Alright, because this list is biased, Frasier is on here 3 times, however, that is because Frasier put on three completely different kinds of episodes that all count as great moments in television. If you haven’t seen the show, Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) is a radio celebrity psychiatrist who lives with his father, Martin (John Mahoney), and most often interacts with his brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), his father’s physical therapist and later his sister-in-law Daphne (Jane Leeves), and his promiscuous producer Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin). In general, the show is known for its witty dialogue, insane comical coincidences, and the amazing acting ability of its leads. Of all three episodes, this one most utilized the latter.
Despite the show normally being grounded in reality, this episode has a simple yet surreal premise: Hospitals have memories. We are born in them. We go to them in some of our most trying times. We go to them in some of our happiest times. All of those moments are held within the hospital. Since the show features two psychologists in the lead, it often at least name-dropped psychological theories, so the writers likely knew about the concept of “cued recall,” where an object with which we have a history can evoke an emotional response. This turns that on its head: An inanimate object can recall our emotional moments as a memory. Each of the memories shown in this episode is tied to an intense emotion, from joy to despair.
The episode starts when Niles is going into surgery for a heart problem, one that is apparently extremely urgent. Niles had almost no symptoms, and only went to the doctor on a strange hunch. He is only 43, and of a thin build, so this isn’t something that he would have thought of as being a possibility. It’s also right after he finally got married to Daphne, the woman he’s been chasing after for the duration of the show. The set-up is especially brutal to the viewer’s emotions, because it reminds us that at any point we can suddenly, and randomly, lose everything, even right after we get what we wanted. Throughout the episode, the hospital sees each of the main characters and recalls a memory while the characters cope, shown by a room being filled with the characters in their pasts. For Niles, going into surgery uncertain of living, we are shown flashes of his entire life, from Daphne telling him lovingly that she’ll be there for him, to his times there with his last wife who was emotionally abusive, and even images of his father bringing him an Archie comic when he was hurt as a child.
While Niles is on the table, each member of the family is trying to cope with the stress of the situation in their own way. Frasier tries to break everything about the surgery down clinically to distance himself from the emotional burden of the situation. To him, Niles is just a machine that’s being fixed, not a loved one who might be in trouble. He evokes memories of the first time he met his newborn brother and of the time that he bribed his brother to keep silent about breaking his leg. Martin, as a father, denies recognizing any possibility that he’s losing his son, but we are shown the hospital remembering the last time he was in the hospital, when the doctor telling was him that his wife had terminal cancer.
Roz, Daphne’s best friend and Niles’s jovial verbal sparring partner, is struggling to be as calm and supportive as possible to her friends. However, we are shown a memory of her running into the hospital with her baby, panicking over what turns out to be nothing. Daphne, who hasn’t been in the hospital before now, is trying to just keep herself from breaking down into an emotional wreck. Unfortunately, the situation eventually overcomes her, causing her to finally break down and, sobbing, yell that there is nothing else in the world for her until Niles is safe. After Niles gets out, we are finally shown an image of Daphne’s memory. It’s of her and Niles welcoming their second child, a daughter, into the world. A memory of things that have yet to come.
Because any fan of the show knew they would never kill off the character, the episode instead focused on the emotions of all of the other characters around the situation. In real life, every person deals with the possibility of losing a loved one in their own way. Some will try to hide their worry to keep the person strong. Some will try to keep themselves distracted. Some will break down because they’re facing a future they never imagined. All of these will happen, and this episode portrayed them all beautifully. Even if you have never had a person you love in the hospital, this episode will make you feel for the characters. If you have had the misfortune to have someone you love be in a dire situation, this episode will make you cry.
Update: I have realized that in the show’s series finale, Daphne and Niles have a son. So, the two children at the end, who are both girls, must be at least their 2nd and 3rd children. From some interviews, it appears they were supposed to have a daughter, but, after the script was written but before it was filmed, series creator David Angell was killed in 9/11. The son, named David, was a tribute to him.
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As a bonus, somebody clipped together two of the better sequences into this video: