Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

S1 E16 "The Show Where Lilith Comes Back"

Dr. Lilith Sternin: I'm here for a convention and I happened to hear your voice on the radio. I kept hoping that you'd introduce Pearl Jam's latest hit, but to my chagrin, you were doling out worthless little advice pellets from your psychiatric Pez dispenser.

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It happened to your dad and its happening to me.

Four episodes in a row of this 37-prime-time emmy winner and my standards have started to wear down. "By the end of this season this show had gotten a lot better," I exclaimed thoughtlessly to Mr. Hunky, A.A. Dowd during this episode. But the show is still only bumping into mediocrity, dulling my senses with its laugh track and forced whimsy. In Frasier-land quality is entirely a matter of comparison. Compared to episode one of Frasier, episode 16 is a masterpiece. Compared to Mad About You, the second season of 3rd Rock from the Sun is like the fourth season of Caroline in the City.


As my standards have ebbed it seems I'm growing more bitter in my prose. What a wasted life, what a sad state of affairs. Week after week millions kept an appointment with Beast and Co. In 1999, 20 million viewers a week watched Frasier hide in closets and make faux high-brow allusions. A housewife supports a ridiculous lifestyle and spoils three children based on the vacant stares of Americans. Across the sea a UK web site is devoted to celebrating this highlight of American mediocrity. The popularity of this Seattle story compels stewardesses to bed married hairy actors. Here in Chicago I've spent the entire Sabbath watching and commenting upon it. I find myself only being able to ask why.

Not of my own wasted day, because I don't think this has been a waste. For the atheistic among us today is set aside for hangovers and relaxing, I am not hung over but I am full and relaxed, there is nothing more restful than the soothing repetition of a Frasier episode. Had I watched this asleep it would hardly matter. Lilith is here, Frasier is naked, Frasier has an invisible son, family rift is humorous, psychiatrists are pointless, Christ is risen, Lilith mentioned Pearl Jam, Roz belongs to a union, Eddie is funny/adorable/likely dead now.


I do not judge the working stiffs who dulled themselves on Frasier's hardened repetition. I am just confused at our, my, aptitude for self-defeating. Surely time could be better spent after a taxing day then to tune in and drop out as Must See TV loudly suggested we do. And yet I feel myself pulled, like so many others, when I am taxed and numbed by a day at a desk to go deeper into the k-hole. To numb myself from my own lack of feeling.

9.5/10-For a Frasier episode, this is pretty good.

"I didn't realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed. Take me back - up the hill - to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? - every, every minute? (she sighs) I'm ready to go back. I should have listened to you. That's all human beings are! Just blind people."

S1 E16: "The Show Where Lilith Comes Back"


This is actually one of the better "Frasier" episodes I've seen, one of the few that makes me half-way understand why Emmy voters and dads kept this unholy beast alive for 11 fucking years. I say this through gritted teeth, begrdugingly. "Frasier" is best enjoyed as a novelty. It's probably fair to say I watch it "ironically," though that couches my appreciation for its genuine weirdness in a wink-wink way I'm not entirely comfortable with. We started watching this show as a case study in the mediocrity of American television. Several years, many hours and not enough blog posts later, and I'm ready to confess that it's a supremely bizarre approximation of human interaction. Simply put: people do not behave this way. Not even on TV. If those super-intelligent future androids from A.I. were to dig up the complete series of "Frasier" as some artifact of 2oth century living, they'd be subject to some serious misunderstandings on how our species operates.

Unless they watched this episode or a select few like it. Now, don't get me wrong. Quality or humor or recognizable human behavior are relative distinctions when talking about the FrasierVerse. This ain't exactly a profound study on the modern man. The Brit still acts all loony. Niles preens and minces like he's shouldering the burden of laughter in a "serious" episode. And Lilith, who appears on the show for the first time, enters the ep like a bull in a china shop. (Being this openly bitchy to a person you haven't seen in years is vintage "Frasier".)

But the way the ep characterizes Frasier as basically a selfish horndog--and then calls him on it!--is unusually candid for the series. There aren't a lot of laughs here, intentional or otherwise. It's a "serious" episode that reads as rather believably serious. The closest I came to even derisive laughter was a dated mention of Pearl Jam. (I kinda wonder not only if Frasier knows who they are, but if Kelsey Grammar does either.)

Solid episode--but if they were all this passably decent, this blog wouldn't exist.

