Paramount // 2003 // 535 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Diane Wild (Retired) // January 12th, 2005
Paramount has released the fine final year of Frasier before putting out Seasons Four through Ten. It is probably a wise marketing decision, and since Season Four is already slated for release, it shouldn't delay the inevitable onslaught of the remaining seasons. Die-hard fans will want the entire collection, including the lackluster middle years. But we fair-weather watchers have been spared the wait for this mostly-satisfying, season-long conclusion to a show that will be long remembered.
Unusually for a long-running series, the core cast of characters in Frasier has remained the same over the years. Psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar) still has his radio call-in show on KACL, but this season he enters private practice after a 10+ year absence. Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) remains his friend as well as his producer. He still lives with his crusty father Martin (John Mahoney). And his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) is happily married to the woman of his dreams, Daphne (Jane Leeves).
* "No Sex, Please, We're Skittish"
The first episode opens after Roz has left KACL in a snit. Frasier assumes she is in love with him and jealous over his relationship with the abrasive Julia (guest star Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives). Roz gets her job back by pretending she never left, and realizes that she worries about losing Frasier's friendship if he pursues a romance with a woman who hates her. Niles and Daphne's quest to have a baby may be a challenge when they learn his sperm have low motility.
Frasier: "You mean you haven't been pining after me since we slept together?"
Roz: "God no, weren't you there?"
* "A Man, A Plan, And A Gal: Julia"
Julia ruins Niles and Daphne's announcement that they are expecting a baby, and Frasier is forced to realize that he wants a relationship more than he wants the evil Julia.
* "The Doctor is Out"
Frasier's new friendship with director Alistair Crowley (Patrick Stewart, Star Trek: The Next Generation) brings him into the sophisticated and cultured opera world, but Alistair wants more than just friendship.
Martin: "One of my sons just got picked up by a guy. My other son is jealous. Yup, life is good."
* "The Babysitter"
Frasier and Niles bump into their old babysitter, Ronee Lawrence (Wendie Malick, Just Shoot Me), who is now a lounge singer. Frasier invites her home for drinks with hopes of kindling a romance, but is miffed when Martin captures her attention instead.
Martin: "I thought you brought her here for me."
Frasier: "Since when do I bring you women? What are you, the Sultan of Brunai?"
* "The Placeholder"
If Frasier were Seinfeld or Sex and the City, "the placeholder" might be part of the pop culture vocabulary, like "master of your domain" and "f*&$ buddy." Instead, it's a throwaway term for the person you date while waiting for Ms. Right, and in this case, it's Ann (Julia Sweeney, Saturday Night Live), a woman too annoying to even fill the placeholder position.
* "I'm Listening"
Frasier keeps inadvertently eavesdropping on conversations, first overhearing Ronee make a date with another man, then, much to his dismay, overhearing the reconciliation between her and Martin.
* "Maris Returns"
Frasier enters private practice after years away from the couch, but he doesn't have much success with his first few patients. Maris contacts Niles after experiencing problems with her boyfriend.
Frasier: "I'm like an eager schoolboy on his first day of fractions."
* "Murder Most Maris"
After Maris is arrested for murdering her Argentinean polo player boyfriend, Niles discovers he inadvertently supplied the murder weapon. Frasier's slip of the tongue to the media makes things worse, and Niles breaks down in his favorite coffee shop.
Niles: "I think I'm having that dream where I'm naked in Nervosa."
Frasier: "I think a lot of us are having that dream."
* "Guns N' Neuroses"
Lilith comes to visit, and she and Frasier reminisce and realize that despite their divorce, they will always have affection for each other. Martin's old service revolver is accidentally set off and Martin, Daphne, and Niles hide the damage from Frasier.
* "SeaBee Jeebies"
Niles's notoriety brings him fame and brushes with celebrity, which makes Frasier jealous even as he is up for another Seattle Broadcast Award. Frasier has difficulty getting a date for the event, and a journalist interviewing him is more interested in Niles.
* "High Holidays"
Frasier's son Frederick visits for the Christmas season, surprising his dad with his new Goth look (every parent's nightmare...in the '80s) and desire to spend all his time with his new Goth girlfriend. Niles, embarrassed by his own lack of teen rebellion, decides to get high, but Martin unwittingly eats the pot-laced brownie instead.
Niles: "I've waited for this all my life, Frasier. One act of utter, devil-may-care, crotch-grabbing brazenness. And of course I'll have a nurse on speed dial in case things get too hairy."
* "Frasier Lite"
The KACL employees lose weight for charity in competition with another radio station, headed by an old high school nemesis of Frasier's. Niles and Martin tend to a wounded pigeon Eddie has befriended.
