Frasier was a very British show, despite being American. The dialogue, as well as the intertwined physical comedy, are reminiscent of Fawlty Towers and its progeny. That’s one of the reasons why the show is so unique in US Television.
Quick refresher: 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). Also, a dog named Eddie (Moose).
While this is a good overall episode, it’s on here because it has 7 of the funniest minutes in television history. The show is divided into three vignettes that all take place on Valentine’s Day. The key to the episode is the first vignette, “A Valentine for Niles,” but I’ll address it last. The second, “A Valentine for Frasier,” depicts Frasier having dinner with a woman, and not being sure if it’s romantic or professional. Throughout it, he keeps thinking that he has figured out her intentions, only to have her say something that reconstrues the situation. This happens so frequently that he literally has to keep taking his clothes off and redressing based on what she’s saying in another room. Meanwhile, he keeps calling Roz for advice, who mocks him for failing to pick-up what she perceives as obvious signs. In the end, even the audience has to be a little uncertain where Frasier stands with his date.
The third Vignette, “A Valentine for Daphne and Martin” features the two having a dateless dinner together and being rather depressed at being alone. They each keep trying to make the other feel better, but third parties keep coming by and making it impossible for both of them to feel good at the same time. Some assume that Daphne is Martin’s wife, which pleases him and brings her down, and others that he’s her father, bringing him down. The two basically mirror each other at different points of the scene, making it apparent that both of them think highly of each other, but both are fairly self-centered. In the end, they both meet someone at the restaurant, giving them a happy Valentine’s Day.
But, these pale in comparison to the first scene. It lasts 10 minutes, and contains no dialogue. It features Frasier’s fussier, more pompous, insanely uptight brother Niles attempting to iron his pants for a date. And then, it’s the true comedy of errors. Things progressively get more and more screwed up, to the point where the apartment is on fire, the dinner he was cooking is ruined, and he’s laying pantsless and unconscious in the hallway. The best part is that it’s all set to the Overture from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. It is one long, continuous take. Famously, David Hyde Pierce only took 6 tries to complete the ten minute long single take. Considering the number of pratfalls and stunts involved in it, that borders on superhuman. If you ever have a lunch break free, look up the clip of this segment on Youtube.
Or watch it on Netflix. Or Amazon. Or when it’s rerun on Cable 50 times a day.
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