Anne Flett-Giordano

Frasier (1993) s02e12 – Roz in the Doghouse

It’s writers Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano’s second episode this season. They sort of established the show in the first season, so it’s nice to see them back. Even if this episode doesn’t age well. Some of the jokes are great and the performances are fantastic, but the situations associated with said jokes and performances are extremely cringe.

Roz in the Doghouse is about Roz (Peri Gilpin) going to work for sports show guy Bulldog (Dan Butler) after Kelsey Grammer’s just too much of an unappreciative dick to her too many times. Grammer tells Gilpin it’s all because Butler wants to sleep with her. Now, Grammer makes this observation with his entire family looking on. John Mahoney and Jane Leeves in horror, David Hyde Pierce in agreement. It’s an extraordinarily rude move from Grammer, especially after we’ve seen Gilpin busting ass for the show already.

Once Gilpin gets over to Butler’s show, turns out she’s a perfect fit and the show’s a great success and she’s professionally fulfilled in ways she could never imagine. It’s also where the show goes down the worse path of history and contorts itself to ensure no matter what happens, Grammer will never have to apologize to Gilpin.

It’s a deliberate, unfortunate move.

But really good acting from Gilpin and Butler in the episode. Grammer’s okay, but his material isn’t good. Quite the opposite. Because there’s also stuff with him gossiping, which is really crappy given he and Gilpin’s character development.

Maybe more appropriate as a first season episode?

Anyway. Celebrity callers are Rosie Perez (see Birds of Prey if you haven’t) and Carly Simon. I recognized Perez (if you’ve already seen Birds of Prey, see it again), not Simon.

There’s a whole sequence with Grammer trying out new producers while he’s learning he should appreciate Gilpin (though not fast enough), which doesn’t play out as funny as it should. Most of them aren’t credited because they don’t have any lines but none of them jumped out. Again, ought to have been better. Grammer’s plot this episode is a slog.

So, very funny and reasonably problematic.

Frasier (1993) s02e07 – The Candidate

I missed the writing credit on this episode and I’m glad I did. Seeing it’s Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano is icing. Candidate’s the team’s first script this season (they did a bunch last season) and it’s great. It’s also a bit risqué for a network sitcom as far as politics goes, especially since—I’m not sure it was widely known at the time—star Kelsey Grammer’s a conservative and Frasier Crane is very much not. Yes, Grammer and brother David Hyde Pierce are liberal, intellectual smooth talkers but the show’s very careful to show they’re not on the wrong side of the issues.

Grammer just ends up endorsing the wrong guy, because the guy—guest star Boyd Gaines, who’s so perfectly straight-faced for it—believes he was abducted by aliens, which Grammer finds out while recording a television commercial supporting him.

The only reason Grammer wants to throw his celebrity weight into the ring is because dad John Mahoney does a TV spot for the Republican candidate. The additional joke of the conservative being played by Sydney Pollack (albeit telephonically) reminds what a thin rope shows had to walk just to do this kind of episode at all.

Of course, even with Grammer’s confounded television spot, nothing can compare to Mahoney’s, which has him showing off the scar on the back of his thigh, trousers down; it becomes a great running joke.

Luck Hari is back as the coffee shop barista who suffers through some of Grammer’s White liberal guilt (as it relates to appropriate places to support coffee grounds from); she hasn’t been around since last season finale, when she was the protagonist. It’s a good scene.

Some great Dan Butler, some great Peri Gilpin—including her telling Grammer to knock off the slut-shaming—it’s just a really good episode.

About halfway through I started sustained laughing and didn’t stop until the end. Nice James Burrows direction too.

Frasier (1993) s01e23 – Frasier Crane’s Day Off

The episode’s another superlative one—Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano’s script is exceptional, with a bunch of great detail (everyone in the cast has something going on this episode, all of it somewhat related to Kelsey Grammer coming down with a man cold)—but it’s also got the distinction of having the weirdest set of celebrity callers.

There’s football quarterback Steve Young, there’s “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau, there’s Timmy Hilfiger, there’s Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, there’s Mary Tyler Moore—there’s Patty Hearst! None of the calls get much special emphasis, because it’s all about who’s taking those calls. Grammer gets to talk to Young in the opening, but pretty quick he’s on his way to getting too sick to work and then it’s all about who’s filling in on the show for him.

First up is food critic Gil Chesterton (Edward Hibbert), who’s trying to get Grammer and Peri Gilpin’s primo afternoon time slot and solving callers’ problems thanks to his keen restaurant sense. So Gilpin tries to get Grammer to come back to work, which almost works, but the man cold is too strong….

Leading to Grammer begging David Hyde Pierce to do it. Turns out Hyde Pierce isn’t just going to be a natural at it, he’s going to crowd please in a way Grammer doesn’t. The stuff with Hyde Pierce on the radio is phenomenal. The script’s great but Hyde Pierce takes it to a whole new level, baking in all the long-term jealousy over Grammer’s popularity and so on. Hyde Pierce manages to be even better at the successful Niles on the radio stuff than he does at the awkward Niles on the studio stuff and the awkward stuff is amazing.

