Mid-Winter Night's Dream has another wonderful script from Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano, showcasing Jane Leeves and David Hyde Pierce’s range while relying on Kesley Grammer and John Mahoney’s… well, reliability. Ranberg and Flett-Giordano play with audience expectation and their own foreshadowing to craft the episode; because it’s not an easy episode (it’s also where someone had the thought they’re never going to show Maris, it had to be).
The episode starts with Daphne (Leeves) flirting with the regular barista (Dean Erickson) while Hyde Pierce goes not quietly mad with jealousy, concerning Grammer. Grammer thinks Hyde Pierce’s fixation on Leeves is indicative of a problem with at home with Maris (and considering exfoliating is apparently a reasonable problem with a partner in 1994…). Hyde Pierce says yes indeed, which eventually leads to Grammer suggesting some role playing.
Grammer gets that idea from Peri Gilpin, who’s got that one scene, which is too bad.
Anyway, things don’t go well with the role playing, leading to Maris storming out. No spoilers because finding out how they don’t go well is a particular joy. And has a great punchline.
But when planning his reconciliation wooing, Hyde Pierce invites Leeves over to… cook the dinner, which is… weird. I mean, she’s Mahoney’s physical therapist. Making her cook is a little much. But they need to get her into the house so when the lights go out in a thunderstorm and Maris is stranded far away and there’s nothing for Leeves to put on but a nightgown….
And then the infidelity possibility comedy unfolds and it’s a very delicate balance because Hyde Pierce can’t get too unlikable and so on. The script, Leeves, and Hyde Pierce pull it off masterfully. David Lee’s direction is a big factor too. It’s a lot less multi-cam sitcom-y direction, the occasional more involved setup makes all the difference.
We also get to see Niles and Maris’s house for the first time, though not the visible from the street gargoyles, unfortunately.
It’s a rather good “Frasier,” and maybe the first Hyde Pierce-focused episode. At least to this degree.
Also… is there an intentional Young Frankenstein nod or is it just coincidence.