Eric Stoltz

Frasier (1993) s01e12 – Miracle on Third or Fourth Street

It’s a Christmas episode and a good one. Just the right amount of humor and heartwarming, with Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) ending up alone on Christmas and in need of some good fellowship as it turns out.

Everything seems to be going swimmingly for Grammer’s first Christmas with Mahoney in Seattle, with his son coming in to visit him. They’re going to the Crane family Christmas at the cabin, where Maris will shoot at bears with her shotgun, which gets David Hyde Pierce a good laugh. Only the son cancels—no cameo from Bebe Neuwirth when she calls, unfortunately—leading Grammer to lash out at Mahoney, which dampens the holiday spirit.

So instead of family time, Grammer works the radio, unknowingly dragging Peri Gilpin in, away from her visiting mother. Grammer’s already gotten Gilpin a crappy Christmas gift, so when she gets too upset listening to the miserable Christmas callers, he sends her home. The image of Grammer alone in the sound booth, the voice of lonely Christmas, is rather affecting. James Burrows does an excellent job directing Grammer this episode.

Because it’s basically an all-Grammer “Frasier.” Once the family stuff is out of the way—including a great Hyde Pierce’s Daphne moment (sadly, Hyde Pierce’s adorable perving is usually separate from Leeves’s performance) and a major cringe transphobic joke—it’s just Grammer and the callers.

There are bunch of celebrity guests—Mel Brooks, Rosemary Clooney, Dominick Dunne, Ben Stiller, and Eric Stoltz—each with one story more devastating than the last. Writer Christopher Lloyd finds a great mix of humor and misery in the calls. They’re tragic but also funny in how tragic.

And then there’s the layered “Frasier” pay-off when Grammer goes out to dinner at the only place he can find open (where he doesn’t need a reservation), a greasy spoon run by Christine Estabrook. Grammer sits next to sleeping John Finn, who turns out to have been the subject of one of Grammer’s Christmas calls.

Great performance from Finn.

Then cool bit part from Hawthorne James.

See, Finn and James are experiencing homelessness but when it turns out snob on the sly Grammer might be in need of goodwill toward men… well, there’s a nice wholesome Christmas miracle.

And then a great punchline.

Exactly what a Christmas episode should be.

Minus the transphobic joke.

The Fly II (1989, Chris Walas)

One of the great tragedies for soap operas has to be Fly II director Chris Walas being too good with special effects–his company does them on the film–to have to direct soap operas. With the exception of these high angle shots of impossibly expansive sets, presumably to emulate thirties horror films, Walas is a supremely mediocre director. There isn’t a single good shot in The Fly II, but there isn’t a bad shot either.

It’s a shame, really, because it gives the film a curiosity value. Walas’s painfully competent presentation of the truly insipid script never entertains or engages, but one finds him or herself transfixed. How dumb can it get next.

Sadly, there are only two good performances in the film. Daphne Zuniga isn’t as bad as everyone else, which isn’t a compliment, but both Harley Cross and John Getz are good. Getz is in a scene or two, reprising from the original, and he’s having a good time and cashing a paycheck. Cross is the lead character as a ten year-old and is actually quite good. If The Fly II were some crazy story about a ten year-old boy-fly, it’d be a lot more entertaining.

But Walas can’t direct actors. Inexplicably, he’s got lousy actors in the film. Ann Marie Lee and Garry Chalk are real bad as the sub-villains, while Lee Richardson gives it a very “Days of Our Lives” vibe as Mr. Big.

And Eric Stoltz is an anemic lead.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Wales; screenplay by Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat and Frank Darabont, based on a story by Garris and characters created by George Langelaan; director of photography, Robin Vidgeon; edited by Sean Barton; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Michael S. Bolton; produced by Steven-Charles Jaffe; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Eric Stoltz (Martin), Daphne Zuniga (Beth), Lee Richardson (Bartok), Harley Cross (10 year old Martin), Garry Chalk (Scorby), Ann Marie Lee (Jainway), Frank C. Turner (Shepard) and John Getz (Stathis).


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