More like “Frasier Divine,” am I right? (No. –FD) The pictures in this post are screenshots that weren’t used in the reviews, so they’re our very own deleted scenes! I’m going to be really informal about this. I haven’t made any preparations.
This is the day that we show up in jeans. This is when we host the show on Christmas day. This is when we pour the champagne down the sink and open a can of Rainier. It’s been quite a year, Frasier! Why don’t we just turn things upside-down and start with the counters? Alright.
Counters as of end of Season 1:
# of women Frasier has dated: 3
# of women Frasier has slept with: 1
# of jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone: 10
# of actual references to Roz sleeping with someone: 4
# of “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes: 11
# of times Frasier shouts “NILES!”: 13
Mentions of Maris: 69 (Seriously, how comfortable is everyone with the proximity of that name and that number?)
# of times Frasier or Niles (both psychiatrists) exhibit mentally ill tendencies: 16
# of tender pauses: 12
I was a little impressed to find the Frasier crew exercising far more restraint than I’d remembered when it comes to “Dad’s chair is awful” jokes, jokes about how Roz sleeps with everyone, and even the telltale tender pause. That was in fact the reason that I picked all of these categories– I expected to be racking up points like crazy, hence demonstrating how out of control this tan-clad space wagon really is.
That’s OK. Frasier more than made up for it by scoring a lot more points for mental illness– especially for acting like a sociopath– than I’d remembered. And just think of how many outbursts go unreported: Frasier’s also a neglectful father, he has poor impulse control, he’s rude to absolutely everyone, he’s a hater of animals, and he treats attractive women like shiny objects.
Which is all just fine. It’s not as if we started this out determined to unlock the virtue and valor of the great Dr. Crane. Well, certainly not this early in the game anyway.
I started this retrospective year-in-TV typing these during the work day on the 24th floor in downtown Seattle, from which I managed multiple locations for an insurance company, and I’m ending it typing in the evenings on a borrowed Mac with a granite island-counter top as a desk with a view of the planes landing at the Portland (Maine) Jetport. In that time, I also graduated from Droid Eris to McPhone, watched all of Breaking Bad and the Office finale, and saw the Grand Canyon. Hmm. I did a hell of a lot more than Frasier did.
Speaking of which, I guess we should discuss what he did, long as we’re here. (*looks through notes; frowns) Well, folks, I don’t know what to tell you. (*rereads the Frasier Denied ‘About’ page) Oh, that’s right! This show is about Niles and Daphne. OK. Heh.
Now, obviously, when I say “about,” I don’t mean that they have the majority of screen time. Not at all. However, the story that Frasier has in it is their story. Frasier Crane doesn’t have any story. He has a past and he has a day-to-day. Everything else is personality contorting into slightly different shapes for our endearment, amusement, disdain, etc.
This may in fact be something that I have harped on just a little, so let that be a stated goal: In season 2, we’ll find other things to fix these conflicted, shameful emotions on. We’ll dig deeper! (Don’t hold your breath on me stopping calling you Niles, though.)
The other thing that I probably mention far too often is how the show operates like a cartoon. You know how some movies “are” comic books– even some that aren’t actually comic book adaptations? It’s that. However, one huge breakthrough (maybe) fell through my sky lights just this week: Are all sitcoms cartoons? Pick one at random. I don’t think I have a clue on how to trace some sort of genealogy of realistic vs. surreal sitcomery, but we can briefly dabble. Your randomly picked sitcom will rate somewhere between Growing Pains and Third Rock from the Sun. These seem to establish some decent, rough goal posts for our analysis (the former being a straightforward, realistic universe; the latter, total fiction. You could also do, say, The Cosby Show and Small Wonder.)
In between them, though, you have hundreds of shows. Hundreds! I’m afraid I’m not sure if all of them could get assigned a spot on some tidy scale measuring their “cartoon pH.” What show would be at the center? What show is exactly 50% realistic and 50% cartoon? The world may never know.
Hey. Wait. Wow! That was so cute just then, how we both simultaneously thought that perhaps the Omni-Sitcomical Mid-Point of perfect balance between realism and fantasy in all of Sitcomdom would be Frasier! I could have simply ended with that Tootsie Pop tagline and reposted this picture:
But…. that would be a matter of taste within a gray area that would most likely encompass 80% or so of all prime time comedy since 1970 (and don’t forget dream sequences, oriental-ish mysticism and trendy tropes like the “amnesia head bump,” or seasonal supernatural injections on Halloween and Christmas).
I mean, as I sit here in Netflix town, in the state of tweet, nestled in the nation of google on web planet under the noon David Hyde Pierce, the phrase “jump the shark” seems to have gone out, in, and out of use again since Fonzy shook off his water skis. It can still mean the moment when a reasonably realistic narrative goes distinctly and utterly to fantasy in a way that completely clashes with the voice of the show, the moment when an intrinsic ongoing condition of the characters’ lives forever changes (births, deaths, weddings, changes of setting, lottery winnings), or just a sea change in the show’s voice itself, undergone in such a way that fails to carry the mojo.
‘Jumping the shark’ is a great segue from the ‘realistic-vs.-cartoon’ discussion and some closing remarks on the arc of Frasier (are they still doing the Smithsonian exhibit on the arc of Frasier?) To wrap up our coverage on the former, the cartoon surrealism in our beloved Dr. Crane’s show has almost nothing to do with story. Even when Daphne psychically senses Lilith’s approach to the west coast, it’s not as if the gang has to hide Lilith’s cut from a heist or protect Daphne’s unborn child from Lilith’s… foul plans to… teach him in the ways of Lilith or something– it’s just for a gag. Other than that, Eddie is obviously a professionally trained dog, and Frasier usually gets away with borderline criminal social behavior. As I’ve said before, Perfect Strangers was much more liberal, and completely unapologetic, about wildly unrealistic phenomena coming and going (and I love every bit of it).
To be sure (this statement being adorned with a promise to not harp on it in the second season), Frasier‘s surrealism is in the nutty, unpredictable social relations between Frasier and everybody.
Finally, Niles and Daphne. In this season, we met them both, Niles felt an immediate glow at the sight of her (which, surely, Daphne also felt– she’s merely been more professional about it all along), Niles confessed to Frasier, Martin acknowledged that he’s aware of it, and Frasier yelled at Daphne about it in a fit of rage. This is as far as it has come.
I am honestly unsure whether the creators had Niles and Daphne’s relationship in the outline at the start or that’s just where gravity took the permanent focus. Part of what makes it hard to tell is how straight Jane Leeves plays Daphne. She has a perpetual dignity, sincerity and temperance that allow her to voice passionate emotions or decisive intentions most effectively without raising her voice– importantly, it also affords her a comic subtlety through which she has probably saved more scenes than any other character.
I mean, can you imagine this show without Daphne? It would just be a couple of nuts arguing about whether white wine is better than a Pepsi at Denny’s (LOL! People think differently! Ha ha!) and coffee shop conversations about how psychiatric patients are such a drain on one’s own sanity (ROFL! Sick people talk funny!)– Do you think Frasier would have made it past this point without her?