At first it seems like Crane vs. Crane is going to be a Martin (John Mahoney) versus his snobby sons episode, as it opens with David Hyde Pierce going on about how he’s going to be on Court TV testifying in a competency hearing for an old lumber baron (Donald O’Connor) whose son is trying to take his money away from him. Hyde Pierce is joking about O’Connor’s diminished capacities, which upsets Mahoney. Kelsey Grammer sides with Hyde Pierce.
Right up until he gets hired to evaluate O’Connor himself—Grammer initially disagrees but then thinks he should do it in order to make sure Hyde Pierce isn’t making any mistakes. At O’Connor’s mansion, he finds an eccentric philanthropist who likes having fun and Grammer becomes more and more convinced little brother Hyde Pierce has got it wrong. Grammer just doesn’t want him to embarrass himself.
Fast forward to the court room—the episode’s got a rather good couple special locations in—O’Connor’s mansion play-land and the court set. Now it’s time for the show down; Hyde Pierce is ready (and ready for the cameras) and Grammer’s ready to tear him down. It’s just a question of who’s going to go first.
There are a lot of good jokes this episode—starting right away with a combination Eddie and Wagner (the composer) joke; there’s a particularly good Hyde Pierce speaking German lyrics moment. The way David Lloyd’s script nimbly segues between the subplots in the bickering with Mahoney, Grammer, and Hyde Pierce at the opening primes the episode. It’s a very good script from Lloyd.
Because in addition to the joke jokes with Grammer learning how to be playful or the amazing courtroom sequence, there are also these very earnest, raw, tender scenes for Hyde Pierce and Grammer as Hyde Pierce has to confront his jealousy over Grammer’s notoriety and how it’s affecting Hyde Pierce’s professional conduction. Usually it’s just subtext for a laugh, here everyone wants to examine it under fluorescents. It’s an impressive change of tone on it too, with Hyde Pierce giving the better performance but Grammer doing quite well too. There’s a tonal shift in how the episode addresses that aspect of the plot and that character conflict. It really works out.
There’s also a tiny subplot for Peri Gilpin about her fixing up the calls Grammer gets wrong on the show, which is a wonderful detail even if it’s a throwaway in this episode.