What I can’t figure out with episode director David Lee, whose name I’ve come to dread this season, is the obviously uneven enthusiasm. This episode’s got a couple literal set pieces—there’s an auction scene and a restaurant scene (in addition to the apartment)—and there’s a lot of detail during those sequences but the blandest three-camera sitcom. Maybe the answer’s simple, and the unbilled extras in the episode had more imagination than Lee, but this episode’s got all the right pieces to be tremendous, and Lee doesn’t put them together.
I missed the writer credits while watching, keeping them for a surprise until now (when I can also look up their track record). The credit goes to Rob Hanning and Jay Kogen, who’ve gotten solo credit before, with Kogen on better episodes than Hanning, but Hanning no slouch. It’s a Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce competitiveness episode, starting from the opening joke, with Hyde Pierce bragging about his new cufflinks. It’d be gauche for both of them to be wearing silver, Hyde Pierce best wear the gold. Then, they’re off to a silent auction with a recurring gag and delayed punchline as to the associated charity’s purpose, and there’s room for the whole cast.
Peri Gilpin gets to go along because one of the auction items is getting to sit in the booth with her during an episode of she and Grammer’s radio show. But, of course, it’s been a very long time since they’ve been to the studio, and this auction item becomes a nothing plot point just to get Gilpin into the episode.
The auction scene has Grammer and Hyde Pierce fighting over who should get to have lunch with geniuses, John Mahoney trying to con his way into a new grill, and Gilpin trying to get someone besides stalker co-worker Patrick Kerr from winning the show sit-in. It’s a lot of good acting—with one particularly good shot from Lee, finally seeming to get the potential for the scene—but the writing’s a little thin on everything for Gilpin and Mahoney. The stuff with Grammer and Hyde Pierce is good, though, and it’s going to be the A plot for the rest of the episode.
See, when they were kids—sadly no flashback—Grammer and Hyde Pierce took IQ tests, and their parents never told them the scores, just they were close. Now they’re adults and want to know the results. The episode glazes over how unlikely it seems neither had their IQs tested since, and it quickly becomes an absurd competition again, with only a few hours before their individual intelligence will be put to the test.
Hyde Pierce and Grammer both get a fair amount of physical comedy to do. More for Hyde Pierce, but thanks to Lee’s direction, the audience doesn’t get to see some of the best of it. Mahoney’s got some good moments, both conniving for a grill and being an exasperated dad. Jane Leeves gets a great monologue recounting her weird family, which is just tacked on to the episode to give her something to do, but it’s doesn’t matter because it’s excellent. Though, again, Lee could’ve done better with it.
IQ’s a pretty good brother vs. brother episode, but it should’ve been better.
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