blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s06e05 – First, Do No Harm

Oh, thank goodness, first-time “Frasier” writers Jordan Hawley and William Schifrin never have another credit on an episode. I didn’t recognize their names on the titles and wondered if they would be new regular writers this promising season. No, they are not. Whew.

Twenty-plus years on, “Frasier” has aged pretty well. I remember a few writers whose names regularly turned up on cringe-to-problematic episodes, but usually right in the middle and never too bad. It was the mid-1990s NBC, after all. But this episode stinks. Starting with Kelsey Grammer never finding the right moment to tease new mom Peri Gilpin about her ruffled appearance. Luckily John Mahoney can drive home the point. It’s after a random stranger (Randy Pelish) tells Grammer he’s missed on the airwaves. Only the joke is Pelish is really weird. Then there’s a joke about Mexico.

So it’s ableist, sexist, and racist before the credits are done.

The main story isn’t any better. Grammer starts dating Teri Hatcher, who’s playing the daughter of Mahoney’s best friend. Hatcher’s too hot for Grammer, and he can’t figure out why she’s with him (it’s a big question because they have a soul-crushing lack of chemistry together). She’s also got a lot of mental health issues going on. David Hyde Pierce suggests maybe she’s in it for the free therapy. So then the episode becomes about Grammer weighing good sex and unpaid therapist hours.

Meanwhile, Mahoney’s convinced he’s a great matchmaker, so he starts parading Jane Leeves out on the balcony for his friends to inspect.

In the first scene, the laugh track sounds off, and while there are some laughs thanks to the cast… a bunch of the laugh track laughs aren’t laughs. They’re mocking people with real things going on, including your boss trying to auction you off to a stranger. So it’d be better if they faked a laugh track than they found a studio audience of such terrible people, even in 1998.

Hatcher’s good a couple times but only a couple. She and Grammer have, again, absolutely no chemistry. He’s not even lustful and pervy, and “Frasier” is often about Grammer being lustful and pervy. He clearly does not like working with Hatcher. She’s better at the physical comedy, which is all problematic, than the dialogue. It’s a rough episode.

There’s also this hilarious sequence where Grammer and Hyde Pierce are talking about Hatcher’s mental health problems—as your therapist or therapist boyfriend apparently does—and Hyde Pierce is making microwave popcorn and putting Tabasco on it. Director Sheldon Epps (who I was expecting more from, but maybe he saved the script, who knows) showcases Hyde Pierce’s process, but neither microwave popcorn nor Tabasco sauce fit the character.

Whatever. At least the writers never come back.

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