Third Rock From the Sun since I became cognizant of its incessant and monotonous laugh track. I enjoyed about 45 episodes, until one day— though it had been there since the very first minute— I noticed the overdubbed comedy-appreciation-prompting mechanism’s persistence for the first time and suddenly couldn’t get over the distraction.

Whenever a character on Third Rock says anything— every time spoken words emit from any member of the cast— the “audience” “laughs.” Try this: start an episode, close your eyes, ignore the dialogue, and imagine that the laugh track is beach waves. 4 seconds pass, 2 seconds of laughter; 3 seconds pass, 2 seconds of laughter. Breathe all of your troubles away…

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
The whole telescope thing was typical of the sort of novel weirdness that keeps Frasier so fertile for playing extended and versatile ‘Awkward,’ and it produced all sorts of surreal and petty goofiness as always, but I think it was a pretty clean episode for this category, where we tend to focus solely on the social structure of a conversation or situation.

Continuity errors or anachronism:

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
[0]   emerging cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
[0]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [5]

Mentions of Maris:
Episode: [4]   previous cumulative: [10]   series cumulative: [14]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [7]   series cumulative: [ 8]
In this episode:
Niles (OCD) — when he revisits the chair-sanitizing gag. For some reason, this seems like the most legitimate example for this hyperbole-worshipping category, but it also seems like the most realistic.

# of tender pauses:
[1]   previous cumulative: [4]   series cumulative: [5]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Frasier encourages his father Martin to pick up a new hobby and gives him a telescope.”

S1 E3: Dinner at Eight

fd s01e03Airdate: September 23, 1993
Director: James Burrows
Writers: Anne Flett, Chuck Ranberg
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
In this episode, the act-dividing convention was further clouded. To review, in the first episode, I made an intuitive distinction between 3 acts, more or less according to where commercial breaks are probably placed for television broadcast. For episode 2, I used the newly introduced subtitles— white text on a black background dividing the show into three parts with reliably cutesy and/or cliché phrases.

For this week’s episode, neither the scenes nor the acts are consistently titled. I don’t yet know whether this is because the show has not yet established a strategy for the titles this early or because the show merely approaches the matter the way Frasier decorates his apartment, which is to say “eclectically.”

To complicate things further, the transcript actually divides the show into not 3, but 2 acts, which happens to coincide with how I have to divided the acts at my own discretion— also into 2. Moving forward, I will simply divide the acts as occurs naturally in my notes.

I will, of course, also continue to include the subtitles and accompanying commentary on whether they are cutesy, cliché, or (newly available as of this episode!) neither.

Our episode synopsis:
Act 1:
Scene 1:
Shhh! They’re Here
(Neither cutesy nor cliché— I was sincerely prepared to go the whole series without finding this.)

Open at KACL. Frasier is on the air. A caller (voice-over by Patti Lupone) says that her in-laws visit constantly; they actually show up while she is on the phone and he admonishes her to tell them how she feels.

Scene 2: How Many Sharks Died?
(Check it out, gang: two respectable titles in a row!)

At Frasier’s apartment, Daphne is alone, folding laundry. Frasier and Martin enter. Frasier has just bought Martin a new suit. Martin leaves the room to try it on. Frasier notices that Daphne is “fluffing his knickers” (her words, not his). He snatches them from her, but is taken aback at how soft they are. The phone rings. Frasier answers; it’s Niles asking if he can come over. Frasier agrees, hangs up, and opens the front door. Niles is waiting outside, still holding up his cell phone. He enters and asks Frasier if he can get an autographed photo to give to his housekeeper.

Then, Frasier introduces Daphne and Niles, and their story begins. Niles is very obvious about his immediate and total infatuation; Daphne pretends not to notice. While they converse, Niles fidgets with the laundry, and he happens to have a pair of Frasier’s boxer shorts, though he doesn’t know this, as he never looks away from Daphne. As Frasier takes them from him, he almost introduces a new series-count category for us (# of times that Frasier shouts “Niles!”), but instead says “Do you mind!” (Perhaps Frasier will open that category for us next week.)

