Dan Butler

Frasier (1993) s02e13 – Retirement is Murder

New writing team (Elias Davis and David Pollock)—albeit one working together since the 1960s—and a new director (Alan Myerson) but it’s a close to quintessential “Frasier.” Though more in the “good jackass Kelsey Grammer” column than the “good exemplar episode” one, even though it’s not exactly Grammer’s episode. Or at least it shouldn’t be. It should be John Mahoney’s, but the script gives it to Grammer and just for the jackass moment. It’s kind of like a lower brow impression of a “Frasier” episode.

But really funny. Because Grammer’s really good as a jackass.

The episode does do a decent cast showcase, however. Peri Gilpin gets a decent bit where she shuts down Bulldog (Dan Butler)—it’s a syndication-era sitcom so while I remember last episode Butler trying to hoodwink Gilpin into bed and them fighting but it doesn’t seem to be an issue for them here. More, the show’s figured out a bit of Gilpin and Butler banter before it turns sour (and funnier) is good.

Jane Leeves and David Hyde Pierce both get to do some good support, with Hyde Pierce getting to go to basketball game with Grammer and Mahoney. See, Mahoney’s obsessing over solving the “White Lotus” murder plaguing him for twenty years (and since the pilot or second episode) with Leeves his Watson.

Davis and Pollock do a great job with the “‘Frasier’ bait and switch” plotting where the biggest physical set piece is just a segue into the actual important set piece. It’s not a particularly ambitious episode, given it all hinges on Grammer being foolishly pompous and whatever but it’s a nice exercise in effective plotting. And Mahoney’s really good no matter he loses focus instead of gaining it as the episode progresses. I mean, it’s his Retirement in the title but, hey, Grammer’s a good jackass.

Also, yay, Ron Dean cameo.

Oh, and Mary Steenburgen on the radio; she’s recognizable even if I didn’t quite recognize her during the call.

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) s01e20 – Fortysomething

I immediately recognized Reba McEntire as the caller this episode, which is strange because I’m pretty sure I based it entirely on who they could be having as a guest in 1994 with an accent like McEntire’s. Though I suppose it’s possible Tremors is burnt deep into the grey matter.

McEntire’s call, which has a considerable punchline, sets up Kelsey Grammer for the “senior moment” of forgetting Peri Gilpin’s name. In the twenty-five years since the episode aired, we now know “senior moments” happen all throughout life and you just don’t ascribe particular meaning to them until you’re worried about getting old. So when Grammer freaks out—and Gilpin gets in some great jokes at his expense (very good Sy Dukane and Denise Moss script)—it kicks off an episode of mid-life crises for Grammer.

Mid-life, as David Hyde Pierce later points out, because he’s in his forties and is he really going much past eighty?

Grammer does get a little more sympathy from John Mahoney, who’s already been through the mid-life crisis and recovered. Or survived. But when a shop girl (Sara Melson) half his age flirts with him at the department store, Grammer starts buying a whole bunch of expensive pants for the attention. Mahoney dismisses it as Melson trying to make the commission but when Melson’s delivering Grammer’s pants to him at the station, she asks him out, setting him into internal turmoil.
Grammer’s turmoil has the added tension of knowing 1994 might not be far enough along for them not to just do Frasier and his teenage girlfriend, but the episode resolves perfectly. Melson’s fine but not distinct. Dan Butler’s got a good scene; he thinks Grammer needs to grab Melson and hold on. Though there is a gay joke about Butler, implying he’s projecting the macho. I think slash hope it’s a reference to Butler actually being gay….

It’s a more introverted episode and a good one. Dukane and Moss crack it and Grammer does well; he’s got to drag out the kvetching for long enough to get to the shop girl introduction. He makes it happen.

Frasier (1993) s01e10 – Oops

It’s another strong episode. “Frasier”’s combination for success is the scripts—in this case, from writers Denise Moss and Sy Dukane—the supporting cast, and then the bigger name guest stars. Because whether you know his name or not, John Glover is a name guest star. He’s in this episode as Kelsey Grammer’s boss.

The episode starts with Grammer introducing David Hyde Pierce to some co-workers—the outtakes from Hyde Pierce giving Black guy Wayne Wilderson a jive greeting must be amazing—and quickly becomes a work episode. Someone is getting fired, which Grammer, Peri Gilpin, and the rest of the gang soon decide has got to be Bulldog (Dan Butler). Despite having high ratings, Butler’s apparently been asking for too much expense account and so on.

The next day, Grammer being socially awkward, makes chitchat with fellow radio personality George DelHoyo (the Catholic priest with the failing ratings) and says it’s Butler who’s getting fired. Butler overhears, confronts Glover, quitting.

Grammer feels terrible, of course, but it’s not like there’s anything he can do about it. Talking to Glover is out of the question.

Though once Butler shows up at the apartment needing a place to stay… Grammer gets more open to the idea.

