blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s06e17 – The Dinner Party

Turns out I’ve been bullish episodes where Jeffrey Richman gets the script credit. I thought his name was on my unenumerated list of problematic “Frasier” writers. And this episode certainly has a bunch of problematic elements. Lots of misogynistic jokes, some fat-shaming, and I think some other ableism. It’s also a “sitcom as continuous” play episode, with Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce doing one of their bickering brothers’ adventures without actually having an adventure.

David Lee directs. He doesn’t seem as into the concept as the script.

The episode begins with Grammer deciding he’s going to have a dinner party. Hyde Pierce is there, and they agree he will cohost. They want to get a specific couple to hang out with them, which will require wheeling and dealing with the guest list—so lots of jokes about rich white drunkards—finding a caterer, and convincing John Mahoney to move his poker night.

In the background, Peri Gilpin and Jane Leeves are going to a fancy dance, except Leeves can’t find anything to wear, so they keep trying on different dresses and having arguments. Having Gilpin in the apartment means Grammer can involve her in the dinner party, which has him manipulating and lying to her like any good friend and boss would do. There is a very amusing moment where Gilpin gets to comment on Hyde Pierce crushing on Leeves—he stops her in time—but Gilpin being in on that joke has a lot of possibilities.

But Gilpin and Leeves fighting about whether or not a dress is too slutty or whatever? It’s not good. Mahoney popping in and out? Not good. Even if Lee were into the concept of an episode about nothing in real-time, the script doesn’t have enough punch to get it through. There’s not enough drama in the party planning to get halfway, so there’s a voicemail twist thrown in to kill a few more minutes before the Gilpin and Leeves subplot has cooked long enough to help end the episode.

Ostensibly, the episode wants to be about Hyde Pierce hanging out at Grammer’s too much after his divorce, but Hyde Pierce has been hanging out at Grammer’s for almost the entire run of the show. They’ve already had episodes where Hyde Pierce and Grammer spending too much time together was a plot point, and they didn’t resolve with pat, forecasted twists.

Maybe if the acting were better—Grammer and Hyde Pierce are both okay, but Hyde Pierce seems very bored (his two-and-a-half-season character arc with the divorce is not paying dividends), so Grammer’s having to hold it up. Maybe if it were a live episode. As is, it’s a little too tedious, and a little too mean.

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