Kelsey Grammer’s garbage politics were well-known when “Frasier” aired, which always made rooting for the show awkward. But Three Valentines, the fifth episode of the series he directed, is so good I thought about how it was too bad he never broke into movies. Though he’d just have made right-wing crap.
This episode is a divine showcase of the show’s main cast (except Peri Gilpin, who’s around and good but not showcased), starting with David Hyde Pierce doing a lengthy slapstick sequence. He’s getting ready for a society Valentine’s Day date with the president of his wine club and notices his pants aren’t quite well-ironed enough. The only dialogue in the scene is Hyde Pierce setting the stage for the audience (on a phone call to his wine guy) and then the occasional witty remark to Eddie the dog, who watches the silly human unintentionally wreak havoc. What’s great about the scene is Hyde Pierce, obviously, and how he, Grammer, and the script pace out the ordeal. It starts with Hyde Pierce doing one kind of a physical bit, then moves on to another, then moves on to another, then another, then rewind to the second, then skips ahead. It’s exquisite work from all involved.
Then it’s time for Grammer’s Valentines, which has him out on a maybe date, maybe business dinner with new colleague Virginia Madsen. The scene opens with Grammer calling Gilpin to talk about whether or not it’s an actual date. He’ll call Gilpin back throughout—it’s nice to see cell phones used to such good effect—to get feedback on the latest development. Grammer’s sequence eventually gives him some good physical humor, but nothing like Hyde Pierce’s masterclass in it. Instead, it’s mostly comedy of errors dialogue stuff and an enjoyable guest turn from Madsen. Rob Hanning gets the script credit on this episode; it’s an excellent script.
The third and final date is John Mahoney and Jane Leeves on a non-romantic evening. The Hyde Pierce segment was all physical gags; the Grammer one was physical and dialogue; theirs is all dialogue. Leeves gets bummed she doesn’t have any romance in her life, while Mahoney is upset everyone thinks he’s too old to be her fella. The latter’s a lot more problematic when you think about it than when you watch it… actually, so’s the former, given her relationship status is defining her. Even great, it’s still a nineties sitcom episode.
Lots of good acting from Leeves and Mahoney, emphasizing their abilities at immediate tone changes. It’s a lovely finish to the episode.
Three Valentines is obviously an exemplar “Frasier,” but it’s also an exemplar of the sitcom format. Grammer, as director, does a great job. The cast is all excellent. And Hyde Pierce’s physical comedy sequence is glorious.