blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s05e01 – Frasier’s Imaginary Friend

There’s very little as satisfying as the season premiere immediately addressing my problems with the previous season’s finale and remedying them. That episode ended with Kelsey Grammer, lovelorn, following a woman (Lisa Guerrero) onto an airplane and pretending he was always on her flight. This episode opens with Guerrero getting very creeped out by Grammer’s behavior and moving to another seat.

When Grammer tries his luck with the next available female passenger (Kimberly Oja), he soon finds himself hunting for another seat himself.

It turns out to be for the best because then he meets zoologist Ph.D. candidate and supermodel, Sela Ward, who thinks he’s swell. They hit it off so well, they become secret boyfriend and girlfriend while away; she’s going through a messy breakup from a football player and doesn’t want anyone to know she’s already started seeing someone else.

So when Grammer gets back home and everyone thinks he’s struck out on his impulsive trip to Mexico… it doesn’t take long before he starts bragging about her. Only no one believes him—with David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney quickly going from amused to concerned (while Jane Leeves stays firmly amused, with some great one-liners)–and every time Ward has a moment for Grammer, she gets called away.

Eventually everything gets resolved (with half the same plot point as “Schitt’s Creek” would use decades later), after some amazing ranting from Grammer and great comedic acting from Ward. She’s mostly in the opening and closing of the episode—with a brief scene in between—and she’s really good at the comedy. It always seems like network drama actors were more impressive in the sitcoms.

There are some great scenes for Grammer as he tries to prove the relationship and not realize how absurd he sounds—though there are also a few shades of toxic masculinity about the secret ex-boyfriend football player—and both Mahoney and Hyde Pierce get some good moments as well. Rob Greenberg’s the credited writer and the script’s the best he’s had his name on so far. It’s such a convoluted, layered premise, there isn’t room for a lot of easy jokes. And the whole thing does play like a repudiation of the cringe-inducing previous season closer. Odd Greenberg’s doing it.

Solid direction from David Lee. Nothing earth shattering but just a good sitcom; he focuses well on having Ward guest starring. In fact, the episode doesn’t have any subplots—other than the supporting cast trying to figure out if Grammer’s full of it–it’s very focused.

It’s an excellent season premiere.

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