Frasier (1993) s06e20 – Dr. Nora

There’s a lot of hilarious stuff in this episode and some great performances from the regular cast, especially the guests, but wow, it does not age well. Christine Baranski guest stars as a Dr. Laura analog who calls women sinners and sluts, with a set of conservative values people like John Mahoney have been missing. The episode—script credit to Joe Keenan—assumes everyone watching the show will be white, secular, and at least middle class; they’ve got no horse in the race, but they’re supposed to still know Baranski’s, too much.

Of course, in two decades since this episode, we’ve learned this kind of radio personality will enable racism, homophobia, misogyny, and a whole host of other things. The episode doesn’t just age poorly in making light of something too serious to joke about; there’s also the stuff where Kelsey Grammer’s fighting against it. I’m sure he’s ashamed to have ever allowed himself to stand up to hateful MAGA values. Plus, having Mahoney like Baranski shitting on single mothers makes him two-faced when it comes to Peri Gilpin.

The show addresses Gilpin being a single mom and Baranski spitting in the face of them, but as long as the ratings are good, station manager Tom McGowan can’t do anything about it. So basically, it’s just an episode about enabling white Christian nationalism and making it into a gag.

It’s a good gag. Baranski’s excellent. Her sense of comic timing is exceptional and kind of shows up Grammer.

The only subplots have David Hyde Pierce trying to grow a mustache to impress Jane Leeves and Leeves having mother issues spurred by Baranski’s radio show. Both are funny—and the Leeves mother thing at least gives her an excuse, as opposed to Mahoney, who’s just an asshole.

There’s a surprise guest star at the end—with a perfect bit of casting as reference too—and the screwball finale is consistently hilarious as they’re able to keep it going and going.

Good acting from Gilpin, who never really gets to complete her arc (because she’s a hot-headed woman and yelling is unbecoming a lady), and Grammer. Also, McGowan’s excellent in his scene. Lots of great timing. Katy Garretson directs (her first time on the show).

The show pissed off Dr. Laura enough Paramount took it out of rotation after the original airing, which was a cowardly move. But the episode’s such a weird platforming of shitty people and their ideas… it may have unintentionally been the right one.

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