Frasier was such a good show

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So chances are that the average reader of this blog has no idea of what show I’m talking about. Even when I was groing up, Frasier’s episodes looked a little bit old, and their humor seemed a bit out of style for the times.

So let’s start at the basics, Frasier was a sitcom that ran from 1993 to 2004. Considering that, it’s no surprise that I found the humor a little bit odd, since I probably saw old reruns during 1997 or 1998 and I wasn’t even 10-years old at the time.

The show presents the life of Frasier Crane, who first appeared in the show Cheers, a psychiatrist and radio talk show host. Frasier has moved back into Seattle after divorcing his wife and has reunited with his younger brother Niles, also a psychiatrist, and his father Martin, a retired detective.

So what made Frasier so good?

Nowadays we rarely have to deal with shows or films presnting themes subtly, or even a single theme that can be approached differently based on the viewers age and level of maturity. Frasier, along with other shows of its time (which I didn’t really become fond of) had a bit of self-censorship regarding such themes, and although they weren’t out there in the open, they weren’t hidden either. In a similar vein to the first games of the Silent Hill series (I can’t believe I’m making such a comparison), you get a different impresion of the game’s topics and how they are presented and treated depending on your own life experience.

This was a feature of the show through all its seasons, and I think that the pilot episode does a very good job of of this. The setting for the that episode is Frasier’s dad getting old and no longer being able to live on his own. Of course there is plenty of humor and laughs to be had because of this episode, but the basic premise is a deep and important one.

In today’s world we would probably not even tackle that issue and if we did, it would be resolved without any meaningful conflict between the characters. It is a real shame that I can’t find an upload of the a specific part of the episode that shows this, so I’ll just copy and paste part of the script, thanks to KACL 780 for keeping an archive of them. A little bit of context first, by this point Frasier and his dad have been living together for a short while and Martin would like to hire a live-in nurse, which Fraiser rejects because…

Frasier: Dad, I'm not having another person living in this house!
 Martin: Give me one good reason why not!
Frasier: Well, for one thing, there's no room for her!
 Martin: What about that room right across the hall from mine?
Frasier: My study?  You expect me to give up my study - the place 
         where I read, where I do my most profound thinking?
 Martin: Ah, use the can like the rest of the world!  You'll adjust!
Frasier: [angry] I don't want to adjust!  I've done enough
         adjusting! I'm in a new city, I've got a new job, I'm 
         separated from my little boy, which in itself is enough to   
         drive me nuts.  And now my father and his dog are living 
         with me!  Well, that's enough on my plate, thank you.  The 
         whole idea of getting somebody in here was to help ease my 
         burden, not to add to it!
 Martin: Oh, do you hear that, Eddie?  We're a burden.
Frasier: Oh Dad, Dad, you're, you're twisting my words!  I meant 
         burden in its most positive sense!
 Martin: As in, "Gee, what a lovely burden?"
Frasier: Something like that, yes!
 Martin: Well, you're not the only one who got screwed here, you 
         know. Two years ago I'm sailing toward retirement and some 
         punk robbing a convenience store puts a bullet in my hip.  
         Next thing you know, I'm trading in my golf clubs for one 
         of these. [shakes his cane] Well, I had plans too, you 
         know!  And this may come as a shock to you, sonny boy, but 
         one of them wasn't living with you.
Frasier: I'm just trying to do the right thing, here.  I'm trying to 
         be the good son.
 Martin: Oh, don't worry, son.  After I'm gone you can live guilt-
         free, knowing you've done right by your pop.
Frasier: You think that's what this is about, guilt?
 Martin: Isn't it?
Frasier: Of course it is!  But the point is, I did it!  I took you 
         in! And I've got news for you - I wanted to do it! [on the 
         verge of tears] Because you're my father.  And how do you 
         repay me? Ever since you've moved in here it's been a snide 
         comment about this or a smart little put-down about that. 
         [grabs his coat and goes to the door] Well, I've done my 
         best to make a home here for you, and once, just once, 
         would it have killed you to say "thank you?"  One lousy 
         "thank you?"

After this Frasier goes to his job at the radio station, where he receives this next couple of calls:

Frasier: We're back.  Roz, who's our next caller?
    Roz: We have Martin on line one.  He's having a problem with his 
Frasier: [presses a button] Hello, Martin.  This is Dr. Frasier 
         Crane; I'm listening.
 Martin: [v.o.] I'm a first-time caller.

Pause as Frasier realises that the caller is his father.

Frasier: Welcome to the show.  How can I help you?
 Martin: I've just moved in with my son and er, it ain't working. 
         There's a lot of tension between us.
Frasier: I can imagine.  Why do you think that's so?
 Martin: I guess I didn't see he had a whole new life planned for 
         himself, and I kinda got in the way.
Frasier: Well, these things are a two-way street.  Perhaps your son 
         wasn't sensitive enough to see how your life was changing.
 Martin: [suddenly loud] You got that right!  I've been telling him 
         that since I got there!
Frasier: I'm sure he appreciated your candour.
 Martin: Well, maybe sometimes I oughta just learn how to keep my 
         trap shut.
Frasier: That's good advice for us all.  Anything else?
 Martin: Yeah, I'm worried my son doesn't know that I really 
         appreciate what he's doing for me.
Frasier: Why don't you tell him?
 Martin: Well, you know how it is with fathers and sons, it... I 
         have trouble saying that stuff.
Frasier: Well, if it helps, I suspect your son already knows how you 
         feel.  Is that all?
 Martin: Yeah, I guess that's it.  Thank you, Dr Crane.
Frasier: My pleasure, Martin.
 Martin: [suddenly loud again] Did you hear what I said?  I said 
         "thank you!"
Frasier: Yes, I heard. 

He presses a button to disconnect Martin.

    Roz: Dr Crane, we have Claire on line four.  She's having a 
         problem getting over a relationship.
Frasier: [presses a button] Hello, Claire.  I'm listening.
 Claire: [distraught] I'm a, well, I'm a mess!  Eight months ago my 
         boyfriend and I broke up, and I just can't get over it.  
         The pain isn't going away.  It's almost like I'm in 
         mourning or something.
Frasier: Claire, you are in mourning.  But you're not mourning the 
         loss of your boyfriend.  You're mourning the loss of what 
         you thought your life was going to be.  Let it go.  Things 
         don't always work out how you planned; that's not 
         necessarily bad.  Things have a way of working out anyway. 
         [pause] Have you ever heard of Lupe Velez?

Again, would we see this kind of writing from the average modern sitcom?

To close this post, I leave you with this clip from the series last episode. I like this clip because it reminds me that no matter how much we achieve or how far we go, there is no point to stopping, the point is to keep going.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s post, see you next week!