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Episode Ten: Oops, and Lime Pickle

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

Episode Five: Here’s Looking At You, and Rich Gooey Coffee Cake

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The general structure of sitcoms - set up, disaster, resolution - is completely unlike real life, which is probably why they can be so comforting to watch. You know everything is going to be re-set back to the status quo by the time the credits roll, and somehow in 22-odd minutes the gang is going to cycle through some hijinks, delightful misunderstandings, and find themselves ending with a hug. Frasier is no stranger to this routine, but every now and then the show will just gently meander around doing nothing much at all, with the minimal set changes keeping the familiarity rolling - you know that when the black title cards appear the characters are either going to be at the apartment, the radio station, or Cafe Nervosa, and it could be Season 1 or Season 9.

This is one of those episodes: not an awful lot happens, but it’s a total delight from start to finish. Frasier, wanting to do something nice for his father, gets him a telescope. Martin happens to lock crosshairs with Irene, a …

Episode Four: I Hate Frasier Crane, with Fried “Chicken”

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Now that we’re up to episode four of Frasier we’re at the point where we can get some actual plot, as opposed to the first three episodes which were all variations on Frasier’s uncomfortable relationship with his father. Of course; that relationship is still explored here, all in good time my friend. The episode is called I Hate Frasier Crane and wastes no time in showing us why it was named thusly: we open with Frasier, Martin and Daphne (plus Eddie the dog staring at Frasier as though he is “a large piece of kibble”) getting ready for dinner. Niles appears, and we get a nice bit of classic Frasier humour as Frasier yells at the dog for staring at him while he’s saying grace, and Niles thinks he’s being reprimanded for staring at Daphne. Mistaken identity, things overheard and misconstrued, and apparently-necessary falsehoods that have to be upheld are the absolute bread and butter of this show. Anyway, there’s no mistaking the intent of local Times columnist Derek Mann, who has comm…