Judge Ryan Keefer wonders how such a balanced man can drink so much sherry.
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 Ninth Season (published May 15th, 2007), Frasier: The Complete Final Season (published January 12th, 2005), and Frasier: The Complete Tenth Season (published January 9th, 2008) are also available.
"Hello Seattle…I'm listening."
Well, Frasier, Niles, Martin, Daphne, and Roz are back for the eighth season, after leaving the seventh on a bit of a cliffhanger, where Daphne left Donnie at the altar and ran to Niles' waiting arms. So while the cast picks up the pieces, have the skis cleared the ramp and shark tank or what?
Facts of the Case
At this point, Kelsey Grammer (Down Periscope) was well into his second decade of playing psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane, former spurned Boston groom, now divorced Seattle call-in talk show host. His tortured brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce, Hellboy) may have finally found the woman of his dreams, which was Daphne (Jane Leeves, To Live and Die in L.A.), while the boys' father Martin (John Mahoney, Primal Fear) continually was the comic slap of reality for everyone involved, along with his trusty dog Eddie.
The episode listing for Season Eight is as follows:
• "And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon" (2 parts)
In my previous review of the Season Six of Frasier, I mentioned that the material seemed to be forced and a little bit inconsistent. And by and large, nothing of substance really happened to the main characters of the show during that season. But in Season Eight, you finally had the moment that everyone was waiting for, Daphne and Niles finally found each other, let the horns trumpet and release the doves!
But of course it couldn't be that easy. Fans of the show were expecting to see Niles and Daphne get together, so instead of giving the viewer the easy way out by showing two crazy kids in love, the show's writers parsed bits of joy out a little at a time, so that there was continually something to look forward to. The writers (specifically David Angell and Peter Casey) have to be commended for doing this, because perhaps they were thinking if they went with the conventional road, a death knell could follow. It's happened to the best of shows. So not only did Daphne's fiancée Donny (Saul Rubinek Unforgiven) threaten to sue Daphne for breach of contract, Niles' wife Mel (Jane Adams, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) wanted to have Miles continue the charade of life as a happily married couple, with the promise of a quick and painless divorce. Not only was this another attempt to deny Niles of true happiness, but this also helped extend the drama by a few episodes, as Adams did convey the look of someone who was fiercely protective of image.
The other impact this had on the show was to help give it a shot of life in its waning years, and the performances from the cast seem to reflect that increased vitality, particularly from Leeves (seeing Grammer direct a lot of episodes focused on the supporting cast probably helped as well). The main players do maintain the bar, but after so long, Leeves finally gets the chance to show her chops, and she does very well.
Like before, Season Eight's 23 episodes are spread out over four discs, with six episodes on each of the first three, and five on the last. The highlights for me during this season were:
• "And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon." Not only for the reasons mentioned above, but also for Martin and Frasier's willingness to give the disappointed Niles and Daphne the happiness that they need and deserve, particularly Martin's subtle way of orchestrating a dinner for the couple.
• "The Great Crane Robbery." Frasier becomes a social coach to the new station owner and in the process, the owner becomes a bit of an Annie Wilkes-type character, mimicking Frasier's wardrobe and furniture at the drop of the hat. Niles is still trying to pull off being the happy husband routine to Mel's instruction and it's not working like he thinks.
• "Taking Liberties." This one finally has Niles at his breaking point on the whole fake marriage scam with Mel, while Frasier hires a butler (played by Victor Garber, Alias) who echoes the themes of Niles and Daphne's romance during the episode in a somewhat poignant manner.
• "The Show Must Go Off." Niles and Frasier get an urge to produce a one-man play, but it appears to backfire on them when the actor is dreadfully bad, in a Judd Nelson kind of way. Look for Patrick Macnee (A View to a Kill) and Derek Jacobi (Gosford Park) in guest starring roles.
The important thing to remember when watching Season Eight of Frasier may be that getting Niles and Daphne together also distracted Frasier and Martin so they could focus on keeping the two of them happy, and took away from basically pimping out those characters for dates (which happened more than a few times in Season Six). While there's the occasional Teri Polo (Meet the Parents), Jean Smart (Garden State), and Patricia Clarkson (The Green Mile), things would appear more focused on the Cranes' next stages of life than anything else. As Martin's next stage was either a nursing home or death, there wasn't that much development left to make (I kid, I kid!).
By and large, the case could be made that Season Eight of Frasier was one of the best during its run. It helped extend storylines a couple more seasons and certainly snapped the cast out of the funk of the usual formulaic situation comedy that was rapidly shortening its lifespan.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Nine Seasons of Frasier now out on DVD with no show-related extras to speak of. Way to go, Paramount.
Long on quality television, Frasier got its second creative wind long enough for it to be carried through for the rest of the year. While Paramount continues to disappoint in not giving the show the attention it deserves, the episodes are certainly "must-see" in the syndication world.
The court's previous verdict for the sixth season is upheld for the eighth, since Paramount dropped the ball again when it comes to providing some extra material for the Frasier enthusiast.
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