Martin emerges with his new suit on, over his blue lumberjack flannel. Niles is shocked and disgusted with the suit; Martin is pleased to report that it is made of “shark skin.” As she compliments Martin, Daphne also offers the exposition that Martin is going to a friend’s retirement party. Martin and Daphne exit.

Niles asks Frasier whether Martin is their “real father.” They volley in sharp but melodramatic commiseration over Martin’s taste in “everything.” Frasier exposits that they are probably more like their mother because Martin worked “his tail off” so that they could live well and have more opportunities— which counts as 1/3 of a tender pause.

Frasier suggests that the brothers bring Martin out and “broaden his horizons.” Niles suggests fine dining.

(This almost counts in the off-the-record  “double-cliché” category, but let’s maintain the requirement that I come up with them myself, as led by the events in the show. Whereas in this case, both phrases were in fact delivered to us through dialogue, it’s much more fun if I rather just recognize them in the ether, then pair them, draw them into our sphere and deliberately slip as on a prop banana peel. As long as we’re stopped, I will also concede that this review is somewhat padded with such meta- commentary as this, but overall, it should enhance your context for enjoying subsequent Frasier Denied posts and related activities.)

For a dinner destination suitable for schooling Martin on the finer things [double cliché!], they both simultaneously suggest Le Cigare Volant— concerning which Niles of course offers the exposition that he has been trying unsuccessfully to get reservations for months— to which Frasier of course responds by assuring that his celebrity will get them in straight away. He calls the restaurant requesting a reservation for the following Saturday; he succeeds. On Saturday at 8:00, Frasier, Martin, Niles and Maris are to go to dinner at Le Cigare Volant.

Martin emerges and aggressively enhances our sense of the current plot by offering Niles a beer, then pork rinds. Niles refuses. Frasier tells Martin of their dining plans for Saturday. Martin is not agreeable, but Frasier persuades him to accept.

Act 2:
Scene 1: Honey Don’t
(Well, alright. We’re back on track: this time, both cutesy and cliché.)

At the KACL studio, Roz is telling Frasier about her failed date the previous night. Her date had exhibited OCD so severe he would not help her with dinner by touching a honey jar, citing a deathly fear of anything sticky. She gives Frasier the 30-second warning for air time. Frasier prompts her to join him for a Monday ritual thus expositorily established right that moment. She protests, but he insists. The ritual consists of Frasier asking who has the best talk show in Seattle and Roz saying “We do! We do!” (I obviously can’t be too smug about pointing out that they never do this again, because I certainly wouldn’t want them to.)

Scene 2: Dinner at Eight
(Playing it straight again, plus this scene is eponymous with the episode.)

At the apartment, Frasier is dressed in a suit. Daphne is getting her coat and headed to poker night. The doorbell rings. Frasier gets the door; it’s Niles, also besuited (actually, he almost always is). He announces that Maris will not be joining them. When Daphne steps out of the room, Niles suggests that Daphne join them, since it’s a reservation for four. Frasier doesn’t act on it; Daphne leaves.

Martin emerges with a sweater on over his flannel shirt; his new shark skin suit is at the cleaners. Frasier calls the restaurant to inquire about the dress code. The restaurant does not have a record of the reservation. Martin suggests taking them to a place called The Timber Mill, which really ties in with Martin’s shirt.

Martin is very happy about their new dinner plans.

Scene 3: Tim-Berrr!
(Cliché of course, but I like it. Blame Martin.)

Martin, Niles, and Frasier enter the restaurant. Niles and Frasier immediately begin cracking jokes about how unsophisticated it is, which is just plain silly— it’s a pretty decent, average looking steakhouse. Before they are seated, the hostess informs them that they have “a dress code” and she and another employee cut Frasier and Niles’ ties off with scissors. The ties are hung on a wall with dozens of others, and Martin tells the brothers that part of the tie-cutting tradition is that they both get free dessert.

