Patti LuPone

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.

State and Main (2000, David Mamet)

Something unfortunate happens during the last third of State and Main… Mamet realizes he needs a story.

He goes so long without traditional narrative elements—the film has, at best, a roaming protagonist and Mamet doesn’t do much establish the ground situation as hint at one for smiles. Mamet doesn’t go for belly laughs in the script, he goes for nods and smiles. It works better, since he’s dealing with cynical Hollywood types in small town America.

Of course, it’s small town New England, so he can make sure the town’s residents are all quite literate.

For the most part, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s independent playwright turned Hollywood screenwriter is the protagonist. State and Main, the non-comic parts, is about his relationship with townsperson Rebecca Pidgeon. It’s a good on-screen romance… very classical. Mamet doesn’t know how to really finish it, turning Pidgeon into a nice Lady Macbeth at one point, but it’s otherwise excellent. Both Hoffman and Pidgeon are great.

But there’s no bad acting in the film. William H. Macy’s, Alec Baldwin, Julia Stiles, David Paymer, Lionel Mark Smith, Patti LuPone… everyone’s great. Mamet—doing a really mellow story—does exceeding well directing his cast.

Oh, and Sarah Jessica Parker? Great. I always forget she can be really good.

Clark Gregg’s small town slime bag’s fun too.

Very appropriate score from Theodore Shapiro.

The only complaint, besides the finale, is Mamet’s lack of establishing long shots. He never sets up the small town besides on street level.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by David Mamet; director of photography, Oliver Stapleton; edited by Barbara Tulliver; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Gemma Jackson; produced by Sarah Green; released by Fine Line Features.

Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman (Joseph Turner White), Rebecca Pidgeon (Ann), William H. Macy (Walt Price), Clark Gregg (Doug Mackenzie), Sarah Jessica Parker (Claire Wellesley), Alec Baldwin (Bob Barrenger), Julia Stiles (Carla), Charles Durning (Mayor George Bailey), Patti LuPone (Sherry Bailey) and David Paymer (Marty Rossen).


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