Butler’s fantastic, Glover’s hilarious—he somehow makes the absurd reasonable but doesn’t lose the absurd impact—and some great stuff for the regular supporting cast. Like with Gilpin and the supporting supporting guest stars… it’s nice to get to see her do something more than the norm. Hyde Pierce also gets to do a “visit with dad” John Mahoney, which gets more and more painful by the millisecond, and Mahoney gets to praise Butler’s radio show in front of Grammer. There’s one of those nice layered delay “Frasier” jokes with Mahoney, Hyde Pierce, and Butler.

The celebrity caller is Jay Leno, as a guy who gets who gets fat-shammed. It’s a funny bit—like technically, the way they pull off the joke, it’s funny. But it’s still… a cheap fat-shamming joke. For all the pretense of pretension, “Frasier” goes for cheap jokes all the time. Usually telling them quite well.

It’s just, you know, extra cheap this time.

Frasier (1993) s01e09 – Selling Out

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.

Frasier (1993) s01e02 – Space Quest

This episode picks up right after the previous one, which you’d think have been a no-no in the syndication chasing days of sitcoms. But, no, the first scene is not at all morning person Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) getting up late and groggily confused about what Jane Leeves is doing in his apartment. She fills him in just before he realizes the chair wasn’t a dream either.

The episode’s all about Grammer realizing he’d much rather have his apartment to himself and just stick dad John Mahoney and healthcare worker Leeves in their own place. Grammer does a fantastic job moping around the place, getting mad at Mahoney for making him an unhealthy breakfast and Leeves bringing in the paper.

It all blows up when Frasier thinks he’s going to be able to read his book in piece and then “his father, Mary Poppins, and the Hound form Hell” return, leaving to another argument.

Grammer storms off after Mahoney calls him a “little hot house orchid,” which is hilarious.

The episode also introduces sports radio host Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe, played by Dan Butler, who has got “The Gonzo Sports Show” on after Frasier. Butler’s hilarious. He and Grammer play well off each other from the start.

There’s a nice scene for David Hyde Pierce, including some sharp cuts at Grammer’s professional ability, and then Peri Gilpin gets the episode’s most dated scene. She’s on the phone talking about her sex life, which mental health professional Grammer doesn’t think is appropriate with the other person… her mom.

It’s the second episode so it’s no surprise the writers haven’t figured out how much they want people to laugh with or against Grammer and his antics, but it’s still an iffy sequence. At best it’s slut-shaming.

Writers Sy Dukane and Denise Moss do a lot better with the eventual resolution for Grammer and Mahoney, which has laughs, surprises, and some nice character development for Mahoney in particular. There’s a cute end credits sequence and the celebrity caller this episode is Christopher Reeve; the episode’s from years before the accident, so it’s more bittersweet than anything else.

Captain Ron (1992, Thom E. Eberhardt)

For an innocuous Touchstone family comedy, Captain Ron isn’t bad. Like most Touchstone movies, it lacks any real personality–Daryn Okada’s photography, for example, should be full of lush Caribbean visuals but it isn’t. Part of the blame goes to director Eberhardt, who doesn’t know how to open up his shots, and Okada’s no help. Ron feels too artificially controlled.

The movie still has some very amusing moments and it’s well-acted by the principals. More accurately, the adult principals. Martin Short inherits a boat and brings along wife Mary Kay Place and kids Benjamin Salisbury and Meadow Sisto. Salisbury is annoying, Sisto’s bad.

Place easily gives the film’s best performance, while Russell manages to be charming with the illusion of edginess. That Touchstone touch. Short’s wrong for his role as a neurotic control freak; his best scenes are when Eberhardt’s stuck using him as a physical comedian. Short’s good enough to sell the non-physical stuff, but he’s in the way of his own movie. Eberhardt and co-screenwriter John Dwyer don’t have a particularly good script and their character arcs are even worse.

Those writing problems aside, Eberhardt has five principal cast members and barely any significant supporting cast and he paces the scenes exceedingly well. His problem’s his weak composition. The short set-up–a walking, exposition-filled argument between Short and Place–still feels natural and complete, even though it’s manipulative.

William F. Matthews’s production design is better than Ron deserves. Nicholas Pike’s music is worse.



Directed by Thom E. Eberhardt; screenplay by John Dwyer and Eberhardt, based on a story by Dwyer; director of photography, Daryn Okada; edited by Tina Hirsch; music by Nicholas Pike; production designer, William F. Matthews; produced by David Permut and Paige Simpson; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Kurt Russell (Captain Ron), Martin Short (Martin Harvey), Mary Kay Place (Katherine Harvey), Benjamin Salisbury (Benjamin Harvey), Meadow Sisto (Caroline Harvey), Sunshine Logroño (General Armando), Jorge Luis Ramos (The General’s Translator), J.A. Preston (Magistrate), Tanya Soler (Angeline), Raúl Estela (Roscoe), Jainardo Batista (Mamba), Dan Butler (Zachery) and Tom McGowan (Bill).

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