Thursday, April 22, 2010

Frasierquest 2.5: Duke's, We Hardly Knew Ye

Frasier and Niles at Duke's
Frasier: You buy into an investment GROUP, Eddie, you don't know!

One of the problems with doing this feature is that when I’m watching these episode, I have to be on the lookout for things to write about. A weekly television comedy, even one of the very best there is, is not going to have a big important episode each time. “Duke’s, We Hardly Knew Ye” is particularly difficult because it’s almost the definition of a bottle show; it’s about a place we’ve never seen before and never will again, and though it again deals with Frasier and Martin’s glacially evolving relationship, it’s hard to articulate how its treatment of the subject is different from past episodes.

Niles convinces Frasier to go halvsies on an investment in a development group planning to build a mini-mall in Seattle. On a seemingly unrelated note, one night Martin invites the two over to come over to Duke’s, the bar he frequents with many of his fellow cops. The two do their best to try and fit in, until they hear that the bar is being shut down and demolished in order to make room for the mini-mall they’ve invested in. Niles decides to keep mum, but the guilt tears at Frasier until one sleepless night (which finally gives the writers an excuse to use “Sleepless in Seattle” as a title card.)

My first observation is that this seems like it actually may have been a fairly expensive episode. We get a big (albeit not that elaborate) set built for a location that will be seen once, loaded with extras and bit players, and demolished by a wrecking ball at show’s end. I don’t know much about TV budgets, but it’s interesting to think how a seemingly standard episode of a sitcom can create unique logistical issues.

Again, we’re going to the core Frasier v. Martin dynamic which the show was built around, but there’s progress to be seen. By this point both have come to terms with their living together, and while Frasier has frequently made overtures to try and get involve with whatever his dad is interested in, for once Martin invites him. Ironically, if he hadn’t done this, Frasier would possibly never find out that he was partly responsible for destroying something his father loves- a lot of the episode hinges on whether or not it’s better to know these things, at least when it gets to a point where you can’t do anything about it. Frasier, Martin, and Niles are ultimately helpless in the face of progress.

I have to say the story resonated with me a little bit more than I remembered. Losing a bar or regular hangout sucks, and can really damage a social circle; Frasier tries to console Martin that he’ll still see his cop friends, and to a certain extent he does, but he knows it’s never the same. (I still bear a certain resentment towards whoever decided to turn Columbia, MO’s best karaoke joint into an upscale steakhouse.) What we see of Duke’s ain’t pretty- it’s one step above Moe’s Tavern- but there is a good sense of loss conveyed at its passing.

There’s something resembling a B-story here, with Daphne (now out of the dating doldrums) about to go on a third date with a man named Derek, and being made aware of the apparently uniquely American tradition of the third date being when things get intimate. There’s not much to it since we never actually see Derek ever, but I like the payoff. It’s also good to see how Roz is included in the story despite not having much to do; her snarkiness spices up a couple of exposition scenes, and the cattiness between her and Niles is given some nice twists. (She basically helps him convince Frasier to co-invest by insulting him in the worst way.)

“Duke’s, We Hardly Knew Ye” is hardly the last we’ll see of Marty’s social circle, and eventually he’ll find a new place as one must do. So I guess this episode does advance a few things after all. Still, it’s less enjoyable for anything significant happening as it is for just having some funny business, be it from the main plot or from Roz or Daphne on the sidelines. It’s not the most disciplined episode, but whatever works.

No Guest Caller

Written by Linda Morris & Vic Rauseo
Directed by James Burrows
Aired October 18, 1994

Frasier: Maybe we're even performing a community service. Men with guns will have one less place to go and liquor up.

Niles: There's always Roz's place.

(Quotes via David Langley at

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