Frasier (1993) s04e05 – Head Game

The last time David Hyde Pierce got to run an episode, he shared it with Jane Leeves; this time, after Kelsey Grammer heads off to a conference leaving Hyde Pierce guest-hosting the radio show for a week, it’s all Hyde Pierce. I missed the director credit—but did happily catch the Rob Greenberg writing one, so I had high expectations—it’s David Lee, not Grammer (like last time—Moon Dance is very memorable).

The A plot kicks off after Hyde Pierce’s first show. We get to see only one of the calls, which has a great punchline, plus Peri Gilpin is messing with Hyde Pierce a little. Hyde Pierce gives an impromptu therapy session to basketball player Lorenzo Newton, who’s in a slump. Newton’s guesting on Dan Butler’s sports show—there’s a lot of good interplay between Hyde Pierce and the radio cast, it’s just not going to be the emphasis.

When Hyde Pierce gets to the apartment to tell John Mahoney about meeting the basketball player, it’s just as Newton’s about to thank Hyde Pierce on TV for the head-shrinking. Finally Mahoney gets to be proud of Hyde Pierce.

The rest of the episode has the fallout from Newton’s renewed success and Hyde Pierce’s reactions to it all. There’s a wonderful bit where Hyde Pierce, Mahoney, and Leeves get to watch a game court side and Leeves has to translate all the basketball verbiage into something Hyde Pierce can understand. There’s some good stuff with Hyde Pierce getting to be more macho—in the nineties, sports bro culture, so he’s piggish—and then great character development and dramatics for Hyde Pierce and Mahoney.

It was all supposed to be Grammer, who had to take some time off so they reworked it into a Hyde Pierce spotlight, and it shows just how well Hyde Pierce can do in the lead. “Niles” clearly would’ve worked; Hyde Pierce is just so good.

Great punchline in the end credits, outstanding performances from Hyde Pierce and Mahoney. It’s an outlier “Frasier”—an unintentional back-door proof of concept pilot—and a great one.

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