S2 E1: Slow Tango in South Seattle

Tuesday1994-1995Airdate: September 20, 1994
Director: James Burrows
Writer: Martin Weiss
(episode transcript)

Opening thoughts:
Well, holy crap cakes. It’s autumn 1994. Finally, I can take Driver’s Ed.

Let’s see what we can do now that we have passed the season threshold! Time to get down to the nitty gritty. On the night that this season premier aired,  Frasier switched to Tuesdays (Full House had done the same thing three years earlier, apparently in some coy ploy to never be watched by me again).

YES: I have tidied up the category headings a little and even tinkered with what we’re evaluating. For instance, we now have a “Kind of great Frasier moments” category. Sadly, I can’t add new counters, because we’re a whole season into the show, but I am semi-vigilant in my more-than-vague intention to run over the last 24 reviews and make an official note of what great Frasier moments there are. Hold on. Oh my Maris! Hold on! Guess what? We can put up a new counter, because there is one thing that only happened once last season. Realsies. Give up? It’s Niles smiling. I know, right!? Jumpin’ Jeebus. “Niles!” Of course.

I’m not even going to mention the things that I promised not to do this season. Hopefully, we will steer our way into some brand new deplorable habits.

Book us on Likeface!
You’ll get mid-week links to ostensibly fun Frasier-related nonsense and will be needlessly pestered to come back here on a regular basis (come to think of it, if you actually just stay here, that’s skipping two steps).

Alright! This Frasier isn’t gonna Deny itself.
FD s02e01-05Episode Synopsis:
Frasier says hello to caller Steven (voice-over by James Spader) on the air. Steven asks for advice on whether to let his infant child climb into bed with him and his wife. Frasier interrupts before Steven can even finish his question and assures him that it is good for a child to bond with the parents in this way.

All the while, Roz is engrossed in a book. Frasier signs off for commercial, runs into the control room, and demands to know why Roz is reading while they are on the air. The book is called Slow Tango in South Seattle, and both Frasier and Roz hack up some exposition hairballs about how much of a current smash hit it is with “the women.”
FD s02e01-02
Roz tells Frasier to read the first paragraph. He reads it with a deliberate, deep and poetic tone, then announces his disdain for it. Roz informs us that all men are alike in that they lack a soul, with the exception of the author of the book, Thomas Jay Fallow. Intrigued at the mention of the name, Frasier grabs the book from her again. He explains that Fallow used to be a regular at Cheers. (Cheers was filmed before a live studio audience. Did you hear that too?!) Frasier used to help Fallow get through his writer’s block.FD s02e01-01Roz explains that Fallow will be coming to the station tomorrow to be on the Book Chat show and demands that Frasier introduce her to him. Frasier refuses, since it’s clear to him that he doesn’t like the book, and he would have to lie to his old friend about it, and surely Fallow won’t fall for that. Roz pulls a ‘contrast’ gag by lying to Frasier about how smart and smooth he is, in response to which he immediately changes his mind. Then, she confesses to tricking him so that we can fade to commercial while he makes the “Whyyy I oughtaaa” face.

...that one.

…that’s the one.

Scene 2
(I’m frickin’ not doing scene titles this year. You heard me.)

Daphne is contorting Martin’s legs for his physical therapy. The doorbell rings. It’s Niles. He explains that he recently noticed that in Martin’s bedroom, there are pictures of everyone except for him and Maris (and Roz and Bull Dog). With that, Niles presents a  framed picture of himself and Maris to Martin.

Frasier enters, fuming about a secret that he once told Thomas Jay Fallow being included in the Slow Tango in South Seattle book. That secret is the circumstances of Frasier losing his virginity, and, as Frasier (and Daphne) explain, it’s in fact the plot of the whole book. Martin makes a generic late-virginity joke. Niles smiles for the second time in the series.

While Frasier removes his tie in the bathroom, Martin asks who the lucky lady was. Frasier refuses to answer. Daphne immediately reveals that it was Frasier’s piano teacher.

(OK. Now, by any standards– I don’t care what your walk of life is, where you came from, what you believe in– that is just objectively and entirely hot.)
FD s02e01-04Frasier is pissed. Daphne presses, describing some of the things that the book reveals. Martin mentions that he was the one paying for the $10-a-week piano lessons. Niles stands up, shocked as he asks for confirmation that it was Miss Warner, who also taught him. Martin asks Niles whether he was also carnally familiar with the teacher. As Niles begins his reply in the form of another joke at the young Frasier’s expense, Daphne listens carefully, and when Niles concludes with a response in the negative, she is visibly relieved.

