Friday, November 27, 2009

Frasierquest 1.10: Oops

Bulldog at his Bulldoggiest
Marin: I tuned into the Gonzo Sports Show like I do every afternoon, and they had Father Mike filling in. I hate that! All it was, was “Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Notre Dame...”

And we go right to another episode focused on the radio station. I think this is a sign that the show is continuing to expand beyond the family dynamic; if you knew nothing about FRASIER and happened to catch this one installment, you might even think this was a workplace sitcom. Sure, all the regulars get some face time and Frasier himself still drives the action, so it’s not that dramatic a shift, but mostly the episode serves to flesh out Frasier’s work environment a little more, and put a welcome spotlight on Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe in the process.

When meeting with Roz and others from the station, Frasier overhears the rumor that KACL is over budget and needs to let some of its high-priced talent go. The word is that Bulldog, the highest rated, but also highest paid and shortest tempered of the on-air talent, will be the one to get the axe. Later, when Father Mike (George Deloy) is worried that he might be getting fired, Frasier lets him in on the above rumor, which Bulldog overhears, compelling him to charge into the office of station manager Ned Miller (John Glover) and chew him out. As it turned out, the rumor was false, but now Bulldog has quit in the most un-repealable way possible. When he shows up on Frasier’s doorstep, Frasier’s guilt compels him to try and persuade Miller to take Bulldog back, which is no mean feat- the manager is a nasty, unforgiving, ill-tempered man himself, and he cheats on his wife (if Daphne’s readings are correct.)

One of the most common devices in farce is the overheard (and often misheard) conversation, and though FRASIER has yet to really embrace that genre, it’s definitely starting a little more in that direction. (The way I see it, proper farce requires at least two or three misunderstandings to start compounding on each other until nobody has any idea what is going on at all.) In this case, at least, Frasier isn’t misheard- he simply has the wrong information from the start. Again he faces an ethical dilemma when it comes to dealing with the consequences of his (well-intentioned) actions, but as much as the episode is driven by what he does, he’s not entirely the focus.

Instead, this is Bulldog’s first time getting some significant plot attention, and it’s good to see. Dan Butler, who already had a solid reputation as comedian and character actor, jumped into this role with enthusiasm early, and this episode helps to demonstrate why he became such a fixture on the show. A number of other KACL personalities get introduced, either on screen or in passing, including Father Mike, Chopper Dave, and Bonnie Weems.

One personality who won’t be staying around is Ned Miller himself, and though Glover is such a good actor that you hate to see him go, Miller is such a hateful presence that it’s probably for the best. This isn’t a show that does nasty very much; the most negative person on it is someone we never see or hear. Just about everyone else has some redeeming factor. Glover gets one scene, but it’s a frighteningly memorable performance, and though the episode’s resolution is, on paper, kind of contrived, he and Grammer sell it.

On the subject of negative people, there’s something wonderfully fitting about the business with Niles bringing over a plant that Maris has killed through- well, whatever she considers love- in the hopes that Daphne can restore it. Remember, by this point the writers still were treating Niles’ crush as a gag, so the foreshadowing and Jungian symbolism is entirely unintentional. (The scene also keeps Daphne connected to a spiritual, “Earth Mother” image, which is a rich vein of symbolism all its own.) In the same scene we figure out that Martin has worked out that Niles is kind of smitten, but doesn’t seem to see any harm in it.

So domestic developments continue, and really the only change from prior episodes is how much time gets spent there vs. the station. But this is still a sign that the show’s pushing at its own boundaries, making space for future shenanigans and letting the irregulars start to come into their own. Nearly all shows that live past their first season do this, but there’s something fascinating about the process. As for the episode itself, it’s hard to criticize an episode which brings in two great guest comedians, then puts Daphne in a unitard for no particular reason.

Guest Caller: Jay Leno as Don

Written by Denise Moss & Sy Dukane
Directed by James Burrows
Aired 18 November, 1993

Niles: I really have to go. I’m conducting a seminar on multiple personality disorders, and it takes me forever to fill out the nametags.

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