It’s a season finale but a season finale with a big cliffhanger. Kind of a big swing for the next season. Kelsey Grammer—pissed at himself for abandoning Jane Leeves after getting her in trouble and doing a coward run—decides he’s going to put his foot down when it comes to new commercial reads at the station. It’s a gradual build to Grammer’s breaking points—with Leeves vanishing because it’d be too much trouble to address Grammer’s behavior–until it becomes a work episode. There’s still a little bit with David Hyde Pierce and John Mahoney, but once the episode introduces Tom McGowan as the new station manager… they’re pretty much done save some one-liners.
Hyde Pierce does get to give Grammer a good psychiatry diagnosis and Mahoney’s got a couple strong jokes. It’s a Grammer episode and a rather good one—once you buy his betrayal of Leeves, which involves exterior backlot filming and not strong enough direction from Sheldon Epps to make it work. Epps is all right for the rest of it; the outdoor scene is just a big disappointment. Especially since I can’t remember the last time they shot exteriors during the day (on the lot).
Dan Butler and Edward Hibbert open the episode with an amazing ad read then skedaddle until the plot needs them again. They don’t get a lot to do later on, maybe a joke each—the third act superstar is Marsha Kramer, who plays the station’s story time lady; their opening is great stuff. Though Butler’s objectifying joke about Peri Gilpin’s post-baby body is probably cringe. It’s really fast, with Gilpin instead spending the episode trying to resolve Grammer’s problems with McGowan and then big boss Miguel Sandoval (in a wonderful cameo). But quick or not it’s not a great way of addressing Gilpin’s recent mommyhood; especially since it’s the show’s only acknowledgement of it.
Jay Kogen gets the script credit. It’s a definitely compelling episode, even if it weren’t the season finale. Grammer’s able to sell the fretting over his courageousness and so on. It doesn’t seem like it should work given the character’s a fop, but it does indeed work. It’s good dramatic work from Grammer.
McGowan’s good too, immediately distinguishing himself even though it’s a small role—the script handles the scenes rather well, there are just the occasional plot snags. Though they too might just be Epps’s direction. His competence doesn’t include good pacing.
So it’s a sitcom with a dramatic, potentially show-changing cliffhanger. I don’t know enough about sitcoms know if that’s rare or standard (adjusting for era too); but it’s a first for “Frasier.” They do pretty well with it. Could be a lot worse and you definitely want to tune in next time.
And the end credits sequence is perfect.