blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s01e15 – You Can’t Tell a Crook by His Cover

Would it be a spoiler to comment on the presence of always a cop character actor Ron Dean being in a “line-up” of three people where two are cops and one’s an ex-con? It’s fun to see Dean in a slightly different context, especially since he gets a punchline (he knows about a fancy serving plate in the apartment).

The episode’s got two big set pieces, first being Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) trying to identify the “bad apple” in dad John Mahoney’s group of poker buddies. The opening has Mahoney visiting Grammer at work and Peri Gilpin just having gotten fleeced by a con artist; Grammer’s sure his Harvard degree would undoubtedly help him identify criminals so he’d never be a victim… Mahoney bets him otherwise.

So poker night is Grammer loitering around and staring at his suspects, making accusations and asking pointed questions (he’s not allowed to ask direct questions but he can do context ones). When he finally gets to his big Agatha Christie reveal, turns out he’s wrong, but also Daphne (Jane Leeves) has set up a date with the actual criminal. Mahoney forbids her to go, Grammer encourages it, Leeves tells them both to butt out.

After a quick scene with David Hyde Pierce in the coffee shop—where we learn their decaf lattes with skim milk are called “Gutless Wonders,” which is mean, yes, but also accurate if you’ve got a ginger stomach, after all—Grammer and Hyde Pierce (who’s terrified for Leeves’s safety once informed of her plans) are off to the dive bar where she’s on her date.

The script, from David Lloyd (frequent writer and co-executive producer Christopher Lloyd’s dad), has a fine sense of balance. Grammer gets a lot in the poker game sequence, ditto Mahoney, then in the bar, Leeves gets to show off her comedic skills—not slapstick or screwball this time, but dramatically—and Hyde Pierce gets this truly marvelous bit where he describes Leeves quite poetically. Lloyd’s script is jazzed, packing in a joke everywhere it can. If the jokes didn’t land, it’d be a problem. They do, so it’s endearing.

The ending, which has the Crane boys getting into trouble in the dive bar, delivers everything the concept promises and more, with a particularly nice last laugh… making the cute but nothing more end credits joke a bit of a disappointment.

But it’s a good episode, with a nice showcase for Leeves. Though it’s unfortunate we—again—don’t get to see natural buddies Gilpin and Mahoney hang out.

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