Saturday, March 27, 2010

Frasierquest 2.2: The Unkindest Cut of All

Daphne + puppies = cutest pic ever
Martin: Oh, why does everything with you shrinks start in the crotch?

As I said in the last post, by this season the producers of FRASIER knew they had a hit on their hands. Critics liked it, viewers liked it, they had people’s attention. Still, it never hurts to hedge your bets, and who doesn’t love a box of puppies?

Eddie hasn’t gotten a lot of space in the reviews thusfar, because as a dog there’s only so much he can do to influence the plot. He gets to do some funny thing once every episode or so, we laugh at the cute doggie, and the plot moves on. This is one of a very few episodes where Eddie is a major plot element, and though it may have come off as a little pandering in comparison to what the show had already done, “The Unkindest Cut of All” has a certain basic I LOVE LUCY appeal to it. There’s not the same attempt at thematic significance as in other episodes, but funny stuff does happen for around 20 minutes or so, so you can’t complain too much.

A neighbor woman informs Frasier and Martin that Eddie has been getting friendly with her dog, and leaves his mongrel seed on their doorstep. Daphne dotes on the puppies while Frasier tries to give them away, and Martin is obligated to take his best friend to the vet to make sure this doesn’t happen again. He backs out at the last minute, compelling Frasier to take up the job, but Martin catches up with the two at the vet, and Eddie runs off while they’re arguing, forcing the Cranes to go look for the missing pooch.

I’m vulnerable to cuteness like most people, and particularly susceptible to transitional cuteness, which is when someone is finding something very cute and themselves looking adorably vulnerable in the process. So Daphne cooing over Eddie’s puppies pretty much melts me into a puddle every time. The tipping point is probably when she names one of the puppies “Basil.” Normally a sitcom going this route is taken as a sign of desperation (c.f. all of FULL HOUSE), but here they manage to sell it.

This is as good an episode as any to talk a little about Moose- who played Eddie for most of the show’s run (he retired in later seasons, letting his son Enzo fill in)- and Matilde de Cagny, the dog’s trainer. De Cagny pretty much “directed” Moose and Enzo throughout the series, making all of Eddie’s gags possible, and though I’m not a connoisseur of animal action in film and television, I have to say it’s impressive what she manages to pull off. Moose naturally gets a lot of face time in this episode, and there’s a real sense of Eddie having a personality, albeit an oddball one. This may be why the cuteness fits in; Eddie comes off more as a character, and not just something adorable they bring in to catch people’s attention.

I’m not sure about the structure on this one- it goes from the puppies, to getting Eddie to the vet, to looking for Eddie when he escapes. I guess those are three acts right there, but it doesn’t quite feel like a setup-complication-payoff situation. Failing to adhere to dramatic unities isn’t really a major drawback, but in this case it does mean that the story seems to peter out- the puppies have all been sold by about halfway in, and the operation doesn’t take place until the credits.

In the end, the main conflict in the story is revealed as Martin’s reluctance to give his best friend what Niles euphemistically refers to as “le snip-snip”. It’s another thing he has to do to live in Frasier’s world and he’s not comfortable with that. The episode manages to touch on the relationship between father and son in the midst of broader funny-animal business. It’s a bit slow due to the plot not being very tight, but it nonetheless proves the writerly axiom that when in doubt, you can’t go wrong with puppies.

Guest Caller: Lily Tomlin as Rita

Written by Dave Hackel
Directed by Rick Beren

Aired September 27, 1994

Daphne: Oh, couldn’t we just keep them for a little while?

Frasier: No, we don’t want them taking after their father. It may be too late already... (to the puppies) Stop staring at me!

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