Peri Gilpin

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) s02e11 – Seat of Power

Steven Levitan wrote this episode. Levitan’s one of the few sitcom people whose names I recognize. I didn’t realize he’d done “Frasier.” Turns out this is his first of four episodes. Recognizing the writer (though not remembering he hadn’t contributed a script to credit level before Seat), I paid the writing a lot of attention. Even when there are distractions like trying to identify the celebrity caller (it’s Macaulay Culkin, it’d be concerning if anyone could recognize him in 1994 when it aired) and then a somewhat funny Roz (Peri Gilpin) scene. It’s Gilpin’s only scene in the episode; it’s memorable enough, I guess.

And it does bury the proverbial lede. It’s going to be a Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce episode and it’s going to involve Hyde Pierce confronting his childhood bully. I’m not sure if the Crane boys going to public school was always canon (it almost seems like it wouldn’t be), but it’s definitely what the episode goes with. The episode’s theme—Levitan gives it a theme—is about the Crane boys trying to feel more manly even if they are snobs with European cars. After John Mahoney heckles Grammer for not being able to fix his own toilet, Grammer and Hyde Pierce give it the Crane Brothers go.

So we get this hilarious scene of Grammer and Hyde Pierce trying to do home repairs—including the first look at the apartment’s gigantic master bathroom (because they need pacing room)—but it’s just a bit on the way to the main event. The plumber turns out to be John C. McGinley, who bullied Hyde Pierce in elementary school.

Hyde Pierce goes through a very physical, very funny meltdown while Grammer tries to contain him. Hijinks and complications and hilarity ensue. It’s a great episode. Nice developments for Grammer, Mahoney, and Jane Leeves throughout. Hyde Pierce gets a bunch of spotlight moments, which the rest of the cast shares. They’re really good together (it’s an apartment-based episode so everyone’s around).

James Burrows’s direction is good. It’s always good. Sometimes you can just tell it’s one of his episodes though, based on the pacing of the actors.

It’s another good exemplar episode.

Frasier (1993) s02e10 – Burying a Grudge

David Lloyd wrote a John Mahoney-centric episode last season so he seems the right fit for this episode, which is about Mahoney having to bury the hatchet with his ex-partner and best friend, Lincoln Kilpatrick, as both men have long retired and experiencing health issues. David Lloyd is father of fellow “Frasier” writer Christopher Lloyd (no relation to the other Christopher Lloyd) and the episodes both have Kelsey Grammer very much in the son role… I wonder whose idea it was to have Lloyd père do the father and son episodes.

Anyway.

The episode opens with a long radio bit—and Peri Gilpin’s sole appearance—and the final punchline is only for folks who know celebrity callers Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who play a bickering couple, were a night club act, a Hollywood screenwriting duo, and Broadway lyricists. It’s a deep cut, especially when the show aired in 1994 and you couldn’t just Google.

The Mahoney plot line starts off with David Hyde Pierce asking for some emotional support; Maris is going in for some plastic surgery and would Grammer and Mahoney come along. When Grammer gets there, he discovers Mahoney’s old pal Kilpatrick, leading to he and Hyde Pierce figuring out how they can interfere; it’s pretty epical from there.

And quite good.

Mahoney’s great. It helps there’s a punchline to the conflict more than a reveal, even though it takes the combine nagging of Grammer, Hyde Pierce, and Jane Leeves to get it out of Mahoney.

Leeves has a great scene, Hyde Pierce has a great scene or two—lots of just letting Hyde Pierce do a bit but it’s such a good bit it’s a win—and Grammer’s very good at being sincere in his concerns while still annoyingly neurotic.

Nice direction from Andy Ackerman, who gives the episode a relaxed pace but never a slow one. It works quite well with the script.

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.

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) s02e06 – The Botched Language of Cranes

There’s a really bad line in this episode—written by Joe Keenan, back after a big success with his first script a few episodes ago—about Kelsey Grammer not being willing to emcee a Catholic Church charity event but willing to do the “Miss Teenage Seattle” one.

So. Ew. Nineties. Also it comes up in a conversation with Peri Gilpin. Ew. Nineties.

Grammer is going to end up doing that Catholic Church charity because he puts his foot in his mouth about Seattle on air and pisses off his listeners. At one point John Mahoney is reading about the controversy in the newspaper—Grammer’s in a mood about the rainy weather—and reads from the “Derek Mann” column. Mann was a voice character last season and for a while I was hoping there’d be a rematch (Joe Mantegna did the voice).

Turns out there isn’t one, but it’s okay because it manages to go from bad to worse to more worse to even more worse, with Grammer articulately bumbling his way through the whole affair. It’s a Grammar-centered episode, with some great material for Gilpin and David Hyde Pierce (including together, so everyone’s taken notice of their banter).