7 Stars.

S1 E15 "You Can't Tell a Crook by his Cover"

Frasier: Excuse me, dad, if I can interrupt that self-righteous police mentality for a second, don't you believe in second chances?
Martin: I did. Then we had Niles.

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The hate shines through in this episode. The dad's hatred of his sons, Daphne's hatred of the Crane's, Niles' hatred of the lower class, "He's being pretty cavalier about his tips for someone who drives a van," Niles scoffs of a lowly service-industry wage-slave, it is all on display in the third installment of Frasier Day and the hatred drives the episode into a season highlight.

Most of "Crook" is based on two scenes, the first takes place at Frasier's place, in which Frasier lurks behind a group of his dad's friends playing poker, drinking sherry and trying to figure out which one of them is a criminal. No, it doesn't matter why. He is unable to pick out the crook, but Daphne does end up agreeing to go on a date with Martin's ex-con poker buddy. Because the guy spent time in jail and he is a low-class buffoon his idea of a first date is a two-table pool room and a premature, hamfisted pass.


The dad and Niles are NOT happy about this, and both depict Daphne as some sort of virginal asset to be protected, if it didn't say otherwise on Wikipedia I'd almost think Sylvester Stallone directed this episode but nope, Frasier-bot just shares Sly's obsession with those nefarious others looking to steal away the prized purity of our women. To stop this low-class defilement, the Brothers Crane go to the dangerous pool hall where the criminal has taken Daphne, only to find that the Scot has already given the ex-con the boot and is now just holding court with a group of pool-hall hooligans.

Predictably Daphne can take of herself, but the Crane's stumble into a dispute with a ruffian looking to "pulp" them, and only Daphne's quick thinking and a gag stolen from "The Graduate" can save them.

8 out of 10. When Frasier tells Niles about Daphne and the convict Niles says that Frasier must be "yanking [his] giggle chain." After last episode's hand-job joke I'm noticing a trend here for Niles, and I'm betting he gave his giggle chain a good yanking while thinking about Daphne and that dirty, nasty, low class convict taking liberties with her soft, white, European skin.

S1 E15: "You Can't Tell a Crook By His Cover"


It's always embarrassing to get caught laughing at a "Frasier" joke. The shame burns under your collar. You feel naked and exposed, as though someone were seeing just a little too far into you. It's like when you mom walks in on you masturbating. But sharing a Frasier laugh? That's a rare and special feeling, like planets aligning. Non-dads rarely laugh in unison at "Frasier." It's just mathematically unlikely. The hit-to-miss ratio of Frasier-bot's funny software basically assures a chuckle or two per episode. And these titters are usually random, a product of mere fatigue. "I'm watching a comedy," your brain cries. "I should create the sensation of amusement at some point." This approximation of funny strikes rational non-dads at different times, so in the rare instance that one "Frasier" joke tickles two funny bones, you want to celebrate. It's like belatedly noticing that you're masturbating in the same room as some one else... to the same magazine. And then someone else's mom walks in. Quote me on that.

Pat and I shared a genuine laugh on this one. We locked eyes and then looked away quickly. Best to not acknowledge it. We had to share the shame. Joke was about Roz. Surprise surprise, she proved neither a slut nor a lush in this instance, just a dupe. Poor girl's the victim of a con artist-- it was a half-way shrewd way to kick off an ep that's about spotting criminals among us. Marty and Fras make a wager that the good doc can't pick an ex-con out of a line-up. He invites three friends over, one of whom served time. This seems like a pretty good set-up for an episode--I predicted that FrasFans call this one a "first season gem". (Anyone want to confirm that? I'm too lazy to check and I only have 22-minutes to pen this masterpiece.) And the Bot does not disappoint. My favorite moment arrives when Marty's marks, a lady, comments on how beautiful Daphne is, prompting Frasier to posit that time behind bars may have turned her into a lesbian. Priceless.

There's enough plot in this one to power three "Fraiser" eps. Eventually, the Brothers Crane stumble into the quaintest wrong-side-of-the-tracks bar this side of a high school production of West Side Story. (Fun Fact: PK Smith himself played a Jet on stage in his formative years. Bet he looked harder than these "rough-necks.") Fans of the pool episode of "Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire" should get a kick out of this one, though I say it shows it's hand (mixing game metaphors!) a little too soon.

82 on the Pitchfork scale.

