blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Frasier (1993) s07e07 – A Tsar Is Born

This episode’s a great example of how a long-running show (probably specifically sitcom) can benefit from that longevity. There are new things in the culture relevant to the show, which it can now comment on. In this case, “Antiques Roadshow,” or whatever they call it on Tsar. “Roadshow” started in 1997, “Frasier” started in 1993. This 1999 episode offers a wonderful integration.

Both Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce are big fans of the program, making an evening out of watching an episode. They’ve got Grammer’s apartment to themselves because dad John Mahoney’s going out for a boozer. Only then Mahoney’s pal cancels, and the boys think they’re out of luck; Mahoney promises they can have the TV after his program’s finished.

Of course, his program is “Antiques Roadshow” too. For the first time in seasons upon seasons of episodes, Grammer, Hyde Pierce, and Mahoney find something they all enjoy. They even come up with a drinking game for whenever someone says “veneer.” It’s a fantastic bonding sequence, in some ways more touching than when they have their occasional heartfelt moments in episodes because it gets to be comedic. And let them all play to their characters’ eccentricities without anyone being the butt of a joke.

At the end of “Roadshow,” they find out the show’s coming to town, so they’re going to go and bring some of Mahoney’s family relics. It kicks off a hilarious plot about the Romanov dynasty, scullery maids, and Winnebagos. I’m not sure if A Tsar Is Born is an exemplar “Frasier” going back to the start of the series, but it’s definitely a mid-run exemplar. The episode goes all out, too, with a scene set at the touring “Roadshow,” where Grammer and Hyde Pierce can be appropriately snobby.

The script’s credited to Charlie Hauck, whose name seemed familiar but not from this show (Tsar is his first of two “Frasier” episodes). It’s a really good script. Especially since it gives Peri Gilpin and Jane Leeves a little more to do than usual.

Still lovelorn, Gilpin checks out a laptop from the station to get on the World Wide Web. Presumably firing up Netscape Navigator, she’s met a nice guy online, and Grammer tries to convince Gilpin she’s being catfished. The subplot only gets a couple scenes, but there’s a nice moment for Gilpin and Mahoney, who haven’t gotten to hang out lately. Then the punchline is absolutely hilarious and provides an excellent showcase for Gilpin.

Leeves gets showcased, too… though dressed as a go-go dancer. She and (off-screen) fiancé Saul Rubinek have different ideas of appropriate wedding attire, but Hyde Pierce gets some great reactions to Leeves in scanty sixties wedding dress. She also gets to make some good rejoinders to Grammer during his peak snobbery. It’s also nice to see Hyde Pierce have some—albeit highly inappropriate—passion. It’s been a while.

Good direction from Pamela Fryman, great resolution for the A-plot–A Tsar is Born is an excellent sitcom episode.

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