Friday, January 29, 2010

Frasierquest 1.18: And the Whimper is...

Frasier, Roz, and Fletcher Grey in a post-awards discussion.
Frasier: I thought you were bringing Brad MacNamara?

Roz: Well I was, but he got called out on a story at the last minute. Some
hospital went up in flames. Do you know anyone who has worse luck
than I do?

It’s awards season, I think, and I ask you, is there any greater pinnacle of media acclaim than Seattle’s coveted SeaBea Award? The answer is yes. But for Frasier and Roz, it is temptation enough to engage in the most unprofessional behavior they can. Like the prank wars with Gary’s Old Town Tavern in CHEERS, the SeaBeas are a perennial competition both entirely meaningless and intensely important to the protagonists. “And The Whimper Is...” kicks off an annual tradition for the show itself, lampooning some of the silliness of awards show campaigning along the way.

The plot to this one is fairly simple. Frasier’s show gets nominated for a SeaBea (short for Seattle Broadcasting, and I’m not clear on how that works either), and Frasier and Roz get it into their heads that they should do some hardcore schmoozing in order to win. They send gifts to everyone on the voting committee in hopes that they’ll outdo the competition, but when the ceremony rolls around, Frasier starts to feel bad about what his father thinks is outright bribery. Especially since this may be the last chance at the award for Seattle broadcasting institution Fletcher Grey (John McMartin). Roz, having been in the radio game for ten years, is feeling nothing resembling remorse and is ready to crawl over several corpses for the prize.

Bebe Glaser has a short appearance in this one, but ironically she has nothing to do with Frasier and Roz’s downright Weinstein-esque publicity campaign. The two want that award badly all on their lonesome, and it’s an opportunity to see the pair at their least flattering. Frasier at least starts to question whether he’s doing the right thing- he is nothing if not self-searching, sometimes to a fault- but Roz is more cutthroat than we’ve ever seen her (and to the best of my recollection, will ever see her again.) There’s a weird way in which this helps her character; she’s shown her ugly side, and that rounds her out as a person. She’s humbled somewhat by the way events turn out, so it’s not much of a mark against her.

The episode also develops Roz by showing how much closer she’s become to Frasier’s group (Niles excepted.) She shares some leering (and a push-up bra) with Daphne over her SeaBea date, hunky anchor Brad MacNamara (he doesn’t work out and Noel steps in, but that’s another story), and greets Martin with a friendly peck- she’s now moved to the status of friend of the family rather than just being Frasier’s co-worker. Well into the season, it’s good to see the characters bonding.

On the professional end, things don’t end up going well for Frasier and Roz, though I’m glad the show resisted the easy joke of having them be overlooked year after year. This time, it falls to Fletcher Grey to remind them of what’s important- that awards are nothing compared to the body of work you build up. It’s an interesting dip into the ethics and lessons of a life in the media, something that the show occasionally touches on now and again- and no doubt reflects some of the experience of the writers and showrunners.

FRASIER itself would be no stranger to the awards circuit, so I guess it’s appropriate that they would revisit the SeaBea ceremony year after year. This first visit gives us some good character development for Frasier’s lovely and talented producer, which is arguably enough to sustain the episode, but Frasier also gets in one of his trademark moral dilemmas. If there’s one thing to learn from this episode, it’s that guilt is a powerful story driver.

No Guest Caller

Written by Sy Dukane & Denise Moss
Directed by James Burrows
Aired February 17, 1994

Frasier: So, where's Maris?

Niles: Well, we were just getting ready to leave the house, when Maris got a
glimpse of herself in the hall mirror...

Frasier: Niles, at the end of this story, will I roll my eyes?

Niles: I did.

[Again, quotes come from John Masson's transcript at]

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