Martin and Niles continue to laugh at Frasier. But why? Man, woman, gay or straight– an affair with one’s piano teacher is something that someone should be congratulated for (if in a dignified, understated way)– not openly mocked. The way that these gents are carrying on, you would think that the book had revealed some kind of public, voyeuristic shaming or being molested by a girl with flipper hands. Clearly, they are lividly jealous.

Frasier demands their attention and announces that it was by no means just a fling. He refers to her by her first name, Clarice, and says that they cared for each other. The audience approves of the serious moment with their silence.

Then, Daphne channels Fallow, describing Frasier’s feelings for Warner, which turns Niles on. (It’s right in there, folks– this isn’t some tabloid.)
FD s02-e01-10Frasier interrupts her with an ad hominem attack against Fallow, referring to his frequent drinking. Niles mentions that Fallow didn’t remember who had told him this autobiographical story, since Frasier was never mentioned in the acknowledgements or otherwise contacted about it. Frasier leaves, announcing his intention to remind Fallow who it was.

Niles and Martin inexplicably wrestle to get a hold of the book.

Scene 3
At the station, Thomas Jay Fallow is reading an excerpt from the book on Amber Edwards’ Book Chat show. Frasier and Roz are standing out in the hall. Frasier seems intent on scalping Fallow; Roz asks him to wait until she gets her book signed. He asks if she has, um, told anyone, so, I guess he told her for some reason, and she assures him that she hasn’t (should I just skip the ‘contrast’ gag featuring Bull Dog? OK. It’s a deal– Oh, wait. We can’t. They follow through with a conversation about it).

So Bull Dog knows too, but he reveals that he had a similar experience with an older woman. He makes a couple of “because I’m Bull Dog” jokes, then Gil comes over and makes fun of Frasier. Bull Dog produces a copy of the book, and he and Gil read aloud from it and laugh (this falls under the “characters mocking each other is always funny” cliché, and it’s sort of bamboo under my nails). They exit.

Roz and Frasier turn their attention back to the booth as Amber Edwards asks Fallow what the inspiration was for the story. He reports that it was given to him… um… by God.

Frasier erupts in impassioned protest, declaring himself to be God (like we didn’t know that already). Amber breaks for commercial. She exits to make a phone call. Frasier enters the booth; addresses Fallow. He is ecstatic to see Frasier, who immediately calls him a thief and emphatically bemoans the absence of his own name in the acknowledgements.

Fallow is silent for a moment, then apologizes. He begins to weep and penitently embraces Frasier, declaring that he owes him everything. Amber, Roz, and two other women enter the booth to console Fallow. Roz chides Frasier.
FD s02e01-06Four more women then enter the booth to tend to Fallow (because only women have read the book, and only people who have read the book would bother to tend to someone in this situation). Frasier exits.

Scene 4
At the apartment, Niles tells Martin that Maris is reading Slow Tango in South Seattle. Martin doesn’t care.

Frasier enters; explains that he made Fallow cry and is feeling rather guilty about it. Martin stands up and points out that Frasier got what he wanted out of the situation and still isn’t happy. He criticizes Frasier’s insistence on analyzing everything so much, extols Eddie’s simple “outlook” on pursuing happiness, and tells Frasier he should learn from it.

Hold on. Martin is saying that it’s no big deal that the author wept when Frasier confronted him– not a little weird; no clarification needed at all– and that Frasier should go by Eddie’s example and be happy about the “simple things” in life, such as this event in which the author cried. Mmkay? Just wanted to take an extra second so you can be sure you’re on board with it.

Martin and Eddie exit.

Niles approaches Frasier with two glasses of red wine; hands him one. Niles disagrees with Martin about the source of Frasier’s uneasiness. He tells Frasier it seems that in this situation, some problem persists even after Frasier got the chance to confront Fallow. Daphne enters swiftly, holding the book in front of her. She chides Frasier; he asks what for. She details from the book how Frasier left Clarice. without saying goodbye.
FD s02e01-07Frasier defends himself, indicating that he had just been accepted to Harvard. Daphne is rather upset; Niles joins her, asking whether Frasier really just left that abruptly after they had shared so much. Frasier waffles unconvincingly as Daphne exits.