They order drinks. Niles and Frasier start talking shop and Martin doesn’t quite understand. Martin explains that his friends have been suffering health problems and dying, as he spreads an excessive amount of butter on his dinner roll (get it? Because, like, eating lots of butter is part of what killed his friends).

Niles gives the waitress a long-winded explanation of how he wants his steak cooked. Frasier is hesitant about ordering food from this restaurant at all. Martin decisively orders for all three of them, then excitedly stands up and heads to the salad bar, and it’s a real hoot, on account of Frasier and Niles being too sophisticated for a salad bar and all.

Frasier and Niles are displeased with how quickly the entrees are brought out. Martin is offended with how they both treat the wait staff. Then, they take things further still and belittle the restaurant with zealous abandon—and I’m not the one being melodramatic here—the writers really chose this as the way to explain the characters’ differences.

Anyway, it’s worth it, because this is when Martin gives his “People like this place. I like this place” speech (which I referred to last week when describing Martin, as it happens). I don’t know how he does it. He’s only talking about a little steak joint and a couple of wisecracks, but he conveys so well the conflict between his gritty but humane sensibilities and the crass, thoughtless antics of his refined, well-read spawn, while displaying a seasoned mastery of the moral high road in such circumstances. I just can’t help but crown him my favorite character of the series.

No, no: really. As I have been describing (with my own share of sarcasm), it’s a very low-stakes situation (no pun intended), and every aspect of the conflict is shamelessly exaggerated, but there’s something gritty and soulful about Martin Crane that I just love.

Thought exercise: if all of the characters died in an earthquake, which one would you first be aware that you were sad to lose to Death’s cold embrace? See, for me it’s Martin. Send us your responses! (Long rambles welcome.)

Anywho, Oh—first, I almost forgot to mention: this is where we have another 2/3 of a tender pause. I figure Martin is wielding enough sober reverence for at least two whole people, and no one else on screen is taking it seriously, so two over three = 2/3, giving us a net 1 tender pause for this episode. I don’t suspect that they maintain a 1/1 ratio of tender pauses to episodes, but don’t worry. We shall find out. Among so many other things we never knew we cared about, we shall find out.

OK. So, Martin makes a dramatic exit, telling his sons that though she enjoyed the finer things, their mother also was down to earth. [Double cliché! Thank you.] He tells them she would be ashamed, and he specifies that he is in fact currently quite ashamed.

Frasier and Niles, now alone, concede that they have lost touch and become comfortable being quite snobby. They resolve to finish their meals to “prove that they are not snobs,” but they simply can’t bring themselves to do it.

That’s it.

Credits vignette:
It’s late at the restaurant. Most of the chairs are on the tabletops. A dishwasher is sweeping the floor and the waitresses are standing, waiting, as Niles and Frasier are still trying to pick through their food.

End theme closing:
“Frasier has left the building.”

Closing thoughts:
One narrative device that the show periodically uses is Frasier’s local fame as a radio talk show host. In this episode, Niles has visited Frasier just for the sake of getting a glossy picture autographed. I actually admire and enjoy this. There is something purposeful and dignified about a consistent element like that being employed occasionally.

I’ll elaborate by contrast. Many (if not most) sitcoms have introduced story components that are to do with their characters gaining instant fame for some casual pursuit or through inexplicable luck.

On Full House, I think every character becomes famous at some point in the series—they have TV and radio shows and stand-up gigs and win contests and start successful businesses near constantly. As we have previously discussed, Perfect Strangers employed all manner of cartoon absurdity throughout its run— ghosts, gods, and telekinesis entered and exited the continuity without explanation or apology— so I guess Full House actually deserves credit for staying in the realm of the known human experience.

Anywho, Frasier is most concerned with showing us how unwell its eponymous protagonist is, and celebrity is an efficient enough means of accomplishing that when needed.

