blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s04e19 – Three Dates and a Breakup

I don’t know if Rob Greenberg is actually on my list of “Frasier” writers to worry about or if I just think he’s on my list of “Frasier” writers to worry about and I’m mistaking the standard nineties misogyny with it being a repeating problem for Greenberg. Either way, there’s a lot to unpack, as the misogyny interacts with classism, ageism, and just plain old toxic masculinity.

The forty-eight minute episode—a two-parter, which originally aired the same night then went on to get split for syndication I assume—gets off on the wrong foot, with Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce mocking Peri Gilpin for being sweaty while jogging. She’s going to get a subplot about how her self-esteem is entirely based on what her hometown acquaintances think of her appearance. At no point do professionally trained psychiatrists Grammer or Hyde Pierce do anything but encourage her in this pursuit, albeit with an eye roll because, you know, women are silly.

It’s a profoundly thin subplot, ending with Marsha Mason age-shaming Gilpin? Hopefully Gilpin got to keep the elegant gown she eventually casually strolls around in, but it’s a heck of a subplot in a two-parter about Grammer getting dates with three women on three consecutive days. He’s so happy about it he calls and brags to a (sadly offscreen) Norm Peterson (from “Cheers”). On each of these dates, however, Mason shows up to spoil things. She and John Mahoney are in a fight and Mason’s presence in the apartment messes up the evening for Grammer. But more for his dates, as Mason tends to reveal the things Grammer’s been lying to them about in order to get them in bed.

Ah, the nineties.

Hyde Pierce’s subplot is being jealous of Grammer and also trying to make sure Mason and Mahoney’s fight ends in a breakup, even after it becomes clear the tension is having really negative effects on Mahoney. Initially only Jane Leeves—whose subplot about trying out an American accent isn’t funny, but is the only one where you don’t cringe at some point—notices something wrong with Mahoney, but soon Grammer’s picked it up and out of concern and empathy, changes his tune on Mason (he and Hyde Pierce hate her for being brassy). There’s some great material for Grammer in the finish with Mahoney, but there’s never any great material for Mahoney or Mason, even though the episode’s actually about them.

None of Grammer’s three dates make much impression–two are caricatures, one isn’t even in it enough to be a caricature. Greenberg writes the caricatures as hysterical tropes, while the last is apparently even shallower than Hyde Pierce (or Grammer just thinks so little of her, but, you know, in a good way because society girl?).

There’s some really nice direction from Jeff Melman, but given where the episode goes for Mahoney and Mason, they really ought to have gotten more. It’s also not surprising at all they didn’t; if Greenberg isn’t on my writer problem list, I’m definitely going to remember him for next time.

Though, wait, the C plot about the security guard being able to see in the elevators ends up pretty funny. Could be funnier, but it’s an actual solid laugh and not one where you’re laughing with the bully or lying serial dater.

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