blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s04e20 – Daphne Hates Sherry

There’s some truly great stuff this episode—Kelsey Grammer directs and continues his extremely gentle look at the potential chemistry between David Hyde Pierce and Jane Leeves (he directed the previous Moon Dance episode, which was the first time the show really acknowledged the potential)—but there’s also some very messy stuff.

The messy stuff starts, with Marsha Mason moving in on Leeves’s space in the apartment. Mason’s John Mahoney’s girlfriend, who’s taken to sleeping over, and discouraging Mahoney from eating healthy and exercising; Leeves—being his physical therapist—has an investment in Mahoney doing both those things. In fact, it’s her only investment. The episode entirely skirts around the intrusion at the professional level, then ups the ante with Mason giving out Leeves’s phone number to the various barflies she knows who are looking to score.

So, you would think part of the episode would include Grammer and Mahoney—as Leeves’s employers—addressing the inappropriateness of Mason essentially promising her acquaintances physical favors from their employee, but they don’t. Instead, everyone’s able to get over it once Grammer comes in to solve the problems because he’s the only one who can do it. He’s been too busy to solve the problems because he’s sick (not to mention directing the episode), leaving Leeves with no alternative than to seek refuge at Hyde Pierce’s, where they get really close to horizontal. See, there’s a heat wave to complicate matters, especially since Hyde Pierce only has a single fan and no air-conditioning because fancy buildings don’t have AC.

The stuff with Hyde Pierce and Leeves bonding and flirting is phenomenal, with wonderful acting from both of them.

The stuff with Leeves and Mason fighting while Mahoney grins or takes no responsibility for the situation—much less a side—is annoying. It’s admirable how well Mason’s able to sway from being likable to not, but when taken as a whole, her character is exceptionally problematic through this episode.

Most of the episode takes place at the apartments, Grammer’s and Hyde Pierce’s, with a short scene at the radio station to establish Grammer’s illness, continued status as a desperate single man (Peri Gilpin tries to get him to go to a singles party), and give Gilpin and Dan Butler a scene in the episode. The rest of the time it’s Mason picking on Leeves, Leeves and Hyde Pierce in a Tennessee Williams spoof, and Grammer occasionally popping in to complain about people bothering him while he’s sick.

There’s some really good writing—script credit to Chuck Ranberg and Anne Flett-Giordano—and even a great punchline for Hyde Pierce in the otherwise pat conclusion, but the episode’s way too willing to empty the pool on characters’ proverbial depths. Leeves’s agency drains and Mason gets through without ever having to confront the idea of her intruding on privacy, even though it’s painfully obvious she’s been doing it. Despite the wonderful scenes between Hyde Pierce and Leeves (it’s such good directing from Grammer too), Leeves doesn’t need a shoulder to cry on, she needs the HR department. The episode also doesn’t do Mahoney any favors, reducing him to support for Mason.

It’s got to be one of the most uneven “Frasier” so far.

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