I also want to reiterate that it’s an enjoyable part of the show. Most of what I like about Frasier is it has a truly soothing homesick, brain-candy appeal in its ambience and rhythm. The voice I will continue to employ for this narration doesn’t seem to come from someone who also feels he has a lot in common with Frasier himself, but I actually do. His confused, erratic, egocentric reactions to a world of extremes and anomie are comfortable and familiar.

Frasier’s catchphrase “I’m listening” is a perfect, ironic synopsis of how he wrangles with the world. He may in fact be listening, but he almost never hears anything in terms unencumbered by his own momentary obsessions. And for those of you who don’t know, the authorized series synopsis reads: “In this Emmy-winning sitcom, Frasier Crane is a Seattle psychiatrist who dispenses advice on his call-in radio show while ignoring it in his own relationships.

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
I still consider it strange how much Frasier and Niles overreact to the accessibility and simplicity of the steakhouse— with a dialogue-only transcript, you would think they were in the restroom of a filthy inner city McDonald’s. Still, it was an adequate setup for Martin’s moving soliloquy about their mother, and any time Martin sees fit to put them in their place, I’m onboard [Triple cliché! Thank you all so much. That was great.]

Continuity errors or anachronism:
I’m pretty sure that restaurant employees can’t legally destroy their guests’ articles of clothing, especially something as expensive as a necktie, but chalk it up to comedic surrealism.

Same goes for the French restaurant being called Le Cigare Volant, which does in fact mean “the flying cigar.” This is about the sort of humor that you expect from MAD Magazine, and I just love it. It tells you that the show is for people who are somewhat like the stars themselves: sophisticated yet juvenile.

# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone:
Episode: [0]   emerging cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [1 ]

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
[0]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: []

Mentions of Maris:
[4]   previous cumulative: [4]   series cumulative: [8]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
[0 ]   previous cumulative: [5]   series cumulative: [5 ]

# of tender pauses:
[1 ]   previous cumulative: [2]   series cumulative: [3 ]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:

I would rate Martin’s “People like this place” speech among the kind of greatest kind of great moments for his character, and most viewers would agree that Niles meeting Daphne may in fact be the kind of greatest kind of great moment specifically for the show, but neither of these really have that universal zing that this category demands.

Also, I thoroughly enjoy entering “(none).”

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “Frasier and Niles decide to invite their father Martin out for an evening of fine dining at a swanky Seattle restaurant.”

S1 E1: The Good Son

93-94-ThuAirdate: September 16, 1993
Director: James Burrows
Writers: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee

Our episode synopsis:
Act 1
Open on Dr. Frasier Crane hosting his call-in show. Roz is in the booth, producing. Frasier tells a caller that he was in Boston just 6 months ago, “hanging out in a bar all the time,” but he left his wife and came to Seattle. I want to call this Cheers reference meta, but it’s really just continuity.

Off the air, Roz tells Frasier that he made a number of technical mistakes throughout the show (the radio show, not Cheers. That would be meta indeed).

At Café Nervosa, we meet Frasier’s brother Niles as they both stand at the bar together. Niles refers to the content of Frasier’s radio show as “pop psychology.” Frasier orders them 2 café latté supremos (which would be a very good name for a Frasier podcast. OK, actually it definitely wouldn’t).

Through exposition, we learn of Niles’ wife Maris and Frasier’s son Frederick. Maris will never appear during the whole series. Frederick was born in the back of a taxi on a Cheers episode.

Niles wipes off his chair for an excessively long time, unwittingly providing Frasier Denied with its inaugural point in the “# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies” category, this time specifically for OCD.

Niles produces some retirement home brochures, explaining that their father, Martin Crane, has been injured and shouldn’t live alone. Frasier agrees to make up his spare bedroom for Martin.

The first time that we see Frasier’s apartment, he is playing the piano. The doorbell rings. Frasier takes one last look at his quiet apartment, which is kind of a great TV moment.

