blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s05e12 – The Zoo Story

It’s a Bebe (Harriet Sansom Harris) episode, even though Kelsey Grammer fired Harris last time she was on—last season. But it’s only sort of a Bebe episode; she’s still Peri Gilpin’s agent (maybe the biggest offscreen character continuity detail the show’s had to date, actually) and she wants Grammer back as a client, but Grammer’s still angry Harris is a soulless agent. Instead, with station negotiations looming, he’s going to find a nice guy agent.

Even though everyone, including John Mahoney (who simultaneously shouldn’t have a valid opinion on the subject but is also really funny in the scene), tells him it’s impossible to find a good nice guy agent. Grammer finds one–Robert Stanton—who spends most of his time volunteering around town, not being a cutthroat advocate for his clients. But he’s wholesome and Grammer wants it to work out.

Even though everything Stanton comes up with ends in disaster—to be fair, however, Mahoney does aggravate at least one of the disasters, rather comedically—and Grammer has to weigh his morals against success with Harris and potential ruin with Stanton. Complicating things are the disasters having public ramifications for Grammer, making him Seattle’s laughing stock, something David Hyde Pierce revels in.

Hyde Pierce’s subplot has him in martial counseling troubles with estranged wife Maris, who wants him to fire their latest counselor and is withholding their weekly naughty time until he does so. Grammer convinces Hyde Pierce to take the high road and stand his moral ground, leading to some very funny lustful Hyde Pierce moments.

Most of the episode’s entirely solid and often very funny—good script, credited to Joe Keenan, and decent direction from Pamela Fryman—but the conclusion’s incredibly rocky because Fryman doesn’t seem to know how to direct Harris. Or doesn’t know how to compose shots when Harris is in a scene? It’s a very strange disconnect and rather unfortunate.

Good guest performances from Harris (not quite the usual showstopper or showcase) and Stanton. Hyde Pierce is the regular cast standout. Mahoney’s got some good material, Jane Leeves has a funny subplot about stanning a news anchor; Grammer’s the straight man throughout.

Its parts are better than the whole, but the whole’s all right.

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