My Coffee with Niles is a concept episode victory lap for the first season, scripted by two of the three creators (David Angell and Peter Casey), with James Burrows directing, set entirely in the coffee shop where Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) regularly meet to have coffee together. The difference—besides the entire episode taking place at the shop and “Frasier” finally showing the patio seating—is they aren’t checking in on a plot, resolving a plot, or starting a plot, there is no plot.
Other than Hyde Pierce asking Grammer, a year after moving to Seattle, if he’s happy and the two trying to find a place to sit on a particularly busy afternoon.
The regular cast checks in—Peri Gilpin’s there to meet a date, which doesn’t go well and gives Grammer the chance to confide in Hyde Pierce he’s had the stray fantasy involving Gilpin but they work together and Grammer’s professional.
Wasn’t Diane his patient on “Cheers”?
Then dad John Mahoney and Jane Leeves stop by, which kicks up some dust as Mahoney’s in a bad mood and it’s pissing off Leeves and Grammer. It all blows up in the episode but it’s not even a subplot really. It’s just an update on the status of the relationship.
There’s a little bit of talk about Leeves as far as Hyde Pierce’s feels are concerned. Hyde Pierce is really good in that part. It’s Grammer’s episode overall and he does well, but Hyde Pierce’s performance is better. It’s a stagy episode and he does well with stagy.
The unsung hero of the episode is Luck Hari, as the unnamed waitress who spends the entire runtime trying to get Grammer a cup of coffee he won’t complain about.
“Frasier” has a great first season and Coffee is an outstanding conclusion of it. There’s nothing new, except the format—and Hyde Pierce remembering Gilpin exists—but it shows how much the show can stretch and still excel.
Finally, there is some cringe related to Hyde Pierce and Grammer joking about Hyde Pierce’s Niles being gay—and who’d get to tell Mahoney because he’d be so upset with it. At the time of the episode, Hyde Pierce was stuck in the closet; he’d never have gotten the part if he’d been out.
Hell, he probably wouldn’t get it today, would he?
But the episode itself is a big win.