David Isaacs

Frasier (1993) s02e09 – Adventures in Paradise (2)

I wonder how this episode would play in one sitting. Even just marathoning it (as opposed to cutting out the recap at the beginning of this second part, which Kelsey Grammer performs quite well). Because writers Ken Levine and David Isaacs still have an odd structure. They had an odd structure last episode, as they built to the reveal of Bebe Neuwirth also on vacation in Bora Bora to interrupt Grammer’s romantic getaway with new girlfriend JoBeth Williams.

The cliffhanger resolve introduces Neuwirth and Williams then Grammer and Neuwirth’s fellow, James Morrison. They make dinner plans to resolve some of the oddness of them being next door neighbors on their respective sex vacations.

We don’t get to see the dinner, just to see how Grammer’s going to obsess about it and make some really poor decisions. Those poor decisions start to ruin the trip and end with Williams not talking to Grammer. Can he fix the new relationship or is Neuwirth’s proximity going to screw things up?

Meanwhile, David Hyde Pierce has gotten Jane Leeves and John Mahoney to attend the ballet with him, where ever unseen wife Maris has a role.

There’s good quick material for Hyde Pierce, Leeves, and Mahoney, including some great punchlines, and Levine and Isaacs give Peri Gilpin a great bit, but it’s all about Neuwirth, Grammer, and Williams.

The episode gives Grammer some very broad physical comedy to do and he’s fantastic, it gives Neuwirth this detached dramatic and she’s fantastic. Williams is fine, but never gets anywhere near the material she’d need to make as much of an impression as Neuwirth or Grammer.

Just the expressions Neuwirth makes while listening to Grammer blather on, you wish director James Burrows had just focused on her instead of cutting to Grammer, no matter how funny he got.

Celebrity voice guest star this episode is Kevin Bacon, who doesn’t get a lot but does get to play into Gilpin’s very funny bit.

And the ending is perfect too. It’s a big swing episode and it’s a hit.

Frasier (1993) s02e08 – Adventures in Paradise (1)

Remember when we didn’t see TV show episodes all the time? What were they called—electronic programming guides (thanks, Google). So watching Adventures in Paradise: Part 1 in fall 1994, you weren’t wondering why it was called part one. The episode’s got a somewhat strange pacing as writers Ken Levine and David Isaacs have to introduce guest star JoBeth Williams in a significant supporting part in just one episode.

So none of the regular supporting cast gets a lot to do. David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney bond over cigar smoking in a very small subplot. Peri Gilpin is entirely there for supporting Kelsey Grammer’s arc, which has him starting to date Williams after seeing her in a magazine feature on Seattle’s best and brightest.

Grammer and Hyde Pierce’s low-key coveting of the associated prestige provides a handful of really good jokes. The episode’s full of them. Even without a lot to do, the entire cast (save maybe Gilpin) gets some really funny jokes. Jane Leeves has an amazing few minutes and Hyde Pierce goes on a particularly good Maris rant this episode.

Even stranger, the first big set piece doesn’t involve any of the regulars or even Williams. She and Grammer are out on their date and there’s a blowup between the restaurant owner (Pierre Epstein) and his daughter (Jessica Pennington). It’s absolutely hilarious, but it’s got nothing to do with the story. Except giving Grammer a great opportunity to “I’m Listening” in public.

Then the episode skips ahead a couple weeks and Williams and Grammer make an impromptu decision to run off together for a week and take things to the next stage. There’s some “Frasier fretting,” which also allows for some more on the cigar bonding subplot, but then it’s off to Bora Bora and the surprise cliffhanger.

Everyone’s really good, even when they barely get anything to do, and Williams is a nice match for Grammer. And the cliffhanger is rather hilarious.

It’s a really good episode, especially considering it’s just a setup for the next one.

Becker (1998) s01e15 – Activate Your Choices

David Isaacs wrote this episode, which brings some immediate pluses. The jokes are funnier. Sometimes they’re a lot cheaper, but they’re always funny. And Saverio Guerra’s in the episode. Isaacs doesn’t give him much to do except be hilariously annoying, but it’s basically enough. If only they’d cast someone better to play Ted Danson’s ex-wife, the episode would probably have been in the black.

Instead, they got Alice Krige. Who’s got no chemistry with Danson. They can’t resist one another; while they were married, they had an open relationship… he just didn’t know about it being open. But Krige never stopped wanting Danson. Her intro is she’s written a self-help book and a lot of it is about being married to “The Angry Man” (Danson), once she’s in the episode it’s about Danson trying to resist her and not.

Krige’s got a crap character and doesn’t bring anything performance-wise to transcend it; the episode sets itself up to fail. Not making Krige at all sympathetic… it’s like the show can’t decide how misanthropic it really wants to be. Even with the problems, the Isaacs script is sturdy.

He introduces some actually interesting character details for Shawnee Smith, like her being able to speak fluent Mandarin. Otherwise, no one in the supporting cast gets anything to do. Arguably, Alex Desért and Terry Farrell get even less because the show’s brought in Guerra for the guaranteed laughs.

As I recall, the arrival of Isaacs is when “Becker” starts turning around, but I can’t trust my memory of its better days. I didn’t remember it being this middling so I’m not sure if the improvement is going to be substantial.

Maybe I’m just so nonplussed by the episode’s wastes—Guerra and then blowing a possibly good recurring ex-wife with Krige. Plus, Danson’s a really big dick to worried mom Jenny Gago during an appointment scene and, combined with Krige’s adulterous ex, it feels like the show’s saying something icky; unintentionally, maybe, but still saying it.

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