After a bout of intense psychoanalysis, Judge Diane Wild concludes that Frasier may be sane after all.
Our reviews of Fan Favorites: The Best of Frasier (published March 18th, 2012), Frasier: The Complete First Season (published June 2nd, 2003), Frasier: The Complete Second Season (published January 20th, 2004), Frasier: The Complete Third Season (published November 24th, 2004), Frasier: The Complete Fourth Season (published February 16th, 2005), Frasier: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 10th, 2005), Frasier: The Complete Sixth Season (published February 8th, 2006), Frasier: The Complete Seventh Season (published December 12th, 2005), Frasier: The Complete Eighth Season (published June 28th, 2006), Frasier: The Complete Ninth Season (published May 15th, 2007), and Frasier: The Complete Tenth Season (published January 9th, 2008) are also available.
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.
Facts of the Case
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"
• "A Man, A Plan, And A Gal: Julia"
• "The Doctor is Out"
• "The Babysitter"
• "The Placeholder"
• "I'm Listening"
• "Maris Returns"
• "Murder Most Maris"
• "Guns N' Neuroses"
• "SeaBee Jeebies"
• "High Holidays"
• "Frasier Lite"
• "The Ann Who Came To Dinner"
• "Freudian Sleep"
• "Caught in the Act"
• "Coots and Ladders"
• "Match Game"
• "Miss Right Now"
• "And Frasier Makes Three"
• "Crock Tales"
• "Goodnight, Seattle"
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.
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Scales of Justice
• "Observations, Analyses and Good-Byes" Featurette
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