Niles and Martin enter. Martin points out that he knows Frasier is only acting out of obligation and points out that they never knew each other, hence they won’t exactly be getting “re-acquainted.” Frasier gets him a beer. Martin complains that nothing in the apartment matches; Frasier explains that the decor approach is “eclectic.”

The doorbell rings. It’s a deliveryman with Martin’s chair. Niles makes an escape, announcing over his shoulder on his way out that Eddie, Martin’s dog, is also going to be moving in. Frasier tells Martin that Eddie cannot stay there and complains that Eddie is always staring at him and “creeps him out.”

Cut to Martin, Frasier, and Eddie covered in the light from the TV and Eddie facing Frasier, staring. I suppose, if you like, you may quote me as calling the use of this trope (where the put-upon protagonist says “absolutely not,” then the scene seamlessly cuts to exactly that thing happening, laugh track standard) a “kind of especially not great TV moment” (which isn’t a category here).

Act 2
Frasier and Niles meet at the coffee shop, one week later. Frasier orders a double espresso, to “calm down.”

(LOL Get it? Since espresso actually has the opposite effect? Now, I was told there would be foam jokes and bean jokes too, guys! That was so funny perhaps someone shall type out a hyperbolic statement about spitting coffee on their keyboard! Haha! More mentions of coffee! Hahaha ROFL! Alright. Alright. Seriously, though, this may in fact count as anachronism, since any true Seattleite would refrain from joking about coffee. Ah, but then again, I find myself recanting, since, as a true Seattleite, perhaps Frasier actually does calm down with a double espresso. Alright— we’re gonna go with that. We’re straight. Carry on.)

Frasier asks if Niles and Maris could take Martin in to stay with them. Niles offers instead to pay for a home care worker. Frasier is drastically relieved.

Cut to the apartment. Frasier is saying goodbye to an applicant for the home care worker position. Martin says she was “casing the joint.” The doorbell rings. Frasier reminds Martin/informs us that this next applicant is the last one.

Frasier opens the door, and we meet Daphne Moon. She is candid and helpful, and compliments Martin’s chair, which gives Frasier the chance to make a face that makes the audience laugh (and counts as a point in the “# of ‘Dad’s chair is awful’ jokes” category). She tells them she’s from Manchester, England and has been in the U.S. for only a few months. She asks Martin if he’d been a policeman; he asks how she knew. She reports that she is a “bit psychic.”

Sitcoms in the ‘80s and ‘90s tended to have surreal twists dashed into the writing now and then. On shows like Full House and Friends, not only would you have your Halloween specters and your Christmas reindeer, but at least once per season someone would be psychic or a miracle would happen.

I notice that Perfect Strangers was uniquely and unabashedly heavy on this approach. It had a particularly fickle realism, the momentum of which I suspect may have been endowed by the mysteriousness of Balki’s fictional homeland. In most examples of this, sitcoms kept a backdoor out of full breaks from realism— in the interest of favoring their broader continuity (and… integrity? I guess?)— with dream sequence reveals, or, conversely, with depictions of past events as narrated comically and incorrectly (or, shall we say, without consensus) by individual characters. But Perfect Strangers only pulled those switches one time each in its 7 years; its creators were a brave sort, who opted to weave a little telepathy and a few mischievous gods (no, really— they did) into its broader fabric without explanation or apology. It’s still better than having an amnesia episode (which they also did, as anyone, just once).

So we find a subtle (and consistent) application of the surreal on Frasier— and the same goes for almost every sitcom aired between 1985 and 1995, from what I can tell— but Perfect Strangers was especially prolific and courageous about it (hence more fun).

Anywho, Frasier maintained but one such cartoon element consistently: that Daphne was psychic.