S1 E14: "Can't Buy Me Love"


Frasier-Bot has some very strange notions on female desire. Chief among them, that a gaggle of sexy single ladies would find a balding, fussy radio psychiatrist absolutely irresistible. One of the big, running gags on this show involves finding Fras often minutes away from touching down with some chick waaaaay out of his league, only to fumble it in the final seconds. (That's right folks, a sports metaphor. The good doctor himself could probably make a better one, but given me an A for effort at least.) So often does this particular plot device rear its head that we've dubbed it a template: Frasier Embarrasses Himself In Front of a Beautiful Woman. What the Fras-Bot fails to ever convincingly convey is why these ladies would ever dig his vibe in the first place.

Case in point: episode 14 here hinges on the dubious premise that a supermodel would pay $500 for a dinner date with the doc. I don't buy it, but then, if I get hung up on doubts like that, we'll be here all day. (And we will be, folks. Stick around.) The first few minutes of any Fras ep are always a wheel-spinning wash; this bad boy doesn't kick into second gear until right before the first commericial break. Bulldog, Fras and some other local "celebrities" get roped into a charity auction, where an army of (unseen) sexually-starved women barter for their company. After the feeding frenzy--you just know Frasier-Bot thinks its being "subversive" by making the men objects of leering desire--Crane finds out that a beautiful model has "purchased him." Cue ensuing delightful misunderstanding.

This ep eventually proves itself to be a combo, with Fras both humiliating himself in front of said beautiful woman and learning a lesson. But seriously, what kind of woman entrusts a complete stranger--even one who's a "celebrity"-- to watch her 13-year-old child? Standard issue. This review bores me as much as the episode did. Niles makes a handjob joke, Daphne gets shit-faced and Bulldog gets dragged screaming into the night by some aggro stranger. So it's not a total loss.

Final note: one of the episode cards reads "Driving Miss Daphne." Come on Frasier-Bot, stop teasing me with the offensive racial farce you have swimming around in your hard-drive. I want Kelsey in blackface!

S1 E14 "Can't Buy Me Love"

madbaldscotsman Rick Elliott
@Kelsey_Grammer Your character as Frasier inspired me to take the high road and be a more descent man. #properetiquette

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Yep. I'm already at the point where I'm mining the bowels of the interweb for material. How, how, how did this show last so long? What is going on? Why have these choices left me so broken?

This episode centers around a charity bachelor auction and an evening Frasier spends with a 12-year-old. It's a Frasier embarrasses himself in front of a beautiful woman episode, unfortunately the main plot is disappointingly free of hijinks and the embarrassment slides into introspection much too quickly. Episode director and Oberlin alum James Burrows has a tendency to rush past the comedic elements of any given episode so as to dive into the sentimental, a tactic that serves him well at times but leaves "...Love" feeling a bit hollow. You can't pour this much sentimental syrup onto a plate so devoid of comedy flapjacks!

After the auction, which features today's first Roz is a slut joke (Roz chasing hungrily after a Seahawks linebacker), Frasier prepares a dinner at his home for him and the beautiful woman who purchased the date for $500 at the auction. But she shows up to his apartment with her 12-year-old daughter and explains that she just got a modeling gig for THAT NIGHT, and has no one to watch her kid. It makes total sense of course that she would entrust this task to a single 40-year-old man she's never had a conversation with, so she does, and even says she will be back later and will spend the night, which of course convinces Frasier to agree to watch her daughter. So the episode centers around a mother trading sex for a few hours of baby sitting, a decidedly creepy plot point the show treats as totally normal.


Her daughter, Renata, proceeds to act just like you would expect a TV 12-year-old to act, she eats junk food and talks on the phone repeating "No way!" over and over, describing things as "so fresh," and asking what Frasier's "damage is." Now for me, anytime I agree to babysit a pre-teen in exchange for sexual favors from her mother, I just give the kid the phone and a bag of Munchies and make myself scarce. Maybe get the bed ready for my "payment" and then read a book. But not Frasier, even though he, presumably, has a bedroom, he sits right next to the brat while she yaks on the phone and then whines that she isn't paying attention to him. "We're supposed to spend the evening together and you haven't said one word to me," he says to her after hanging up the phone in the middle of her phone conversation. So they eat cookie dough and she weaves a tale of a distant uncaring mother.

When her super hot mom arrives and sends her daughter away with a simple peck on the head Frasier confronts her and totally blows his shot at getting paid...err layed. In turns out the daughter was lying and now Frasier had to spend time with a kid and he's been dumped! Call me crazy but I think having her daughter babysat by a mildly famous stranger and then immediately sending her daughter off so she can fuck said stranger lead me to believe this model may not be such a great mom, but that doesn't matter, what does matter is that Fras is not going to be getting it in.

