After a rough opening—with Peri Gilpin trying to gin up interesting callers in a bit where transphobia and ableism are the punchlines—the episode quickly becomes a David Hyde Pierce episode. Kelsey Grammer’s always around, but is always playing support to Hyde Pierce, who gets two great comedy set pieces. John Mahoney gets the subplot, which is about him finally agreeing to go on a date with one of their neighbors.
The episode (sort of) juxtaposes Mahoney’s dating adventure against Hyde Pierce’s latest marital woes, which has he and ever off-screen Maris finding a marriage counselor they both like—a very funny Bob Dishy—but Maris maybe likes him a little too much, leading to breakdowns and breakthroughs for Hyde Pierce. Grammer’s around to offer advice, but not really. They’re finally ready to resolve Hyde Pierce’s season and a half long marriage separation subplot. Also, as Hyde Pierce points out, Grammer’s actually not equipped to offer good relationship advice.
In the end, it’ll be a nice Crane boys episode for Hyde Pierce, Mahoney, and Grammer—particularly well-directed, courtesy Jeff Melman, who does well all episode and then goes out on a high point with the finale—though Grammer’s just along for the ride. They also make a big deal about Mahoney being unlucky in love, but he only broke up with Marsha Mason like three episodes ago so they’re clearly stretching to make it work.
David Lloyd gets the script credit. Outside the rough opening, he does a low okay job. The really funny scenes are really funny because Hyde Pierce is excellent. There’s one where Hyde Pierce is getting ready for some romance, which means he gets to show off physical comedy, then there’s one where he hijacks a couples group with his own problems, so dialogue comedy.
Hyde Pierce is great, Grammer and Mahoney are both good (the script’s not there for either of them as much). Gilpin only gets that crappy opening scene and Jane Leeves has a moment in Mahoney’s dating subplot but disappears fast. There just doesn’t seem to be space for them in the episode.
It’s a bit of requisite episode—Hyde Pierce’s outstanding separation subplot needs to get some resolution—with some highs and lows. It’d be nicer if it could’ve gone out on a high instead of a return to a low but Lloyd’s got to get some ageism in at the last minute for the end credits. But as a Hyde Pierce showcase (and for Melman’s return to directing form), the episode works well enough.