I really wish I was keeping track of what “Frasier” writers wrote what kind of episodes, though I do know I wasn’t expecting a Crane boys outing episode from Steven Levitan. Or, at least, I would’ve expected it from other writers first. Levitan wrote an episode first season, but just the one. This episode, Breaking the Ice, fits so perfectly into the always developing relationship arc between the Crane boys—sons Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and father John Mahoney.
The episode opens with Grammer realizing Mahoney has never told him he loves him—Peri Gilpin, who only gets the opening scene and makes it count, has a great line about how much it explains about Grammer. But then we quickly get through Mahoney’s ice fishing buddy falling through and wanting the boys to go fishing with him.
Grammer says no, but after it turns out Jane Leeves thinks fishers are hot, Hyde Pierce is all aboard to go. Eventually, Grammer works out he wants to go with, in hunt of the illusive “I Love You” from Dad, and the episode moves on to the ice shack, which is going to be the single location the rest of the episode.
One of the other reasons it seems like the writer has got to be a regular—Levitan writes the whiny Grammer killjoy stuff perfectly. It’s happened in multiple episodes to this point—Grammer harangues Mahoney into a joint social outing then Grammer ruins it for everyone. It’s not a trope, it’s a character defect for Frasier and they do a great job with it.
And this episode seems to be headed on that path but then Levitan finds a different turn—alcohol and opera singing are involved—and gets to these phenomenal moments for the cast. Mahoney’s the best, but all three are excellent.
Lots of solid jokes too, including a somewhat long bit about Hyde Pierce’s fishing outfit, which moves from Grammer to Leeves because Levitan’s script is very strong. Again, very surprising he’s not a more frequent writer on the show.
Good direction from Philip Charles MacKenzie too.
It’s a really good episode; might be the strongest Crane Boys episode so far.