blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

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.

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