Selling Out is a Kelsey Grammer episode overall—Frasier gets into the lucrative world of on air endorsing and finds himself tempted further and further way from his professional ethics as a psychiatrist—but it’s Harriet Sansom Harris who makes it so special. The Grammer stuff would be funny no matter what, as his behavior gets more and more absurd (not to mention Grammer’s voice being so perfect for the on air schilling), but Harris is a revelation. She’s Frasier’s new agent, Bebe Glazer. She talks him into representation (she’s fellow radio personality Dan Butler’s agent already), kicking off Grammer’s descent, and she’s the devil on his shoulder.
Harris kind of does a Katharine Hepburn thing, but with a whole bunch of energy. It’s like Katharine Hepburn playing Wile E. Coyote playing Katharine Hepburn. The Harris manipulating Grammer scenes are absolute gold. This episode, scripted by Lloyd Garver, might be the funniest episode so far. There are a lot of big, long laughs in it, which doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the case at the beginning, when Butler gives a super-racist read of a Chinese restaurant ad. The joke is Butler’s a terrible racist and to laugh at him, but it’s… ick. Though the discussion of whether public racism is more or less accepted in 1993 or 2020 is a depressing one.
But once Harris shows up, the laughs start and they don’t stop. Garver’s got them for Grammer, he’s got them for Harris, he’s got them for Peri Gilpin, for Jane Leeves (who gets a great monologue about her time as a tween TV star in the UK), John Mahoney—David Hyde Pierce doesn’t show up until the very end of the episode and he’s there to cut Grammer down to size regarding his professional ethics. Grammer has spent the entire episode working himself through hoops to make it not unethical to shill on his radio show, with the breaking point being Harris lining him up a TV gig, and he runs to Hyde Pierce for a sounding board.
Hyde Pierce’s scene is phenomenal stuff. With a Maris joke—related to Basic Instinct of all things—getting the visible longest laugh in the episode because Grammer’s got to sit and wait through the audience before his next line.
It’s a fantastic episode, minus the Butler ad read. Celebrity caller is Carl Reiner, who has a boring story for the show and Grammer gets in a funny diss when hanging out… which also raises a question about professional ethics, I suppose. Anyway. Truly great episode, thanks to Garver’s script but more Harris’s Bebe. She’s incredible.