For the third season finale, “Frasier” goes with the wholesome flashback (with some bite) route. The script’s from Linda Morris and Vic Rauseo, which is appropriate for the flashback—although they’re executive producers, they haven’t had many script credits this season—but they wrote a bunch in the first and second seasons.
The episode opens establishing it’s the three year anniversary of “The Frasier Crane Show” on the radio—which had already happened in the first episode of the series—and Kelsey Grammer and Peri Gilpin get each other gifts. She gets him a recording of the first episode of the radio show, which he goes home and puts on, kicking off the flashback.
Along the way to the tape deck, Grammer walks in on Jane Leeves on the phone with her mum in England, trying to get out of her annual visit home. They have a quick chat about how annoying family gets, then Grammer puts on the tape and the flashback begins.
It’s set about six months (or is it three) before the first episode of the show and if Grammer’s short hair is any indication, either they’re not worrying about hair style continuity or Frasier cut his hair after “Cheers” but grew it out in time for “Frasier: Season One.” We get the first meeting between Grammer and Gilpin, which has a lot of the biting humor before finding a rather nice resolution, then we check in on Grammer and the other Crane boys, David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney. They’re at an even more dysfunctional stage than when we meet them in the first episode, with Grammer still a beer drinker who finds Hyde Pierce a “weird little person” and Mahoney still living on his own.
There’s some good comedy for everyone, plus some rather solid gravitas for Mahoney and Grammer before the nice wholesome wrap-up. There are also some amusing “continuity-safe” moments like Hyde Pierce getting a whiff of Leeves’s perfume before ever meeting her, plus some bickering with Gilpin before they’re formally introduced, which happens onscreen.
It’s a good episode, with the initial Gilpin and Grammer stuff and Hyde Pierce in general being the flashback highlights. The stuff with Mahoney and Grammer is well-acted and decently affecting, but it’s not memorable or weighty. The good cheer in the resolution is a far better season send-off.
Also we get to hear the first caller ever on the radio show in the flashback–played by Sherry Lansing, chairman of Paramount Pictures at the time. It sort of makes sense (since “Frasier” is Paramount) but also doesn’t (she doesn’t appear to have had anything to do with television).