Friday, November 20, 2009

Frasierquest 1.9: Selling Out

Bebe Glaser introduces herself to Frasier
Frasier: What would you think if I did a commercial and publicly endorsed a product?

Daphne: Oh, you mean like Cher does?

Frasier: Thank you, Daphne, one against. Dad?

This is another episode I’ve been looking forward to covering, as it brings in one of the series’ best recurring guest stars. Bebe Glaser, as played by Harriet Sansom Harris, is not just a great comic personality, but has an extremely good track record for being in great episodes. As good as the show’s core ensemble is, some of these irregular characters really help bring out their best. Another story that deals with Frasier’s career as a radio shrink, “Selling Out” has a lot of fun moments, and deals with one of the basic conflicts of his job.

KACL is having its radio personalities do on-air advertising, and Frasier initially balks at the offer to plug the Hunan Palace (leaving the ad to Bulldog, who proceeds to personally offend every Seattleite of even vaguely Asian descent.) He reconsiders, goes to the restaurant (offscreen), likes it, and so agrees to the deal. This puts him in touch with Bebe, Bulldog’s agent, who offers to represent him and help him on a few more endorsement deals, unsubtly hinting that this could help get him the money to send Frederick to Harvard when the time comes. But Frasier does hit a wall when he gets an offer for Emery’s Nuts- he’s not a nut person, but it does mean a television deal, but that does mean appearing inside a giant peanut...

Niles only has one scene here, at the Nervosa, but he provides a key perspective. As far as he’s concerned, Frasier’s already sold out just by doing a radio call-in show instead of proper psychiatric practice, and this is just one step further down the line. (He does so through a rather oblique analogy to Sharon Stone in BASIC INSTINCT- I’m embarrassed to admit it took me a while to figure out he was referring to that, and not Marilyn Monroe in THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH). Frasier obviously doesn’t agree, and doesn’t even consider himself a radio personality as such, but he has to watch out. It’s another ethical dilemma, and it’s interesting just how often these are coming up.

Bebe tends to play the role of temptress when she shows up; her Satanic enthusiasm in this episode is, compared to later appearances, subdued, but she’s still buttering up a new client. Harris is quite capable of subtle acting- she has small but very memorable roles in both MEMENTO and NURSE BETTY that show the more subdued portion of her range- but for Bebe, it’s mostly about the grand gestures, tempered on occasion with the tiniest bit of underplaying.

Even by the standards the show has set so far, this is a well-written episode; every scene is lively, bursting with so many good exchanges that I had a really hard time picking which quotes to use for the write-up. (I’m especially fond of Daphne’s sudden revelation that she used to star in a TV series in England- something that’s never mentioned again, obviously.) It’s broader than usual, but it’s good for the show to go this route once in a while.

It’s interesting to think of Frasier as a local celebrity, because we’ve all got those. He has a sort of lowercase-f fame, but it’s enough for him to have to watch out and make sure he doesn’t completely sell out. He finds a sort of balance at the end, but this isn’t the last time the issue comes up. And Bebe will always be around to tempt him.

Guest Caller: Carl Reiner as Roger

Written by Lloyd Garver
Directed by Andy Ackerman
Aired November 11, 1993

Frasier: Roger, at Cornell University, they have an incredible piece of scientific equipment known as the Tunneling Electron Microscope. Now this microscope is so powerful that by firing electrons you can actually see images of the atom, the infinitesimally minute building block of our universe. Roger, if I were using that microscope right now, I still wouldn’t be able to locate my interest in your problem.

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