Thursday, March 26, 2009

S1 E1/2 "The Good Son"/"Space Quest"

Roz: Gary? I broke up with him three weeks ago... The sex was OK, but he was kind of limited... No, no, no, it wasn't that Gary was bad in bed. I mean, he knew where all the parts were. Unfortunately, most of them were his... Yes. Totally passionless. It was like he was thinking of someone else... I know I was... Somebody's here, I gotta go... All right, I'll talk to you later. Bye, Mom.

There it is, right up there; the genesis of the Roz is a slut/lush reference. Its pretty wonderful to behold-not only is Roz a slut, she’s uncomfortably open about it, talking to her mom about her sex-life right in front of Frasier. Who could have guessed such a bland bit would spawn so many years of obvious, repetitive humor? “Frasier” is sort of like the inverse of Zeppelin. While one Zep song could ration out to three or four songs for any other band, the “Frasier” team is able to take a gag that would be a one-off joke in any other comedy and turn it into a franchise; “You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song” indeed.

Honestly the Roz is a slut joke feels like a comedic oasis (or is it a mirage?) in the midst of the downer desert that makes up the inaugural episode and its counterpart. Its been a long time since I posted a review on this beast, even my silent partner thinks so, and that’s largely because these two eps are such a slog. To kick the series off Frasier has moved back to Seattle and is excited about starting a new life there for about 45 seconds until his burdensome handicapped father has to move in with him and essentially ruins his new life. Then an obnoxious Brit who claims to be psychic moves into his study and Roz tells him he’s bad at hosting a radio show. His brother Niles talks with a strange accent even more pompous than the tone he would eventually adopt, and rather than the playful rivalry the two characters eventually settled into, at the start Niles and Frasier are just petty and mean to one another. So, Frasier resents The Dad for encroaching on his personal space, The Dad resents Frasier for resenting him and I’m assuming all of the actors resent The Dad’s Dog for getting all of the laughs.

All of the humor in “The Good Son” and “Space Quest” comes from, or is supposed to come from, shots of the dog staring cockeyed at Frasier or The Dad coming really close to calling his sons faggots but then stopping himself at the precipice. Most episodes of “Frasier” contain at least one embarrassing moment of genuine laughter, or at least knowing nods at a joke that almost hits the mark, but these two gems don’t have a whiff of comedy. Both of them are “Frasier learns a lesson” episodes and each one has the same lesson; there are no subplots, no “beautiful” women, absolutely no fucking zany farces which should be fucking illegal for two “Frasier” episodes in a row. There aren’t even any asinine misunderstandings! Just long-winded over-the-top speeches and histrionic fights between Fras and The Dad-surprise!-a three-camera, laugh tracked sitcom is not the ideal place to explore a strained embittered father-son relationship. This shit had me wishing for a PNDM episode, and I hate those!

“Space Quest” is essentially a remake of “The Good Son,” I guess at this point the machine that produced “Frasier” episodes was just a copier. I’ll admit this is a pretty bold move for a brand new show, maybe it was originally planned as a sort of experiment, like Van Sant’s “Psycho,” just remaking the same script every week to see what different directors would do with the same material. Well…it is a failure. Kelsey Grammar as a dramatic actor was difficult enough to swallow the first time around.


7/10-this is as bad as mediocre can get, I’m shocked that they were able to turn this into a long-running show, it feels like “Ordinary People” in 22-minute increments, starring David Hyde Pierce…