blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s07e04 – Everyone’s a Critic

It’s as though “Frasier” heard me across time and made some immediate adjustments—it’s another radio station episode, but unlike last episode, it features a bunch of scenes for Kelsey Grammer and Peri Gilpin at work. It’s also got regular station guest cast (Edward Hibbert), and then station manager Tom McGowan’s practically a regular.

There are some caveats, of course, but for the episode overall, not the station stuff.

Or if there are station-related caveats, they’re part of the bigger caveat, which is guest star Katie Finneran. Finneran plays the station owner’s daughter, a ditzy, dull rich girl testing out Mom’s properties to decide her future career.

The episode introduces Finneran as the B-plot but then brings her back up to the A-plot. It’s good plotting—Joe Keenan gets the script credit, which is full of laughs—but it’s entirely based on everyone thinking Finneran is terrible. While she’s tedious and annoying, so’s everyone else at the station in one way or another, at least the radio personalities. It’s McGowan’s bit—he’s managing all these Seattle talk radio prima donnas–but Finneran’s a bridge too far, apparently.

The opening has Grammer foisting Finneran off on Gilpin (who doesn’t know she’s a bore yet), then going home to find out David Hyde Pierce has gotten a job as a culture critic. The episode has many Grammer and Hyde Pierce rivalry hallmarks, but the Finneran subplot takes some of the space from them, so the episode doesn’t feel rote. It just feels awkwardly mean and a little misogynist. Would everyone give Finneran the same kind of shit if she were a wealthy, dippy son?

Also, since Finneran’s never mean-spirited or even as snooty as Grammer or Hyde Pierce, the hostility is off-putting. Finnegan’s character isn’t tiring in her scenes as much as everyone’s reaction to her, like when Jane Leeves sits and glowers at her. Though Grammer’s sucking up to her at that point, so Leeves is also glowering at Grammer. That sequence, which has six seasons of history—Leeves regularly seeing Grammer playing sycophant to some rich jackass or another—is the most inaccessible I think “Frasier”’s ever been. Outside “Cheers” references.

Leeves is great at glowering, don’t get me wrong, and it’s an appropriate response, but it requires a lot of show knowledge.

There’s some good material for John Mahoney, who gets the C-plot about Eddie the dog hunting down a kid’s missing hamster, as well as reacting to Hyde Pierce and Grammer’s competitive bickering. Maybe it’d be more of a rivalry episode if Hyde Pierce were in it more, but the episode doesn’t follow him at all.

There’s also a weird continuity gaffe where Mahoney and maybe Hyde Pierce both know Finneran without ever having met her (onscreen). Perhaps something got cut. It’s okay—and even amusing—but glaring.

It’s a funny, well-acted episode—Hyde Pierce in particular—and it’s nice they know they need to mix up the standards a hundred plus episodes in… but it’d have been nice if they could do it without being jerks. I kept expecting director Pamela Fryman to right the ship but nope.

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