Denise Moss

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) s01e18 – And the Whimper Is…

“Frasier,” the show, has made a few references to the popularity of “The Frasier Crane Show,” the in-show radio program Kelsey Grammer hosts. At one point it seemed to be on the ropes, with Grammer and producer Peri Gilpin worrying they’d get cancelled, then it was getting better ratings than the sports show… but its popularity has never been explicitly described. But it’s got to be doing well because this episode has it one of four nominees for prestigious category at the SeaBee Awards (fictional radio awards).

It’s Grammer’s first year with a show. It’s Gilpin’s tenth year in the business without even a nomination. They’re hungry to win. The episode—written by Sy Dukane and Denise Moss—tracks them from pre-nomination, when Grammer’s pretending he doesn’t care and Gilpin’s driven to distraction waiting for the nominations to release, to preparation, when they’re planning how to bribe the nominating committee while John Mahoney watches in disgust, to the awards show, where they discover they may have been too successful in their bribing, about to take the award away from retiring Seattle radio mainstay John McMartin.

The episode finally gives Gilpin some time around the regular cast—she and Mahoney joyfully greet each other when she arrives at the apartment, even though they’ve only had one other scene together—and Gilpin gets to pal around with Jane Leeves. Harriet Sansom Harris guest stars as Frasier’s agent, Bebe, who invites herself along to the awards show (though doesn’t do much there except have some great reaction shots when Gilpin eventually melts down under stress) and Patrick Kerr’s back as annoying station co-worker Noel, who’s Gilpin’s date for the evening. Kerr does all right considering he’s just a punchline.

David Hyde Pierce has this great running joke about always getting someone a beverage, out of his element with the show business types, not able to find anyone interested in his hilariously withering remarks at Grammer’s expense.

It’s a very busy episode with a lot of people around most of the time and director James Burrows makes sure they’re interesting even when they’re not talking (you can perfectly track how things are going from Mahoney’s expressions in the background), with Gilpin and Grammer being the centers of attention.

It’s very good. Though the self-aware Maris joke may be too self-aware.

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) s01e06 – The Crucible

This episode brings Peri Gilpin to Kelsey Grammer’s apartment for the first time. It’s not because of what happens with Gilpin there but what doesn’t. During the course of the episode, she meets Grammer’s dad, John Mahoney, but not onscreen. She comes up in conversation later when Mahoney suggests to Grammer he should ask her out. She also has a scene with David Hyde Pierce where they do the “Niles can’t remember Roz” scene again but Hyde Pierce is too busy fawning over Jane Leeves to notice. It’s almost like the writers have a note to include Gilpin but can’t fit her in.

It’s a single plot episode, with writers Sy Dukane and Denise Moss remixing a predictable arc—Frasier (Grammer) has just bought a painting by prominent local artist Rachel Rosenthal. He brags about it on the radio, leading to her calling in and getting invited to a cocktail party Grammer’s throwing in celebration of the purchase. He’s not really having a cocktail party, at least not until Rosenthal calls (which is how Gilpin comes over).

The story’s not in the party or even Rosenthal arriving and telling Grammer he’s bought a fake, humiliating him in front of his society friends. The story’s not even in Grammer’s attempts to return the painting to perfectly obnoxious art gallery owner John Rubinstein. It turns out the story’s in Hyde Pierce’s last scene reminiscences of grade school and being humiliated after being bullied.

The plotting doesn’t seem like it should work—Hyde Pierce goes from being very supporting during the party (he’s not in the open) and mostly just gawking at Leeves (the show hasn’t expressly made it chaste yet, Grammer’s actually concerned there might be funny business and Hyde Pierce even has to assure Leeves he’s a happily married man at one point, with a great punchline), to being the most important part of the finish. It’s not exactly a showcase for Hyde Pierce either, even in the end it’s very much Grammer’s episode (at least in terms of screen time and perspective). It’s the better—and funnier—because we get to watch Hyde Pierce over Grammer’s shoulder.

Robert Klein’s the celebrity caller, who’s… not memorable. Though Grammer’s time in the radio studio is memorable because he sings when he’s otherwise got dead air, with Gilpin making some great faces from the soundboard. It’s not the first time Grammer’s sung on screen but it’s the first time he’s done it with anyone else around.

Some good Eddie the dog moments and some great one-liners. And Mahoney showing off the Lotus Flower murder photos at the cocktail party is fantastic stuff.

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.

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