My sitcom nostalgias date me but still aren’t bad ones. For instance, the Nathan Lane cameo in this episode of “Frasier,” back when having a Nathan Lane cameo was awesome. Lane shows up in the last act of the episode, which has Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) scrambling to recover his belongings and his good name after his briefcase gets lifted.
The lifting isn’t his fault, but Grammer’s subsequent attempts to placate the thief lead to not just his briefcase then car getting stolen, but also his good name. Sort of. The last straw will involve a cast of mistaken identity, the most Frasier-friendly lass in a while (“Simon & Simon”’s Joan McMurtrey), samaritan Lane, and the Seattle P.D. The cops have already heard about Grammer’s too trusting nature as ex-cop dad John Mahoney has been staying in touch trying to influence the investigation in Grammer’s behalf.
Whether Grammer likes it or not.
It’s a Christopher Lloyd script, which opens with what seems like it should be a bigger deal truce between Peri Gilpin and David Hyde Pierce, who discover they both enjoy teasing one another and so they might as well be pals on that basis. Plus Grammer’s sometimes a buffoon and they can both laugh at him.
Otherwise Hyde Pierce’s big subplot is about how he holds the door open for beautiful women who don’t thank him, which then makes him upset about decorum only he’s unable to talk to beautiful women. Hyde Pierce does his best with it, but it’s like Lloyd forgot what show he was writing for.
There’s a great bit for Jane Leeves however, who gets to do a fantastic reminiscence with a great punchline.
The episode’s often really funny—leveraging Grammer well—but there’s definitely something off about it at the end. There’s just no sense of scale. Director Philip Charles MacKenzie is not James Burrows and it shows. “Frasier” doesn’t need Burrows, but it does need someone who gets the tableau he sets.