This episode has wonderful balance. It’s a “bigger” episode than usual, with a couple new big sets—a hospital waiting room, a doctor’s office—and it opens with Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce in a car. Everything’s going to mix barbed wit with sincerity, giving the episode a bittersweet quality.
But first, Hyde Pierce needs to accidentally break Grammer’s nose during a car accident in a very funny banter and physical comedy combination for the opening. The episode gives each actor a subplot—the title Late Dr. Crane refers to Grammer, but Hyde Pierce actually slightly more time. Or at least, more impact. And definitely time to himself, while Grammer’s arc is a family arc.
At the hospital, through an inspired series of events, Grammer is pronounced dead. Only he’s fine, and sitting around watching the evening news with his family for the obituary. This revelation comes after Hyde Pierce has already started his subplot, and brought it into the setting for Grammer’s arc to kick off. It’s exquisitely plotted; the script is credited to Rob Hanning and it’s a good script. It throws a number of mid-scene curves, too, which director Robert H. Egan handles beautifully.
See, Hyde Pierce’s subplot involves plastic surgeon Jane Adams. Adams is Hyde Pierce’s ex-wife’s doctor and has been billing him by mistake. Going to sort it out while Grammer waits (and doesn’t) in the emergency room, Hyde Pierce becomes quickly enamored with Adams, who’s a fastidious snob. Lots of good physical comedy from both actors when Hyde Pierce starts observing her similar behaviors. It’s awesome.
Except he’s too nervous to ask her out, which will eventually figure into Grammer’s mortality arc, and instead just starts getting procedures. The first one is Botox, which kicks off lengthy discussion—it’s 1999, Botox isn’t mainstream yet—and jokes from John Mahoney. Plus physical gags with a deaden forehead on Hyde Pierce.
The episode relay sprints through the scenes, which often have the entire apartment cast. Then once the condolence baskets start arriving and Mahoney wants to keep them, there’s even more going on at once.
Though not for Jane Leeves or Peri Gilpin. Gilpin gets to do a quick scene involving Grammer’s plot, and Leeves is just around for the apartment scenes. It’s Hyde Pierce’s episode, with Grammer and Mahoney essentially getting a very involved “sending off” support arc for him. Adams’s is clearly going to be back. (Or it’d be a surprise if she isn’t).
Surprisingly mentioned but not actually back is Gigi Rice’s new neighbor character. She gets mentioned multiple times, even figuring into a plot point, but they manage to keep her offscreen.
Smartly constructed stuff; it’s an excellent episode. Good performances, good laughs, good character development. Grammer’s obsessing over his mortality arc might end up being mostly for supporting Hyde Pierce, but it’s strong work on its own. Great balance here, just great.