Frasier (1993) s03e23 – The Focus Group

The episode opens with a lengthy setup for the eventual A plot, getting most of the B plot out of the way in an early chunk. Both Daphne (Jane Leeves) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) are upset; she’s mad at her boyfriend for ditching her on their anniversary weekend to go to Vegas (we learn John Mahoney really likes strip clubs so long as the strippers are lecturing about American history) and Hyde Pierce is mad because he got some foie gras on a Jackson Pollock and needs to pay to get it cleaned.

Their bad moods collide in a bickering session, which is fine but more amusing when they both apologize, only then we find out Hyde Pierce is rather excited by the whole thing. Presumably Leeves just goes off to sulk appropriately about the boyfriend while Hyde Pierce does a “walk and talk” with Kelsey Grammer about it. Presumably because we don’t establish she’s left the room.

The main plot is about the focus group for Grammer’s radio show, specifically how special guest star Tony Shalhoub (not playing his “Wings” character, despite “Frasier” and “Wings” being cousins) doesn’t like the show. Grammer starts obsessing over it, eventually wrangling Mahoney into questioning Shalhoub after the focus group and so on. It’s great stuff, the right mix of an infinitely capable guest star in Shalhoub and Grammer being able to be a complete ass. Plus really good use of exteriors and the chemistry between the regular cast, specifically Grammer, Mahoney, and Hyde Pierce.

There’s some decent stuff with Peri Gilpin during the focus group scene—she and Grammer aren’t supposed to be watching the discussion but for some reason get to watch the discussion (or maybe the focus group facilitator is just a liar)—though it gets a little weird at the end for the end credits thing. Sometimes realistic for the characters doesn’t mean it should make the cut. Especially when it’s really gross.

I suppose I should’ve prefaced mentioning Dan Butler shows up to give his take during the focus group too.

Excellent direction from Philip Charles MacKenzie, sometimes good, sometimes better script from Rob Greenberg, and great performances from Shalhoub and Grammer. Even with a few bumps, it’s an exemplar episode (thanks to Shalhoub).

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