Frasier (1993) s03e21 – Where There’s Smoke There’s Fired

It’s time for the seasonal Bebe (Harriet Sansom Harris) episode and it’s another fantastic one. I keep looking at Harris’ IMDb page because her never winning an Emmy for this part has got to be a mistake. She wasn’t even nominated, yet she’s so good.

But we don’t know right off Harris is going to figure in; the episode starts with David Hyde Pierce struggling to get a loan for a new antique footstool. He’s struggling to live without separated wife Maris’s money; it’s going to be the closest thing the episode gets to a main subplot—I guess if it’s the B plot, there’s a great, tiny C plot involving the other radio personalities at the station. Hyde Pierce is eventually going to join a warehouse club, which is leads to a really funny moment.

The main plot starts with Peri Gilpin arriving at the apartment—leading to some great banter between her and Hyde Pierce—to tell Kesley Grammer the scoop on the radio station’s new owner, a Texan named Big Willy (Richard Hamilton in a perfect little part). Grammer and Gilpin want to ingratiate themselves as much as possible because Hamilton’s all about syndicating shows. If only Grammer could get ahold of Harris, but she’s mysteriously unavailable.

Because she’s busy being engaged to Hamilton, which comes as a great punchline after they set up Hamilton wanting Grammer to cure his new fiancée of her smoking in three days time. Syndication hangs in the balance so how can Grammer refuse.

The second half of the episode is all of Grammer’s efforts to get Harris to give up the smokes over the three days; they’re sequestered at the apartment, so Harris gets to interact with the entire supporting cast (well, except Gilpin, unfortunately). But there’s great stuff for Harris and Jane Leeves, while John Mahoney sort of gets to solo his gags. They’re great, but they’re separate. Hyde Pierce meanwhile sort of bonds with fellow marry-upper Harris.

The episode—written by Joe Keenan, who wrote Harris’s last episode—spotlights her performance. She gets a show-stopper monologue about cigarettes, then an excellent physical comedy sequence (good direction from Philip Charles MacKenzie); it’s her episode. Though Grammer does get an eventual killer monologue of his own; it’s still not as good as Harris’s.

It’s an awesome episode. Harris is a wonder.

Just hope someone fixes her IMDb before next season’s Bebe episode.

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