Hot Pursuit is the second of two season seven “Frasier” episodes credited to writer Charlie Hauck. Considering the job he got on this one, it’s understandable he wouldn’t be back. It doesn’t seem fair to give a new writer an episode about Kelsey Grammer and Peri Gilpin wondering if maybe they ought to just get it over with and jump the shark and sleep together. It’s not a bad idea for an episode. It’s executed poorly here, but it’s not necessarily a bad idea. It’s just too basic, which is a surprise since the other half of the episode is a subtle delight.
The episode opens with Grammer returning from a week in Boston to visit son Freddy and, consequently, ex-wife Lilith. And, consequently, her late twenties stud boyfriend. No cameos, just exposition and some mid-life crisis facial hair for Grammer. He’s only home for a scene before Gilpin shows up at the door to pick him up for their broadcasting conference. While they rush out, Saul Rubinek—Jane Leeves’s fiancé, only in the episode for this one scene—tries to hire John Mahoney to do some light surveillance. Mahoney’s enthusiastic, but David Hyde Pierce makes him promise not to do it.
Oh, in addition to the Rubinek bit, Hyde Pierce is around long enough for he and Grammer to make fun of Gilpin being jealous of blondes. It’s a nasty bit for everyone; it’s intentionally bad for Gilpin, but it also makes all three regular male cast members come off like assholes when they tease her about it. It’ll be back later. It’s Chekhov’s reductive female character trait.
Half the episode will be Hyde Pierce and Mahoney doing a bonding arc, while the other half is a single-set comedy of offscreen errors to get Grammer and Gilpin alone together and having big singles sads. They also talk about how long they’ve been working together—seven seasons, sorry, years—and how it makes them one another’s most successful opposite-sex partnership.
If the writing were great, if it were some kind of very special episode (maybe Gilpin directing, at least Grammer), there might be something there. Instead, it’s an awkward kicking of the show’s tires, trying to decide how desperate they are to gin up a new twist. Except, of course, they were one of the last nineties sitcoms not to have made a similar move, which… just makes it seem more desperate.
The resolution is okay but not good.
The Hyde Pierce and Mahoney arc, however, is sublime. It’s heartfelt, funny, and incredibly well-acted. Grammer and Gilpin try in their arc, but there’s nothing to work with. Sure, they’ve been playing these characters for seven years, but Grammer’s been hung up about Lilith’s never seen new boyfriend for twelve minutes, while Gilpin’s been jealous of blondes her whole life for eleven. It’s nowhere near enough ado about nothing.