Grade: B. The highlight is definitely a Daphne subplot in which she is a huge drunk bitch to Bulldog, leaves him to be beaten up by strangers in a parking lot and then goes joy riding in a limo.

S1 E13 "Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast"

Dad: I don't know if you remember but I have warm toes.

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What a way to kick things off. Episode 13 of Frasier's inaugural season is awesome in the abstract but boring in execution, which is kind of the unspoken thesis of every review I've ever written for this blog. It's good to see the first ever episode to deal with the dad as a sexual being and Frasier's discomfort with the concept since the dad's sexual adventures will get weirder and creepier as time goes on.



God I was hoping so hard for the dad to bring a black chick to the breakfast table and then find out Fras-has a little racism inside, but no, the title is the weakest of allusions, and the Frasier-bot isn't wired to deal with those kinds of issues. The "who" coming to breakfast is a woman from Frasier's building who's got it bad for ex-cops. She surprisingly emerges in Frasier's kitchen in the morning after a dinner date with the dad. I'll admit to one legitimate laugh during the episode, when Frasier stumbles and hams through the awkward breakfast and asks the lady if she likes to keep the lights on during sex. She probably does, I'm imagining one of those cliche'd movie scenes where she traces the dad's hip-surgery scar with her finger and he tells a story that shows his surprising vulnerability but reassuring inner strength. "You know, even when I was in those tough spots, and chasing bad, bad men as a police officer I never felt afraid. Not out of bravery, I just didn't know any better, but when my wife died, all the fear hit me. I was so scared of the unknown, all I could think was, what do I do now?"

"Sigh."

After he gets all Frasier-manic at breakfast and scares his dad's lover off, Frasier commences to prove just how profoundly weird his radio show is by talking about his dad's sexual tryst on the air. This offends his dad's new chick, who feels exposed, and the dad berates Frasier for fucking up his dick-game. Frasier publicly apologizes to the building mate (I cannot remember this chick's name) trying to make good, but it takes the dad reminding her that he has "warm toes" to really win her back...Foot fist way. I'm pretty sure the implication is that the dad is into some freaky foot-penetration shit, which is cool. I think I saw a video about this once...

2 out of 3 somethings. The is almost too perfect a beginning to Frasier Day, boring and weirdly sexual.

S1 13: "Guess Who's Coming To Breakfast?"


Don't let the title fool you. I hoped and prayed that this would be the episode wherein Frasier-Bot finally had the gall to twist the good doc's entrenched class condescencion into sitcom-friendly racial discomfort. Think: Niles brings home a Detroit sister, like Kip in the horseshit-racist Napoleon Dynamite, and Fras spends the whole episode trying to relate to her/not offend her. It'd drop more jaws and raise more protest signs than "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer"--and "Frasier" fantatics would chuckle through the thing like it was business as usual. Alas, this is business as usual, another ep where Fras has to grapple with the fact that his old man's a person and not just, you know, his dad. (As my prolific partner in crime posited recently: is this really such a mind-blowing revelation? Especially for a man in his 40s?) Anyway, The Dad bangs a betty who lives in his building, and Frasier fumbles through the morning after like a marble-mouthed buffoon. And then, in a spectatacular display of head-slappingly oblivious assholery, broadcasts the old babe's walk of shame on his radio show. He basically gets a free pass for this, too--Frasier will be Frasier, nevermind the magnificent invasion of privacy. This is standard-issue to the max, notable only for revealing that Marty likes to foot fuck ("Remember my warm toes?" he lustily cooes at his embarassed bed fellow in the elevator, while Fras stands not two feet away, pretending not to listen.) Creepy stuff, though the gross-out highlight is when a caller laments not being to stuff her child back into the womb. Even a weirdo perv like Crane has to wince. One lingering question: what happened to Frasier's Friday-night date? That's just sloppy writing, Frasier-bot. C+

Genuine laughs: a few. Frasier telling the school bullies where to find this condescending little shit who calls in got a laugh out of me.

FRASIER DAY

...and so it begins. My silent partner and I are embarking on an adventure that could change us forever. Sometimes the roads we take leave us stranded, and the choices we make leave us broken...the road we've taken has led us to this point, wherein we will be watching a marathon of Frasier episodes and responding to them in real time. After an episode is completed we each have 22 minutes to craft a response and put it up...