It’s a particularly excellent episode, with the cast—minus Jane Leeves, who gets one great showcase scene and is then out—going on an Alaskan cruise. Peri Gilpin’s got a friend looking to book a celebrity entertainer and after some mild cajoling (and Gore Vidal-name dropping), Kelsey Grammer agrees to go and give a speech.
David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney end up going with after Grammer gets home to find a despondent Hyde Pierce loitering around the apartment. Maris is giving him the cold shoulder on their wedding anniversary after he had thought it would be a good time to work on their reconnecting. Mahoney just wants the buffet.
The opening is tightly executed; Jeffrey Richman’s got the writing credit, Pamela Fryman directs. There’s just the right combination of jokes and exposition to set up the idea of the cruise, both at the radio station with Gilpin and Grammer, then back at the apartment. Because once they get on the ship, it’s a comedy of errors and the jokes are going to be fast and frequent, putting the cast through their paces.
The initial setup on the cruise is Grammer pissed off he doesn’t have the nicest room, Mahoney overeating at the buffets, Hyde Pierce fending off an amorous acquaintance (Stephanie Faracy), while Gilpin’s getting similar attention from a seventies one-hit disco wonder “The Barracuda” (Miguel Pérez). Both Faracy and Pérez have scant moments to establish themselves and both do a fine job. Pérez’s speedy character introduction has to resonate because he’s going to be very important to the rest of the episode, although he’s mostly off screen. Gilpin and Grammer become convinced Pérez has got something inappropriate up his sleeve and so they snoop around investigating, which just gets them into more and more trouble, their situation quickly becoming screwball.
Grammer and Gilpin are phenomenal this episode, handling the absurdity of their situation just right, with Mahoney’s eventual inclusion just ratcheting it up another few notches. Everyone works in great timing with one another, especially since there’s often something big joke going on around them. There’s one time you can just watch Gilpin not able to hold in the laughs in the background; it works for the scene, but it’s very clearly Gilpin.
Hyde Pierce is also excellent; he ends up with the spotlight in the beginning scenes of the cruise ship section, then fades out a bit, the episode then focusing Gilpin, Grammer, and Mahoney and their antics. Hyde Pierce gets more to do in the finale, wrapping everything together nicely.
Voyage of the Damned is an awesome episode. Definitely an exemplar. The cast and the crew nail it, with Grammer, Gilpin, and Mahoney a fantastic comedy team.