No blaming mother today, he starts the episode, “I’m a Jungian not a Freudian.” So funny.

Meanwhile Grammer’s driving Jane Leeves nuts as she’s stuck taking care of him through the man cold. John Mahoney mostly hangs out to tell Grammer how he should call in but Grammer reminds him Mahoney raised the boys to never call in to work. If you can stand, you can work.

Mahoney’s since changed his tune but it’s baked into Grammer at this point.

So much going on and all of it so good. I won’t even get into the self-prescribed medicines, which cause hallucinations. As great as Hyde Pierce and Leeves get in the episode, it’s all about man cold suffering Grammer. It’s such a good performance.

Awesome sick makeup on him too.

Day Off is a spectacularly funny half hour of television.

Frasier (1993) s01e19 – Give Him the Chair!

I missed the writing credits at the beginning of the episode, so every time there was a particularly mean joke—usually at Maris’s expense—I got curious who wrote it. Anne Flett-Giordano and Chuck Ranberg, who’ve been the season’s sturdiest writers; outside the cheap mean jokes, they’re also saddled with a very “sitcom” sitcom episode, meaning it’s a situation only reasonable in a sitcom.

After a funny opening with Malcolm McDowell calling in as a guest on the radio show—a prominent psychiatrist (so Kelsey Grammers sucking up big time)—and a nice development when McDowell starts hitting on Peri Gilpin, we go to the apartment where the cast has gathered. David Hyde Pierce has a Maris-involved excuse for showing up, and a subsequently great scene with Jane Leeves, then John Mahoney gets home and duct tapes up his eyesore of a lounge chair, horrifying Grammer and Hyde Pierce.

After the aforementioned mean Maris jokes, Grammer gripes about the chair some and Hyde Pierce suggests they replace it in order to help Mahoney deal with his move from his own apartment to living with Grammer.

The replacement chair search is a very funny sequence and everything’s generally fine once Grammer makes the switch, until it turns out condo handyman and early nineties metal bonehead Phil Buckman threw out the old chair instead of putting it into a storage unit. The sitcom takes over here, with Mahoney enraged at Grammer for throwing out the chair; even though Grammer didn’t throw it out. It was an obvious accident and not even in Grammer’s direct control.

Mahoney then has a monologue about the chair’s importance, which is… fine. It ought to be better. But there are limits to credulity.

The resolution and chair rescue involve a fantastic guest star spot from Valerie Curtin, which is maybe better written than anything else in the episode, just all the moving parts. You could make a whole episode out of the last six or seven minutes.

It’s definitely a funny episode, but the jokes are usually easy or really easy.

Makes me wonder how it would’ve played had I known the writers during the show.

Frasier (1993) s01e17 – A Midwinter Night’s Dream

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.

Frasier (1993) s01e14 – Can’t Buy Me Love

It’s a packed, but never frantic episode–Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano are the “Frasier” all-star writers right now and they’ve got a lot of inventive work here, both the plotting and character arcs. Every development is combination delight and surprise.

The episode starts with Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Roz (Peri Gilpin) dreading having to return to the studio because Bulldog (Dan Butler) has already started his show and makes whoever’s in the room get on the air with him… so Butler can humiliate them. It’s all setup for the next scene, when Grammer’s dad, John Mahoney, asks him to arrange for Butler to volunteer at a charity bachelor auction.

In the great family scene—Hyde Pierce is there with champagne, celebrating Maris going out of town—Mahoney has to backpedal a bit and also invite Grammer to participate in the auction. So, great setup.

Only the bachelor auction is offscreen, we’re just in the green room, towards the end of the night, as Grammer and the other bachelors (including football player Brett Miller) listen in terror to the screaming female bidders in the auditorium. Butler’s not worried, of course, because he’s sure he’s going to be a prize item.

The auction doesn’t go as expected—pleasantly for some, not pleasantly for others—and then it’s time to skip ahead to the actual date nights. We don’t get to see Miller’s, unfortunately, but it also wouldn’t be appropriate for television….

Grammer’s date goes wrong, leaving him babysitting petulant teen Ashley Bank, while Butler’s sports and limo-centric date goes all wrong, even though his date is getting super drunk. She’s even able to make him sympathetic, she cuts so deep with her barbs. Great writing on that scene in particular. It seems like it’s going to be a one-off but turns out to be a nice little recurring subplot for the rest of the episode.

The standout performance this episode is Jane Leeves, who finally gets to show-off her comic skills. Grammer does well with Banks, which gives him a look into his future as a parent—and provides Mahoney some great material when talking about Grammer’s own childhood development.

And the end credits scene is a hoot.

No celebrity caller this episode but consulting producer and former “Cheers” writer and producer Ken Levine is the off-screen M.C. of the charity auction, albeit uncredited.

