blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s04e10 – Liar! Liar!

It’s a Seabees episode, but only sort of and only at the beginning (the Seabees are the annual radio awards on “Frasier” and there’s always an episode). Always with conditions, however, as the episode opens in the apartment at Kelsey Grammer’s Seabees after party, where the regular cast is doing their best to get the extras out so the story can start. The only winner at the awards was Dan Butler, who annoys everyone with his bragging, and there’s a great sequence with Peri Gilpin getting him out of the apartment under false pretenses. The episode’s going to be about lying, specifically the consequences of it. Though there’s going to be a lot of privilege in play and how sometimes that privilege can get you out of consequences.

Seriously, white men avoiding responsibility for their actions in an amusing way is basically the most standard sitcom trope.

Turns out when they were kids, Grammer and David Hyde Pierce pulled the fire alarm at their prep school and dad John Mahoney defended them as not being liars. They were, in fact, liars. And utterly indifferent to their lie getting another kid expelled. The other kid bullied them—even being established as the primary culprit in Hyde Pierce’s infamous, previously established flag-pole hanging—so Hyde Pierce feels no guilt while Grammer just has to know how the kid’s life went.

Turns out it did not pass go and went straight to jail , which is where Grammer goes to meet the grown-up kid, now an intimidating adult played by Saul Stein. Thanks to Grammer’s prodding, Stein’s able to identify the most salient point in his juvenile delinquency as it relates to long term effects—back when he was kicked out of a prep school where he could’ve gotten out of his working class situation and excelled as a productive white collar member of society. Grammer feels bad he’s given Stein so much self-awareness, so he sets out to right Stein’s rocky relationship with his wife, Carlene Watkins.

Little does Grammer know Watkins is a sex addict who needs the danger and nothing’s more dangerous than Stein potentially killing her partners during coitus.

As they do, complications ensue, and manage to get Grammer to the finish without actually having to learn any real lessons or to make writers Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano—who write a very funny script (one caveat in a moment)—figure out if there’s a moral. Given Mahoney’s the moral authority in the episode, some kind of resolution with him would help but he’s out. After his initial outrage, he instead joins the Hyde Pierce and Jane Leeves subplot, which has Hyde Pierce hurting his back (adjusting his Mercedes’s seat) and Leeves applying an icy then very hot liniment to make him feel better. Mahoney hates the stuff, Hyde Pierce has to appear tough. Lots and lots of great physical comedy from Hyde Pierce and decent material for Leeves and Mahoney, but it definitely doesn’t do anything for Mahoney’s pseudo-arc.

The aforementioned iffy bit is a “too early to actually be hurtfully transphobic” joke but it’s iffy because it’s also slightly misogynist in addition to be mired in toxic masculinity. It’s a way easier joke than Ranberg and Flett-Giordano’s other easy jokes in the episode and they seem to realize it’s a dead-end because it too doesn’t get the natural resolution. Though the natural resolution would’ve definitely been hurtfully transphobic?

It’s a solid episode, with a lot of potential—Watkins and Stein are excellent guest stars (look, two in the same episode again)—but the end is a definite cop out.

Also, the question of why does Frasier Crane have a lighter is possibly more profound than why does God need a starship.

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