* "The Ann Who Came To Dinner"
Julia Sweeney returns as an annoying insurance adjuster. This time she slips on Frasier's kitchen floor, breaking her leg. He takes her in out of fear that she will sue. Maris uses Niles as a diversion in order to escape before her murder trial.
* "Freudian Sleep"
This high-concept episode is a series of dream sequences that take place when the rest of the gang tags along on Martin and Ronee's weekend getaway. Frasier imagines he has killed Niles and married Daphne, Niles dreams that he breaks his baby, Daphne dreams Niles isn't attracted to her anymore, Martin has a romantic song-and-dance number with Ronee, and Eddie dreams of giant turkey dinners.
* "Caught in the Act"
Frasier's first ex-wife, Nanette (Laurie Metcalfe, Roseanne), comes to town for her act as children's entertainer Nanny G. Their explosive attraction hasn't waned, and they wind up in an ill-timed moment of passion.
Frasier: "The most erotic experience I've had in the last six months was a trouser fitting."
Martin pulls several pranks on Frasier, who retaliates by dressing up as a clown and startling the clown-phobic Martin -- scaring him into a mild heart attack. Martin worries about telling Ronee, fearing she will view him differently. Instead, she agrees to marry him in a hilariously unromantic proposal.
* "Coots and Ladders"
Frasier tells Niles about a crime he has committed -- stealing a medal from his neighbor in a moment of thrill-seeking -- and enlists his help in returning it. Reflecting on old photos makes Frasier realize that his life hasn't changed much in the last 10 years.
* "Match Game"
Laura Linney guest stars as Charlotte, a matchmaker who sets Frasier up on a series of very bad dates. Niles and Daphne try to compete with a nauseatingly enthusiastic expectant couple.
* "Miss Right Now"
Frasier becomes obsessed with Charlotte, despite meeting her perfect boyfriend Frank (Aaron Eckhart, Erin Brockovich). Martin meets his uptight future mother-in-law, who is treated to a glimpse of Frasier's night of almost-passion with a woman he met in a bar (Jennifer Tilly, Bound) and later a moment of almost-tenderness with Charlotte. Niles discovers fast food, courtesy of Daphne's pregnancy cravings.
Daphne: "Looks like he's got the fast food bug."
Frasier: "What would that be, E. coli?"
* "And Frasier Makes Three"
Frasier is determined to tag along with Charlotte and Frank in an attempt to woo her away from him, but Frank is completely oblivious to Frasier's potential as a rival. Martin presents Ronee with an unusual engagement ring.
Charlotte and Frasier consummate their relationship, but he's not yet aware that she plans to move back to Chicago. His attempt to drive her to a conference leads them to a car breakdown in Deliverance-like country. Wacky confusion arises when Niles tries to interview a stripper for Martin's bachelor party, Martin tries to interview a new physical therapist, and Daphne tries to interview a nanny.
* "Crock Tales"
This episode goes back in time to dinner gatherings throughout the past 10 years, allowing a look back at the phases in the characters' lives -- including when Niles was pining over Daphne and Martin and Frasier were not thrilled to be suddenly roommates. Rosie Perez guest stars.
* "Goodnight, Seattle"
This double episode has Frasier telling his airplane seatmate (Jennifer Beals) the story of saying goodbye to Charlotte, being offered a television job in San Francisco, Ronee and Martin's wedding, and the birth of Daphne and Niles's son. It's chock full of recognizable guest stars, including Jason Biggs (American Pie) as the vet who delivers the baby (yes, the vet), and Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace), Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), and Richard E. Grant (Withnail & I) as Daphne's brothers.
The 2003-2004 television season saw the final bow of two beloved, long-running series. Unfortunately for Frasier, the hype over Friends overshadowed its own place in television history. Frasier was never the water-cooler show that touched on must-discuss issues, or a commentator on popular culture or modern relationships. It never tried to be hip or controversial or ground-breaking.
So what was it that led the pompous psychiatrist and his family and friends through 11 years on his own show, following 10 on Cheers? Frasier was very good at what it did -- crafting a quintessential sitcom.
Ludicrous situations arising from absurd misunderstandings and deceptions create the comedy on Frasier, far more than any esoteric quips about Freud and Wagner. Two of the central characters in Frasier may be intellectual snobs, but the humor itself isn't high-brow enough to alienate viewers.
The plots may be familiar -- from other sitcoms and even from previous episodes of the series -- but usually Frasier did the pratfalls and tortured plots better than we've seen before. "Guns N' Neuroses" has some priceless physical humor as Martin, Niles, and Daphne form a contorted tableau to hide bullet damage to Frasier's prized possessions. The final season has yet another example of the "straight man mistaken for gay" plot. Besides not being terribly original in the first place, it was done to hilarious effect in Season Two when the new station manager thought Frasier invited him on a date, then assumed both Martin and Niles were gay. Still, "The Doctor is Out" episode takes the joke to a new level, as Frasier is tempted to go further and further in the courtship rather than lose out on the perks of a relationship with Alistair.