The episode also has the first time Maris is on location, just not with the other characters. She goes to the charity and is trying to social climb—which comes with some great narration from Hyde Pierce—while not sitting at the table with the rest of the cast.

There are a lot of good jokes, especially at the charity, where Mahoney’s got a previous history with nun Helen Geller and Grammer’s about the make his own. Keenan comes up with a fantastic twist for the last Grammer foot-in-his-mouth section….

Jane Leeves doesn’t get much, other than ignoring Hyde Pierce sniffing her hair at one point (I barely noticed it because it’s so on brand for him), but she does get a fantastic monologue about ringing phones.

Two guest callers—Alfre Woodard and Sandra Dee—with Woodard being the one who ends up getting Grammer in trouble and then Dee reading him her version of a riot act.

It’s a good one. Keenan’s dialogue’s real funny. And David Lee’s directing is good too. He’s got a nice rhythm with the actors.

Frasier (1993) s02e05 – Duke’s, We Hardly Knew Ye

Linda Morris and Vic Rauseo write this one, making it the first episode of the season to have season writers back (credited anyway), and they go in for the laughs from the start. We get Peri Gilpin on a chocolate hunt—leading to a fantastic rant about Raisinets—before David Hyde Pierce shows up to the studio to talk to Kelsey Grammer about an investment in a development company, but with Gilpin and Hyde Pierce banter. It’s constantly funny, like Morris and Rauseo had been stockpiling a bunch of good lines. Appropriately, a little later on, John Mahoney gets Jane Leeves with a British royalty-related zinger and even says he’d been saving it.

So all very funny.

Leeves has this subplot—which doesn’t age particularly well when you think about it for more than eight seconds—about going on a third date with a boyfriend and Grammer and Mahoney giving her knowing looks. Only she doesn’t know what they’re talking about because she wasn’t raised on American sitcoms in the eighties and nineties.

It’s funny—and Leeves—is good, but it’s kind of weird to hear in 2020.

The main plot has Mahoney finally inviting Grammer and Hyde Pierce to his favorite bar, where Mahoney’s never invited anyone, making Grammer and Hyde Pierce feel very honored. Turns out it’s because the bar’s closing. Because it’s being torn down. By Grammer and Hyde Pierce’s development company.

There’s a nice bit of family drama for Grammer and Mahoney eventually, but before that stage, there’s time for some more Gilpin and Hyde Pierce jabbing at each other (clearly Morris and Rauseo like that chemistry), and the episode’s got a fine close.

The episode’s a great showcase for the cast—it plays to all individual strengths (particularly the Mahoney and Grammer dynamic)—and probably an excellent “Frasier” sampler. The third date stuff aside.

Frasier (1993) s02e04 – Flour Child

I missed the Christopher Lloyd credit during the opening titles—James Burrows directing is no surprise—so I got to watch the episode without any writerly expectations. It feels somewhat like a first season episode, back when the show was establishing its take on structure. Here, we get a big setup to the episode from Peri Gilpin (I was right, her being mad at him calling her a slut is forgotten) giving Kelsey Grammer his itinerary because he’s helpless. He’s got a card to sign for a sick guy, then out to dinner with dad John Mahoney and brother David Hyde Pierce.

It certainly seems like an awkward dinner out with Mahoney setup, but it turns out to be this hilarious scene with Grammer, Mahoney, and Hyde Pierce having to deliver cabbie Charlayne Woodard’s baby. Lots of great lines—and perfect performances from Woodard, Mahoney, and Hyde Pierce (Grammer staying out of the way because the actors on “Frasier” never try to upstage).

But the episode isn’t about the delivery, which apparently involves Hyde Pierce bravely running up the block to get hot water from a restaurant; it’s about Hyde Pierce wanting a baby of his own and carrying around a sack of flour to get the feel for it.

The episode does a beautiful job letting Hyde Pierce be bumblingly terrible with the “baby,” while also being entirely sympathetic. Mahoney thinks the whole thing’s stupid, which has some validity, but Hyde Pierce manages to so earnest. It’s still comedy though, with the teleplay the thing and Hyde Pierce’s almost touching performance just in service of the episode overall. There’s really good acting on “Frasier,” with a mix of styles, all working out.

Jane Leeves and Gilpin are support—Gilpin for a Grammer subplot involving the get well card and Leeves as additional laughs around the apartment. And Leeves gets them. She’s got a scene bantering with herself (voicing character Daphne arguing with her mother) and it’s absolutely fantastic.

It’s a rather good episode. Burrows keeps just the right pace.

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