Frasier dismisses Daphne and says they will call her; Martin interrupts and declares that she’s got the job. Frasier wants to speak with Martin privately, so he reposits Daphne in the bathroom. Now that she can’t hear him, he tells Martin that Daphne “is a kook” and that he does not like her. Martin reasons that she’ll only be there when Frasier isn’t.

Frasier acquiesces, asks Daphne back in, and congratulates her. She says she’ll move her things in the following day; he stops her and says that the position is a part time, non-live-in position. She leaves so that Frasier and Martin can discuss the issue. Martin offers some exposition as they argue: He was shot in the hip by someone robbing a convenience store 2 years ago.

As their discussion continues to escalate, Frasier points out that he has been sacrificing a lot for Martin and Eddie to be able to stay, and Martin has been full of bitterness and sarcasm, not even once expressing thanks.

There’s the series’ first tender pause. Martin realizes that Frasier is right, but he can’t bring himself to say anything.

Act 3
At the radio station, Frasier explains the situation to Roz. She tells him that things work out how they are supposed to. When they go on the air, the first caller is anonymous. It’s Martin.

On the air, he describes the situation to Frasier with the listening audience as witness. Martin confesses that he may be getting in the way of the life that Frasier had planned.

In turn, Frasier concedes that Martin must be having some difficulty himself with the changes he’s been facing. Martin also directly says that he very much appreciates what his son is doing for him, then gets all gruff for the comic relief that is compulsory for all but the most grave situations:  While still anonymous, Martin finishes with “You hear that? I said ‘thank you!’” to which Frasier responds by showing his trademark eye-rolling, resilient brand of put-upon for the first of innumerable times: “Yes, I heard.”

Frasier takes one more call from someone having trouble with a break-up. He tells her that she’s not mourning the loss of her boyfriend but the loss of what she thought her life was going to be and says, “let it go.”

Credits vignette
Martin, Frasier, and Daphne are watching TV and Eddie is staring at Frasier.

End theme closing
“Goodnight, Seattle! We love you!”

Conflicts that occur simply because someone behaves in a very unrealistic way—most often by not explaining something mundane:
Frasier having Daphne wait in the bathroom

Continuity errors or anachronism:
1) The pilot introduces us to Café Nervosa in Seattle, which does not exist, though it is modeled after Elliott Bay Café’s former Pioneer Square, Seattle location.

There is actually a Starbucks at Café Nervosa’s fictional Frasier address, 3rd & Pike.
There is also an actual Café Nervosa in Toronto.

2) Frasier lives at Elliott Bay Towers, which does not exist. The views through the window in Frasier’s apartment are photos taken from Kerry Park.

3) 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, there is no reemergence of this order to follow (& if you’re reading this, I haven’t been called out as wrong about that yet).

4) Frasier’s character was also written about 7% whinier for this pilot than in the rest of the series, thankfully. Only in this episode does he exhibit just this sort of powerlessness by verbally contradicting the inevitable even as it is happening around him. That is not to say that as we move forward, he fails to maintain the same caliber pettiness and indefinite, hapless social thrownness, but from here on, he manages to express it by more assertive, and certainly more colorful, means.

It’s usually in some way that converts normal interactions into crises and promptly escalates them into full-blown chaos. But that’s kind of why I’m here. That’s wherefore we observe he is “Denied.”

(Of course I promise to conclude every of these with such a demonstration, culminating with the word itself.)

# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes:
[ 4 ]                                                      series cumulative: [ 4 ]

Mentions of Maris (who never appears on screen through the whole series):
[ 4 ]                                                      series cumulative: [ 4 ]

# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies:
[ 1 ]                                                      series cumulative: [ 1 ]
In this episode: Niles (OCD)

# of tender pauses:
[ 1 ]                                                      series cumulative: [ 1 ]

“Kind of a great TV moment” moments:
Frasier looking around at his quiet apartment one last time

TV Guide version (© Netflix, actually): “Seeking a fresh start following his divorce, Boston psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane returns to his native Seattle to host a radio call-in show.”