This episode is transphobic garbage and shouldn’t be aired with a content warning, it should be shoved into a hole and only pulled out for academics trying to catalog nineties transphobia as it intersects with classism and general misogyny. Or for writers Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck to figure out how to attempt to atone for putting this reprehensible trash into the world.
I usually don’t—maybe I never have—made any of the credited writers possessive of the episode because there are writers rooms and writer’s guilds, and there’s a whole thing to how sitcoms are written and so on. But Gregory and Huyck were executive story editors on the show, so if they hadn’t wanted their names on this episode, they could’ve done something about it.
The transphobia doesn’t come into the episode until about halfway through. There’s nothing significant in the first half. Still, there are the occasional promises—Kelsey Grammer is trying to be a Good Samaritan, and everyone’s taking advantage or shitting on him for it. There’s a moderately amusing radio station sequence where he has both Ron Howard and William H. Macy as callers; in the end, it just means Howard and Macy guested on this transphobic trash episode.
Also, the radio station sequence is misogynist as Grammer and the episode crap on single mom Peri Gilpin trying to save herself some time as she works at one a.m. because Grammer’s a sucker.
The reason the episode’s got promise is Trevor Einhorn is in town as Grammer’s son. After missing the Christmas episode, Einhorn’s just here to take the stakes up a notch as fair as Grammer’s eventual public disgrace. Einhorn’s function in the episode isn’t actually bad and could have at least bandaged the hemorrhaging garbage, but instead, it turns out the episode’s got one last kick of transphobia left in it, right up until the end. With, of course, a healthy sprinkling of misogyny and classism.
Grammer’s most involved in the utter trash section, which has him picking up a damsel in distress to find out she’s a sex worker (and rude to him about the misunderstanding because he thought she might want a lift at 1:30 a.m. in pouring rain), only for the further gotcha to be she’s a trans woman. As Grammer navigates the misunderstanding—he doesn’t have any panic, which almost humanizes him against the other characters’ enthusiastic transphobia—mostly David Hyde Pierce, with John Mahoney getting instead reminiscing about taking out urges on South Korean girls during the war–only to chuck Grammer’s very slim less reprehensible edge to have him get in on it too through peer pressure.
Jane Leeves’s participation is the least odious—and maybe not at all; any motion is going to fling shit—but the episode rolls its eyes at her, so it’s not like a plus.
I paid attention to the writing after seeing their names. I wondered if Peter Huyck is related to American Graffiti co-writer Willard Huyck; apparently not, thank goodness. But there’s not some subtle shift to the shit, they smack you on the cheek with the misogyny, then the transphobia’s a punch in the nose. Just when the swelling is going down—and Einhorn is confronting Grammer about whether or not one should strive for an ideal—there’s the final jab. Turns out it was all a daydream, and Grammer’s just terrified of someone thinking he might be nice to a trans woman. Then it turns out… the woman in the rain? Not a sex worker, not a trans woman. Just some fellow rich lady who lives in his building.
Good Samaritan is mortifying and loathsome stuff and shows popular entertainment wasn’t problematic so much as often repugnant in the late 1990s.