blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s03e16 – Look Before You Leap

Look Before You Leap is one of those exemplar “Frasier” episodes. It’s just the regular cast, it’s just the regular sets, and it’s perfect situation comedy.

The episode starts with Kelsey Grammer taking Eddie the dog for a walk, which should’ve forecasted everything being off since Grammer abhorring the dog is one of the show staples. It’s February 29th—a leap year—and Grammer starts encouraging everyone to take a “leap,” which leads to disastrous results for nearly everyone involved. Once the episode—with a great script credited to Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano—establishes things aren’t going to go well for anyone, it becomes a waiting game to see how the disasters are going to unfold.

Grammer gets the idea from dad John Mahoney talking about his friend having a big sixteenth birthday party (which leads to Mahoney doing an outstanding impression of Jane Leeves’s Daphne character, giving some wonderful insight into the characters’ relationship between their scenes). Whether it’s flying to Montana for the party, Leeves getting her hair cut, or Peri Gilpin using the radio show to try to find a missed connection from her morning commute, Grammer can’t stop encouraging people to be bold with the extra day.

Except brother David Hyde Pierce, who gets an unexpected request for a booty call from estranged, ever offscreen wife Maris, and Grammer spends the episode telling him not to do it. Hyde Pierce doing uncontrollably horny is probably the funniest thing in the episode; they use the device sparingly because it’s just so good. Great physical comedy from Hyde Pierce. And also great banter for he and Grammer; Ranberg and Flett-Giordano find a perfect balance between talking heads, sight gags, and so on. Gilpin gets a similar mix of styles, including a nice bit during the PBS telethon finale, where Grammer is going to make his own “leap” in his choice of song.

There’s a great punchline at the finish, then another great one during the end credits.

I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed the studio audiences’ laughs delaying the actors so much before. After at least two particularly excellent jokes, Hyde Pierce and Grammer visibly have to wait for things to calm down enough so they’re not talking about the still laughing audience.

Eventually good direction from James Burrows? It’s weird, but it’s like he takes a second to wake up in the first act. He’s initially lethargic, then has this too rapid swoosh of a camera movement and is good afterwards.

It’s a great episode. Excellent performances all around, particularly Hyde Pierce.

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