I’m not sure how to talk about this episode. How much emphasis to place on the mean-spirited body-shaming of it all. After trying to dodge them, Peri Gilpin finally meets the parents of her baby daddy. The age difference (the not-in-the-episode baby daddy is twenty) doesn’t come up because everyone’s way too busy trying not to react to the parents’ big noses. Kevin Kilner and Jordan Baker play the parents. Prosthetics play the noses.
The episode gives itself the pass on the nose jokes with a wholesome resolution for Gilpin, who also almost gets to pass Bechdel with Jane Leeves, a “Frasier” rarity (and also note the use of “almost”) and with having Kelsey Grammar chastising everyone else for laughing about the noses. Jeffrey Richman gets the script credit, Ken Levine directs. Levine’s direction is better than the episode deserves in some scenes—usually with Gilpin—but also the blocking of the shots is terrible to the point there’s got to be a story. John Mahoney stands off camera for an entire scene.
And the episode gets away from Gilpin. After everyone starts reacting to the noses, it’s about Grammar trying not to laugh and the rest of the cast trying not to get caught laughing. Again, wanting composition so Gilpin literally disappears from the episode for long stretches (also making it more impressive when Levine and Gilpin recenter the episode on her for the last scene). But then it’s all about Grammar lying to Leeves about something and not wanting to get caught.
It’s a stagy episode, almost entirely set in the apartment in continuous action, but it works. The energy of the cast works in the format and even when Levine’s not pointing the camera at them enough, he does get how their energy makes the staginess work. So it’s stagy but as a compliment.
Partially because of the ruthless efficiency of the script; every joke—good, great, cheap, easy—lands.
Really good performance from Leeves and Gilpin this episode. Grammar, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, they all get some solid laughs thanks to their performances but Leeves and Gilpin are able to elevate the material. The boys just maintain; they succeed, but not excel.
Though, wait a second—the writing for Hyde Pierce is oddly cruel at times, which is appropriate for the episode. It’s just he’s de facto mocking Leeves (but only in dialogue, in action he’s supportive).
Plus it’s just a series of jokes about being shitty to nice people. There’s only so much you can do with it.