Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Frasierquest 1.19: Give Him The Chair

Frasier, The Chair, Niles
Leo: Excuse me, but I happen to be a professional. I take a lot of
pride in my work, and I would never-

He hits a table, knocking over some objet d'art.

Leo: Whoa... how'd that get there? Hey look, at least I didn't
lose my license this time, right?

Frasier: All right, all right. Quickly, quickly. I'm sure Beavis will
start to wonder where you are.

It waits. In the midst of African erotic art and replica fainting couches, situated with a perfect angle on the TV and optimum position near the dinner table, it waits. It is sustained by duct tape, survives catastrophic spills, festers within Frasier’s apartment like a pea-green fungus. And it does not wish to be moved.

The Barca Lounger sits on the divide between “prop” and “character”, much like the Doctor’s TARDIS, only it’s stuck in the shape of an affront to design aesthetics. Since the whole show is based around Frasier’s dad moving into his life, the chair makes a great symbol of that intrusion; even if Martin isn’t in the apartment for a scene or two, the chair reminds Frasier and us of his presence. It makes sense that Frasier’s first (and only really sustained) attempt to remove this blight comes in the first season; it was a plot hook from the moment Martin had it wheeled in, and eventually the writers had to run with it.

Frasier decides that replacing Martin’s chair is something long overdue, reasoning that, as the chair is a “transitional object,” getting rid of it would actually be good for his father, to complete the process of settling into his new home. So, without Martin’s knowledge or consent, he has the thing taken out, and a sleek black recliner with Swedish massage put in its place. Despite rave reviews from Niles and especially Daphne on this new feature, Martin just doesn’t take to the new arrival, and wants his old chair back. Unfortunately, Leo the building lackey (Phil Buckman) forgot that Frasier has a storage space, and put the chair outside, where it was quickly snatched up, meaning that in order to appease his father, Frasier must scour Seattle for the billious monstrosity.

It’s interesting how little set-up is needed for this plot to get moving; there’s no particular embarassment which causes Frasier to want to throw the chair out, he just decides that enough is enough. This episode could fall almost anywhere in the season, or even the next few, and while that’s true of other episodes, the Frasier v. Chair conflict is an element which doesn’t change for a long time.

If the beginning isn’t much, then the climax is an interesting twist, as Frasier finds the chair being used as a prop in a high school play. Valerie Curtin (who actually is related to Jane, surprisingly enough) is great as the increasingly frazzled drama teacher who is deadset on keeping what is, by far, the most interesting thing on stage. It’s an odd direction for the story to go, and a great little mini-story in itself. Come to think of it, between Curtin, Buckman, and a great voice appearance by Malcolm McDowell as an eccentric psychiatrist being interviewed by Frasier, the guest stars do a lot to carry this one.

This is also a return to the show’s initial conflict between Frasier and Martin, which was sidelined for the last few episodes. To Martin, the chair is a reminder of the life he used to have, bound up with all sorts of positive memories, including those of Hester. (Hester is sort of the trump card in these arguments.) Ultimately Frasier can’t deprive his father of that; while some change may be inevitable or necessary, that’s no reason to cut ties with the past entirely.

And so the chair wins this round, as it will many others. There are certain forces Frasier cannot prevail against, and comfortable bad taste is one of them. The chair’s vengeance is mighty; violate its will and one must not only repent, but go to even greater lengths to atone than it ever took to confront it in the first place.

It will not be moved.

Guest Caller: Malcom McDowell as Dr. Bruga

Written by Anne Flett-Giordano and Chuck Ranberg
Directed by James Burrows
Aired March 17, 1994

Niles: Well, at least I don't have to live with something unattractive.

Frasier shoots Niles a look from under raised eyebrows. Niles, taking
his meaning, looks offended.

Frasier: Oh Niles, Niles, I'm just having some fun with you. Actually,
I think Maris is rather attractive - in a, a minimalist sort
of way.

[Quotes again via John Masson and IMDB, seriously, you are losing ground here.]

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