Episode Twelve: Miracle on 3rd or 4th Street, and Remoulade

And here we find ourselves greeting another trope: the Christmas episode. I've banged on a lot about the comforting nature of sitcoms, their familiar rhythms, the recurring beats upon which to hang your hat, a damn fine status quo. What is the Christmas episode but a doubling down on the comfort - during a time when emotions, pressure, and stakes are higher, sitcoms give you a safe place to explore the meaning of Christmas, either to distract you from the misery of your own lacking situation or to mirror and amplify your existing good feelings. Whether you're sitting down with your family, your faces softly lit by the warm twinkle of fairy lights, or huddled under your duvet in bed eating a bag of crisps, longing for the 26th, there's a particular escapism involved in watching someone else endure the season for you.

Roz's perpetually lustrous hair is the true meaning of Christmas.

Over the course of eleven seasons, Frasier gave us eight Christmas episodes, and this firs…

Episode Eleven: Death Becomes Him, and Linzertorte Cookies

I regret the hiatus between the last episode and this one. It's not because of waning enthusiasm - obviously my interest in talking about Frasier is, in fact, alarmingly all-consuming. In all honesty it's because (and new-money-wishes-he-was-old-money Frasier would probably gasp and clutch the nearest pearls to learn of it) every time I've attempted to buy ingredients for the accompanying recipe, I just...haven't been able to afford it. I wouldn't say this week is any different but with some judicious duplicity and prioritisation, here we finally are.

This episode sees Frasier confront his own mortality, and in typical fashion, wringing his hands where hands need not be wrung. It all kicks off when Martin has evaded a doctor's appointment, with his old-school attitude of only needing the quack when something actually hurts, and even then, regarding the entire process with suspicion. Frasier and Niles put their heads together and recommend Dr Gary Newman (Niles:…

Episode Ten: Oops, and Lime Pickle

Every action has an equal opposite reaction, and for the action of Frasier’s existence at home, there is his father, but in the workplace his contrapuntal character comes in the form of Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe, a sportscaster whose mind is one-track at best. In the hands of a lesser actor Bulldog would be a minor-league irritation, but Dan Butler plays him so ebulliently and abruptly, you get the sense that he just has a really short attention span and assumes the world will revolve around him, and maybe it’s just that I relate to that heavily or something but I can’t help finding him oddly appealing. 

In the shortlived but highly wonderful Broadway musical [title of show], there’s a song called Secondary Characters where Heidi and Susan, the aforementioned secondary characters, get to enjoy a brief moment in the sun while the “stars are being stored in the wings”. After being sprinkled hither and yon throughout the radio station scenes,  “Oops” sees Bulldog get his time to shine, and e…

Episode Nine: Selling Out, and Pasta with Three Nut Pesto

Oh how a good recurring character thrills me. Joan Callamezzo in Parks and Recreation, Troy McClure in The Simpsons, Harry the Hat in Cheers, the game (I would argue) of True American in New Girl, they invigorate the status quo but maintain the comfort of familiarity. Celebrity agent Bebe Glazer is introduced to the show of Frasier much as one might cautiously add chilli sauce to a dish (betraying my leaning-towards-mild tastebuds here, I admit) - she appears roughly once per season to steal the show and then backs off again, a perfect foil without being a distraction. Because of course Frasier’s main thing is that he’s resolutely moral and driven by his integrity, and Bebe Glazer is, well, not, there’s marvelous humour to be had by pitting them against each other.

The plot device is there in the episode’s title - Frasier is unwilling to do promotional spots on his radio show, but after witnessing sportscaster Bulldog Briscoe (himself a juicy recurring treat) making bank off endorsing…

Episode Eight: Beloved Infidel, and Fuzzy Navel

A small yet pleasing milestone: this episode brings us a third of the way through season one of Frasier (the blog app decided to celebrate by unceremoniously deleting this post no less than three separate times as I was writing it) and it’s time for him to confront some uncomfortable truths about his past. As we’ve covered previously, this show is happy to spend 22 minutes packaging life’s unhappiness in a comedic sitcom format - episode two alone was honestly fairly grim - but as per usual each installment inches us ever forward in beveling off the sharp edges on Frasier and his father Martin’s relationship. 
We kick off with Niles and Frasier going out to dinner after a lecture of Niles’ is cancelled (I’ll have you know I trimmed that speech to two and a half hours and I opened with a really good Al Gore joke.”) They immediately spy their father at the same restaurant, to all intents and purposes on a date with a woman who they recognize as Marian Lawlor, an old family friend. They c…

Episode Seven: Call Me Irresponsible, and Salmon Marseilles

Across television, movies, music, whatever, there are some accepted truths, which we call tropes, the sort of general themes that come as no surprise and yet don’t necessarily have any place in the real world: the shlubby man-child will have a beautiful wife whose one personality trait is “heinous nag”, the small circle of protagonists will always find a way to hang out together at literally every event without the horror of having to introduce any new characters, the couch at Central Perk will always be free for the six Friends, and the main guy will have what is called the “girl of the week.” You know: there’s a meet-cute (itself, another trope!), a relationship is attempted, and by the end of the episode something will tear them apart and we’ll never hear nor see of this woman again. I suppose when you’ve got 22 episodes per season to fill with plot and can use rotating guest stars to generate publicity, cycling through love interests at a rollicking canter makes total sense. (When…

Episode Six: The Crucible, and creamed kale

Oh what a treat, our first Frasier party!

There’s a small joy in any long-running series where you witness the beginning of what will become a long-running joke, theme, or trope. A mere six episodes in, the characters themselves don’t know it yet but any one of them who throws a party is cursed to have it end up in disaster, and this is just how it must be. Much later, about halfway through the show’s penultimate season, Frasier will send itself up by opening an episode at the tail end of one such event where everything goes wrong, with Martin emerging, gamely wearing a sash and crying “Buongiorno!” before being told he doesn’t have to pretend to be an Italian count anymore.
We’ve seen already in the series that Frasier’s life is more or less the phrase “oh how the mighty have fallen” writ large, and in this episode he really has to dwell on his hubris. We open the episode on Frasier’s radio show, where he manages to drop into the conversation with a caller that he has acquired a Marth…