The show doesn't always rise above the sometimes-recycled plots. But for every "I'm Listening," where unlikely and not-very-funny events conspire to make Frasier a snoop, or "SeaBee Jeebies," where yet another awards ceremony has Frasier looking bad and yet another competition with Niles has him jealous, there is a "Caught in the Act." This episode has an arsenal of quick witticisms ("Isn't there a small part of you that wants to be bad?" Frasier: "Yeah, and three guesses which part.") and self-referential lines (Nanny G to Frasier: "Do you have any idea what it's like to play the same character for TWENTY YEARS?!"), as well as later payoffs to jokes established earlier.
The ensemble cast offers enough variety that most viewers could find at least one to root for. Personally, I would have liked the show much better overall if it were called Niles. David Hyde Pierce's delightful portrayal of the nervous, neurotic brother is more Frasier than Frasier. Grammar does pomposity well, but he was sometimes a little shaky on the vulnerable side of the personality, and crossed over to downright annoying too often for me.
The writers knew from the beginning that this would be the last season, and they took advantage of that to reflect on the past as well as build up storylines that allowed them to send the characters off in fitting style.
Martin is well-matched with the sarcastic, no-nonsense Ronee, and the relationship finally gives him a future out of the ugly recliner in his son's apartment. Wendie Malick brings just the right tone to the younger, sassier love interest.
Niles's secret, torturous crush on Daphne had long surpassed its shelf life when the writers finally put them together in a romantic relationship at the end of the seventh season. Though Hyde Pierce and Leeves have all the passionate chemistry of your average brother and sister, their characters are still fun together. It's also nice to see long-suffering Niles in a happy marriage with a baby on the way -- and yet we viewers didn't have to suffer through the addition of a baby to the character mix. We also get more Maris jokes as she returns for a few episodes (no, you still don't get to see or hear her).
Daphne has matured from the days of her psychic flashes and Grammy Moon stories, but retains her essential Moon-ness despite now being a Crane. Leeves' second real-life pregnancy was mercifully transformed into Daphne's pregnancy, unlike her first, which, in one of the most bizarre pregnancy "disguisings" on TV, resulted in Daphne being sent to fat camp.
Speaking of the unfortunate addition of a baby to the cast, Roz's Alice has one painless appearance this season, but Roz herself doesn't feature very prominently now that the show has largely been taken out of the workplace setting. We fortunately get last glimpses of Bulldog, Gil, Noel, Kenny, and BeBe, but Roz is sadly underused and seems like a slightly more fleshed-out member of that group of minor characters. Her final story is the only one to feel a bit tacked on.
This season is focused on bringing Frasier himself to a happier place. There are several references to how stagnant his life was over the last 10 years, and his inability to find lasting love. After a dramatic move to Seattle from Boston, adjusting to life with his father, and becoming a radio star, the Frasier of the beginning of the series was much like the Frasier at the beginning of this final season: lonely and looking for a new challenge. He gets some resolution with Lilith, and some fatherly bonding with Frederick. Most importantly, he meets his match (maker) in Laura Linney's Charlotte. Just neurotic enough to be his equal, she is also smart, funny and sweet. The love story wisely doesn't overwhelm the final season, and is left hanging enough to not be trite. But by the end, Frasier's life is on the cusp of welcome change.
The final episode stands as one of the best series finales I've seen in a long time, if you ignore that it's too in love with its guest-star lineup. Storylines are wrapped up in ways that offer new beginnings, without being obvious fodder for potential spin-offs. There is true emotion and friendship on the screen, as the actors' own feelings about the end of their run leak through into the characters' reactions to each other.
Paramount didn't go to much effort on the extras for this set, which is presented in Digipak. There are no episode commentaries, which seems like a huge omission for the final season. Two featurettes -- at least one of which was previously aired as a season-wrapping special -- are the only bonuses, offering interviews with the cast and producers, directors, and writers.
The video and audio quality of the set are superb for a television series, as might be expected for a very recent series, and surpass what you'll find in syndication.
Though there are ubiquitous Frasier reruns on TV, the reasonable list price for this set and the emotional final episode make this DVD set a worthwhile addition to a collection, despite the disappointing extras. A series that had outlasted its welcome and was showing its age, Frasier redeemed itself with this final season.
Not guilty. Goodnight, Frasier.
Review content copyright © 2005 Diane Wild; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 535 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Observations, Analyses and Good-Byes" Featurette
* "Frasier Says Farewell" Featurette