Saturday, July 24, 2010

Frasierquest 2.15: You Scratch My Book...

Frasier meets Honey
Frasier: Niles, you are giving a woman money in order to obtain physical affection! We are talking the world's oldest profession. Granted, this is sort of the Walt Disney version, but still.

Some guys- possibly most- will do anything for a good lookin’ dame. It happens to the best of us, and though it’s not something we tend to be particularly proud of, it persists. Frasier and Niles are hopeless cases, and in “You Scratch My Book...” they let affection drag them into some uncomfortable ethical places. This episode is a really good example of parallel plot lines being used to echo a theme, something the show hasn’t done much before. The writing’s sharper than usual, and the dames are lovely.

aphne has been getting into self-help, and asks Frasier to get an autograph from pop psychologist Dr. Honey Snow (Shannon Tweed). Frasier is sickened by Snow’s generic perky babblings, but utterly flummoxed by the woman herself, and starts dating her. Meanwhile, Daphne tells Niles to have his broker invest some of her money on his latest pick. She starts reaping rewards and spending like a drunken yuppie, and giving Niles the occasional kiss of joy. Frasier can’t help but think Niles is lying about her stock performance to obtain physical affection, but his integrity on the subject is tested when he agrees to write the foreword to Honey Snow’s latest book. Then he gets the manuscript.

Shannon Tweed is an interesting guest star for this show; a playmate and former wife of Hugh Hefner, Tweed was by this time making her way appearing in low-budget erotic thrillers that mostly just aired on pay cable. (She’s possibly better known now as Gene Simmons’ common-law wife.) In one of the very few roles where she keeps her clothes on, Tweed does a pretty good job; she has a look and attitude that projects intelligence. Dr. Snow’s brand of psychology isn’t the most incisive, but you get the feeling that she’s no flake.

So, confronted with yet another gorgeous and intellectual woman, Frasier tries to overlook that one tiny dealbreaker. Any chance at a long-term relationship is probably doomed by his lack of respect for her work, but he hopes that he can at least make it last long enough for, well, a few kisses of joy. It’s caddish behavior, but in Frasier’s defense he honestly tries to like her new book, or at least come up with a suitably dignified introduction. Niles, never one to miss an opportunity to show up his big brother, has a field day quoting from it.

Niles’ situation is similarly complex. At first Daphne’s stock did well and she gave him a kiss of thanks. Then it tanked, but he couldn’t bear to tell her she’d lost hundreds of dollars, so he made up the rest of her remarkable successes. And if he happens to get a little friendly affection out of it- well, there’s the rub. Niles is being a cad out of chivalry, because from the moment he met Daphne he knew he could never disappoint her.

Maneuvering both brothers into a similarly uncomfortable position does wonders for their trading of insults, and the byplay in this episode is the best it’s been in a while. I also like the amusing detail of the name of a restaurant Daphne treats the gang to: “Farmer Jack’s Chicken, Chicken, Chicken.” The occasional weird restaurant or store name will pop up on the show, and a laugh’s a laugh.

Between some sharp gags, satisfying interplay between Niles and Daphne, and the lovely Ms. Tweed, this episode is great fun. There’s inevitable heartbreak, as honesty and deception alike get punished, but as such we can forgive the Crane brothers’ brief ethical lapses. Sitcom characters exist to do the things we shouldn’t do, and in this case it’s go a little too far in the name of romance. Or quick smooches.

No Guest Caller

Written by Joe Keenan
Directed by Andy Ackerman
Aired February 14, 1995 (Ahh...)

Frasier: Oh, don't be ridiculous! Our two situations are totally different.

Niles: Oh, really? How so?

Frasier: Well, for one thing, you've been misleading a woman for your own selfish gain.

Niles: And so are you!

Frasier: Well, I'm not finished. She was also trusting you to tell the truth!

Niles: Oh, and the difference would be?

Frasier: Your woman is English!

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