It’s a Kelsey Grammar-centric episode—it’s about Frasier’s first girlfriend since the divorce, though they’re never too specific about it (just Frasier still thinks women don’t have to pay on dates). Only he manages to screw it all up, even when he finds out the girlfriend (Amanda Donohue with such a good American accent I didn’t think it was Amanda Donohue despite looking exactly like Amanda Donohue) doesn’t have a problem with what’s bothering him.
So, the episode opens with one dropped celebrity caller (Eddie Van Halen) then another (Bruno Kirby) getting a lengthy (for “Frasier”) phone session. Kirby’s girlfriend is pushing him to commit but Kirby’s just hanging on to her as a placeholder, assuming something better will turn up. Grammer–in what is also the show’s first layered cold open punchline (Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano writing)—tells Kirby to be honest and break up. Fast forward a day—after a hilarious Christmas card picture-taking scene at the apartment, two months early—and the now ex-girlfriend, Donohue, is at the studio to confront Grammer. Turns out Kirby wasn’t entirely truthful about what Grammer told him to do so Grammer explains it all.
One thing leads to another and Grammer and Donohue get hot and heavy very quickly; David Hyde Pierce disapproves—what about Grammer’s ethics as a psychiatrist. There’s this great caller vs. patient conversation where the show says more about talk radio than it ever has before but Grammer’s able to convince Hyde Pierce it’s fine.
Until Kirby calls back and says he wants to get back together with Donohue. Grammer counsels him against it, to Peri Gilpin’s horrified face behind the glass and Hyde Pierce making similar expressions in his car as he listens. Great matching reactions from Gilpin and Hyde Pierce, one wonders if James Burrows tried to make the expressions close or if everyone just had the perfect horrified by Grammer faces.
Turns out Hyde Pierce doesn’t have to worry too much about it because the Crane boys both have comprised morale tells—Hyde Pierce’s nose bleeds and Grammer pukes. So can Frasier get through the big “at his apartment” date night without disaster?
I mean, no, obviously not, it’s a sitcom. So it’s just got to be an amusing disaster. It succeeds, thanks to Grammer being very good as the lead. The show’s got excellent, showy (and showy excellent) supporting players but it’s not like Grammer’s a slouch. He’s got to shift between sitcom slapstick and sitcom screwball and does it very well.
There’s also a great final punchline between Grammer and Eddie the dog, then the end credits are the adorable Christmas card photo outtakes.
It’s nice to see the show can hit a high above average even when it’s not stretching itself.