I don’t know if the laugh track is actually louder in the first scene or if it just seems louder because the laughs seem a whole lot more forced. The episode opens with an inspired flashback to Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce’s characters in middle school having lunch and being obnoxious prigs, then fast forwards to them having a similar conversation in the cafe. Only all of the jokes are really forced in the present and the laugh track seems to be amped up to convince everyone to laugh along instead of accompanying existing laughter.
Laugh tracks were weird.
The episode sadly has nothing to do with the flashback kids (Andrew Dorsett plays young Grammer, Michael Welch plays young Hyde Pierce—Dorsett’s better but Welch is funnier), instead having to do with Grammer being sick of hanging out with Hyde Pierce all the time and looking for something else to do. It ends up being Jane Leeves’s hangout bar, as it taps into something Grammer hasn’t had since “Cheers,” though it’s an English pub in Seattle where Grammer’s the only Yank and so it fuels his obnoxious Anglophilia.
On one hand, it eventually gives Leeves an arc where she gets to treat Grammer as an equal not act like she’s the hired help, on the other, Leeves initially brings Grammer to the bar to meet her lingerie model friend (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick), which isn’t without awkward optics.
The episode’s mostly Grammer, Leeves, and the bar. Peri Gilpin’s single scene has her playing poker with John Mahoney and his buddies, which is one of the best scenes in the episode (I wasn’t expecting much from an episode with a solo Rob Hanning writing credit, but the poker scene’s real good). And Mahoney’s got the poker and then trying to take advantage of an empty apartment and giving Leeves advice based on that desire.
Though Mahoney gets the excellent end credits sequence.
The episode’s got its moments and it’s nice to see Leeves eventually get some agency, it just never lives up to any of its potential. Again, it’s about on par with what I was expecting from Hanning but Jeff Melman directed; I’d gotten used to Melman episodes being better.