Niles abandons his glass of wine, heading for the door. He tells Frasier that the closure he needed obviously didn’t come from his encounter with Fallow because there still is the need to make things right with Clarice.

Scene 5
Late at night, Frasier is reading the book by the window (this is the first time in the series that a character has relayed their thoughts to the audience with a voice-over). It is narrated by the character based on Clarice Warner, lamenting her student’s unkept promise to return. After he finishes the book, as he pensively lays his head back on the chair, Daphne storms through the room and slaps him with her copy of the book. The audience heartily approves, but I’m not really sure what is happening. Was Daphne able to read his mind through a “psychic flash” as he finished the book, hence being reminded of how upset she is over him leaving his piano teacher like he did?

Scene 6
A woman plays a heavy-hearted rendition of The Blue Danube on the piano. Frasier approaches the door and watches her. He knocks. She comes to the door and answers to ‘Ms. Warner.’ He identifies himself. She doesn’t remember him. She invites him in, and he sits on the couch. He describes to her their last evening together, confesses his broken promise, and asks for her forgiveness. She complies, but, due to her uncertainty concerning whether she has ever in fact seen this man before (or heard his name), we still get to wonder whether she is now senile or simply slept with a large number of her students.

Then, she calls to her daughter in the other room, addressing her as, uh, “Clarice.”
FD s02e01-09Clarice comes in. She recognizes Frasier. She can tell that he is there because of the book. The mother exits. Frasier apologizes that their story made it to print. Clarice tells him not to feel bad; says that she enjoyed getting a chance to relive it. Frasier gets around to apologizing for leaving her. He asks if she would like to get coffee. She refuses, and her stunning, young, bronze god of a boyfriend pops his head in, asking if she’s ready to go. She exits, and Frasier is alone.

What happens next is so obvious that even the audience starts laughing while Frasier is just standing there in silence:  The mother comes in with iced tea and is ready for action.

Credits vignette:
Frasier and Mrs. Warner sit at the piano, playing together. She pushes closer to him and he inches away, until they both fall off the piano bench.

Closing thoughts:
The pacing and dialogue have taken a step up in quality. I really get the sense that this episode could be performed as a play. It still has silly coincidences, like Frasier knowing Fallow from Boston and Fallow appearing on a KACL show a day after it’s brought to his attention, but that’s what we’re here for, right?

I don’t see why this writer never took the opportunity for a tender pause. The scene with Thomas Fallow crying in Frasier’s arms is just played off as “Man crying? Absurd!” and there is no payoff for Frasier’s little quest. What did the author decide to do? No idea.

This is the second episode in a row in which Roz mentions that she wants to find someone to marry and have a life with. It also features a standard dose of Niles/Daphne flirtations. I think it’s only the second time that we have seen Daphne help Martin with his physical therapy exercises. There even was (unseen) photographic evidence of Maris’s existence.

You know what have not seen once, though? An episode about the dog. That’s right:  Stay tuned for next week’s Frasier Denied, as we bring you the very first Eddie episode!

Fight bravely, my friends, and live to deny another day.

Unnecessary conflicts:
Frasier initially planning to completely avoid interacting with his old friend simply because he would “have to” lie about liking the book that he hadn’t read.

Also, it’s a cheap-o gag when Frasier says “Ms. Warner?” instead of “Clarice?” to Clarice’s mother.

Continuity errors:
There isn’t anything called “South Seattle.”

# of women Frasier has dated:

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [3]   series cumulative: [3]
(He also got shot down in this episode. So, that was nice.)

# 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: [10]   series cumulative: [10]

# 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: [0]   previous cumulative: [13]   series cumulative: [13]

# of mentions of Maris:

Episode: [2]   previous cumulative: [69]   series cumulative: [71]

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

Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [16]   series cumulative: [16]

# of tender pauses:

[Episode: [0]   previous cumulative: [12]   series cumulative: [12]

NEW CATEGORY- # of times Niles has smiled:

[Episode: [1]   previous cumulative: [1]   series cumulative: [2]

Kind of great TV moments:

Kind of great Frasier moments:

TV Guide version (© Netflix): “After Roz introduces Frasier to a hot new best seller, Frasier is stunned to learn the story was based on his long ago affair with a former teacher.”


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.”