This episode’s gimmick—Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce fanboying over J.D. Salinger analogue Robert Prosky, who just wants to drink Ballantine’s and watching baseball with John Mahoney—ages really well. We hit peak pseudo-Salinger four years later with Finding Forrester (raise your hand if you too had a friend who thought Forrester was a real guy because the world before Wikipedia was even more lies) so A Crane’s Critique still feels inventive about it. Plus Prosky is great and not at all what Grammer and Hyde Pierce are expecting.
But the episode also ages well because everything involved—Grammer, Hyde Pierce, Mahoney (who strongly disapproves of their embarrassing fanboying), the script (credited to Dan Cohen and F.J. Pratt), and Jeff Melman’s direction—understands how good Grammer and Hyde Pierce are together when the energy’s right. This episode has little bits of competition but mostly it’s the two working as a team; first they want to meet Prosky, chasing him through the streets (as much as you can without location shooting or a street set), then they want Mahoney to introduce them… then they find themselves alone with his latest manuscript.
Lots of laughs for Grammer and Hyde Pierce as they embarrass themselves in front of Prosky, Mahoney, and, you know, themselves. Mahoney’s entirely support on the A plot, while Jane Leeves’s C plot with Eddie the dog—one keeps watch while the other does something Grammer wouldn’t like—ends up being closer to the B. Peri Gilpin shows up for the opening scene, where she and Hyde Pierce get to trade good barbs.
It’s an excellent episode. Grammer and Hyde Pierce’s chemistry and their timing together is delightful to watch, but the writing and the directing play a large part.
And even though he’s just support, Mahoney’s awesome too.