I glazed over the director credit—I knew it was David Lee, but David Lee turns in particularly distinctive episodes, usually just competent ones. But this time he gets to do something special—half the episode is shot on location in Seattle (the only time in the series, apparently), with David Hyde Pierce and Kesley Grammer walking around landmarks and doing their bits as they try to get to the Space Needle.
See, it’s “Frasier Crane Day” in Seattle, celebrating the thousandth episode of the radio show (which seems low for five plus years—yes, it means they take off like sixty days a year). The opening, studio-shot material has Grammer pish-poshing the idea of a celebration, so when Peri Gilpin takes him at his word and gets it shut down, he’s got to reverse course.
The script—credited to Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan—sets up some eventual pay-offs in the studio material, with Hyde Pierce getting more and more jealous of Grammer as the anniversary approaches and Jane Leeves getting a seemingly busywork subplot about renewing her passport only for it to eventually involve a very special guest star (on location).
Meanwhile, John Mahoney’s got a speech to give for the event, only he didn’t write it and it’s not funny. It’s a strange episode in how well Grammer and Hyde Pierce do while out and about in single camera location shooting land, but how badly the show does by Mahoney and Gilpin on location. Leeves comes out best of the supporting players, thanks to that pay-off cameo.
But Hyde Pierce and Grammer doing their bickering schtick while in the Public Market or on the monorail—or when we get to see them do their Crane Boys run on location—it’s a delight. Even as the episode showcases the differences between multi-camera and single camera, studio and location (there are a few times where the timing is all wrong, even though it’s a sturdy enough joke), it’s a delight.
The opening attempts at serious situational stuff—Grammer wanting praise, Hyde Pierce being jealous—don’t succeed, but when the episode actually works to a more dramatic conclusion… it’s good. The episode’s able to find a more appropriate balance.
The opening material doesn’t wow, but the location material is enough to make up for it. Though it does just make you wish they’d been able to do a whole episode with the full cast out and about.