Whine Club is half a regular “Frasier” episode, half a “mythology” episode, meaning working on the season’s low-burning arc about Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves) getting serious about other people when they should (?) be getting serious about each other. It’s also got an excellent subplot for John Mahoney where he and his friend’s widow, played by a wonderful Anita Gillette, enjoy commitment-free naughty sexy-time in their sixties or whatever. And it’s directed by Kelsey Grammer, who usually does more auspicious episodes.
It all might be okay if it weren’t entirely about villainizing Hyde Pierce’s new girlfriend, Jane Adams. She comes over for brunch, and everyone hates her. Will they or won’t they tell Hyde Pierce fills the last five or six minutes, comedy of errors-style. Except, as the episode points out earlier, everyone hated Hyde Pierce’s always-unseen ex-wife Maris, so it’s no surprise they don’t like the new girlfriend. Since we’re seven seasons in and Hyde Pierce’s marital problems subplot started in season three, I can’t remember if there was ever a period when everyone didn’t make fun of Maris (with Hyde Pierce around).
The whole point of the episode is to show how wrong Adams is for Hyde Pierce, what with Leeves right there and almost out of reach again because she’s getting married, but it just comes off as shitty to Adams. We get it; she’s a harpy. Mahoney reminds Grammer everyone hates all he and Hyde Pierce’s romantic partners (they don’t bring up Shelley Long, but Mahoney hated her too). Grammer and Hyde Pierce hated Mahoney’s steady girlfriend, played by Marsha Mason (who the show didn’t like for being working class). Way to remind the show’s got lousy parts for women.
The writing credit goes to executive story editor Bob Daily (his first scripting credit on the show) and Jon Sherman (his second). It feels like two episodes smooshed together because there’s actually not any whining in the brunch section. Unless you count Peri Gilpin complaining Grammer roped her into a brunch from hell. Grammer planned it before he and Hyde Pierce got into a fight about their wine club, which only takes up seven minutes of the episode (and feels like the non-mythology part of the show).
Anthony Head guest stars during the wine club scene. He’s great. It’s a shame it’s just the one scene.
There’s some hilarious stuff in the episode—drunk Leeves is a standout—but it’d be a lot better if it weren’t so craven.