blogging by Andrew Wickliffe


Frasier (1993) s07e16 – Something About Dr. Mary


I’m not sure where to start with this episode. Jay Kogen’s got the writing credit, and he’s had his name on some good episodes in the past. But why they ever thought they ought to do an episode like Dr. Mary. Dr. Mary is played by Kim Coles, a Black woman (and possibly the first significant Black guest star since the first season), who is filling in for show producer Peri Gilpin while Gilpin has her apartment painted. Guilty white liberal Frasier (played by anti-liberal Kelsey Grammer) met Coles while doing an outreach program for job training.

After initially being shy about getting on the air with Grammer, Coles quickly dominates the show but changing the format. Instead of stuffed shirt Grammer, it’s hip, sassy Black lady Coles—who adopts the “Doctor” moniker because it sounds good, which is one of Grammer’s last straws. Dad John Mahoney just thinks Grammer’s avoiding talking to her about her performance because she’s Black, while brother David Hyde Pierce points out he once had a Black friend. As though someone in the writer’s room decided the lily-white cringe wasn’t cringe enough… Grammer then points out rich Black people aren’t really Black people.

The episode also includes an ableist subplot to distract from questioning whether Hyde Pierce, Mahoney, and Grammer are really the ones to be talking about race. Grammer and Gilpin making fun of a colleague with a speech impediment.

The episode employs various devices to show how Coles’s becoming more popular—apparently, the radio station is taking out advertisements mid-broadcast—to the point, it threatens Gilpin’s return. Station manager Tom McGowan loves Coles because she makes the show more popular and, for a radio show, better. Grammer never considers the possibility radio professional McGowan might be correct. Gilpin’s the only one with a vested interest in staying, and she’s happy to move on if the money’s right.

The episode’s subplot has Hyde Pierce taking up kickboxing, bumping into Jane Leeves, and then cooking for her and Mahoney because she’s milking the injury (at Mahoney’s insistence). It’s fine. At least Mahoney’s not saying “massa” during it (spoiler, he does in the other plot). And there’s some good physical comedy for Hyde Pierce.

Grammer’s got a broken part, as does Coles, who will eventually have to forgive Grammer for being too scared to talk to her like a person because she’s Black (and a woman). But both of them have good moments.

Something About Dr. Mary, besides the title, doesn’t so much not age well as reveal how white creatives had (read: have) such ingrained misogynoir, they can turn it into an entire sitcom episode but never acknowledge its existence.

Oof.


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