Frasier (1993) s01e07 – Call Me Irresponsible

It’s a Kelsey Grammar-centric episode—it’s about Frasier’s first girlfriend since the divorce, though they’re never too specific about it (just Frasier still thinks women don’t have to pay on dates). Only he manages to screw it all up, even when he finds out the girlfriend (Amanda Donohue with such a good American accent I didn’t think it was Amanda Donohue despite looking exactly like Amanda Donohue) doesn’t have a problem with what’s bothering him.

So, the episode opens with one dropped celebrity caller (Eddie Van Halen) then another (Bruno Kirby) getting a lengthy (for “Frasier”) phone session. Kirby’s girlfriend is pushing him to commit but Kirby’s just hanging on to her as a placeholder, assuming something better will turn up. Grammer–in what is also the show’s first layered cold open punchline (Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano writing)—tells Kirby to be honest and break up. Fast forward a day—after a hilarious Christmas card picture-taking scene at the apartment, two months early—and the now ex-girlfriend, Donohue, is at the studio to confront Grammer. Turns out Kirby wasn’t entirely truthful about what Grammer told him to do so Grammer explains it all.

One thing leads to another and Grammer and Donohue get hot and heavy very quickly; David Hyde Pierce disapproves—what about Grammer’s ethics as a psychiatrist. There’s this great caller vs. patient conversation where the show says more about talk radio than it ever has before but Grammer’s able to convince Hyde Pierce it’s fine.

Until Kirby calls back and says he wants to get back together with Donohue. Grammer counsels him against it, to Peri Gilpin’s horrified face behind the glass and Hyde Pierce making similar expressions in his car as he listens. Great matching reactions from Gilpin and Hyde Pierce, one wonders if James Burrows tried to make the expressions close or if everyone just had the perfect horrified by Grammer faces.

Turns out Hyde Pierce doesn’t have to worry too much about it because the Crane boys both have comprised morale tells—Hyde Pierce’s nose bleeds and Grammer pukes. So can Frasier get through the big “at his apartment” date night without disaster?

I mean, no, obviously not, it’s a sitcom. So it’s just got to be an amusing disaster. It succeeds, thanks to Grammer being very good as the lead. The show’s got excellent, showy (and showy excellent) supporting players but it’s not like Grammer’s a slouch. He’s got to shift between sitcom slapstick and sitcom screwball and does it very well.

There’s also a great final punchline between Grammer and Eddie the dog, then the end credits are the adorable Christmas card photo outtakes.

It’s nice to see the show can hit a high above average even when it’s not stretching itself.

Frasier (1993) s01e03 – Dinner at Eight

This episode features Niles (David Hyde Pierce) meeting Daphne (Jane Leeves) for the first time and it’s amazing. Also amazing is how Kelsey Grammer is on it from the start, initially bewildered at Hyde Pierce’s behavior. Grammer really gets across how predictable Frasier finds his brother. It’s so good.

Also, I think this episode has Grammer’s first booming, “Do you mind!”, which I’m pretty sure becomes a series soundbite.

The episode’s main story involves Grammer and Hyde Pierce inviting John Mahoney out to a fancy dinner—they realize he sacrificed himself at work in their childhoods so now it’s their chance to repay him with the culture he missed. It involves a sharkskin suit on Mahoney, which is hilarious, mostly thanks to Leeves. Leeves is just the right addition to the show. She’s not just a calming influence on Grammer vs. Mahoney, she helps humanize it all. While still being goofy enough to be a little psychic.

Great line about how Grammer and Mahoney have “decided to find [the psychic stuff] charming.” Lots of great lines in the script, from Anne Flett-Giordano and Chuck Ranberg; the Crane boys’ only similarity to Mahoney being their last name and “abnormally well-developed calf muscles,” Maris and her tanning bed (actually, everything Maris this episode)… oh, and the “great polyester dinosaur” description of Mahoney’s style.

Plus Flett-Giordano and Ranberg deliver on the final act thoughtfulness. The boys end up at a restaurant of Mahoney’s choice, a steakhouse, where there’s the snob vs. Regular Joe thing, but it’s about Grammer and Hyde Pierce learning not to be assholes.

It does date awkwardly though, as we’ve been through foodie culture and you have to wonder what Frasier and Niles’s problem is with steak. They never had steak at French restaurants?

Great performance from Mahoney.

Also dating it is again going to be Roz’s dating life. Peri Gilpin humorously recounts a bad date there’s a post-punchline slut-shame because she answered the guy’s ad. It’s like… uh. What’s the joke supposed to be here? Outside it being absurd Gilpin’s got to answer random ads to meet fellas.

But still pretty darn great episode. It’s James Burrows directing again so the timing is all perfect.

Guest caller this episode is Patti LuPone, who’s got a really funny call, and you can tell it’s someone recognizable so it’s got to be a treat for LuPone fans.

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