Friday, February 25, 2011

Frasierquest 3.14: The Show Where Diane Comes Back

Frasier reacts
Daphne: I wish someone would just tell me who this woman is, and why we're trying to impress the pants off her.

Frasier: She's a one-time Boston barmaid who had a nervous breakdown and ended up in a sanitorium, where I met her, fell for her, and then was so mercilessly rejected by her that to this day there is a sucking chest wound where once there dwelled a heart!

We’ve all seen Lilith’s effect on Frasier’s mental health, but there’s another woman who weighs heavily on his mind. As Diane Chambers, Shelley Long only made two appearances on this show, but both are pretty strong, and “The Show Where Diane Comes Back” ranks as one of the better Cheers-reunion episodes. It’s a come down from “Moon Dance” (and what isn’t?), but also a nice return to focus on Frasier.

For those who don’t know their history together, the above quote is as good a summary as you’ll find. The two actually became engaged, only for him to be left at the altar when she rushed back to Sam Malone (who would also be left at the altar.) Diane shows up in Seattle with a play being produced, and the intervening years have not given Frasier any real sense of closure on their relationship. He’s determined to make himself look good in front of her, but it’s hard to flaunt your wealth at a former writer for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. It turns out, though, that the backers for Diane’s play have pulled out, and Frasier sees an opportunity to step in, play the hero, and maybe win her over in the process. But then he sees a rehearsal of her play, and it brings back some bad memories.

If Frasier and Lilith’s relationship is a story of two people trying to be mature about their growing apart, Frasier and Diane’s is the much more neurotic flipside. Their original relationship was based on dependence, with Diane being a flighty free spirit occasionally dependent on the kindness of strangers, but both partners are equally needy. While Diane needs Frasier’s help, Frasier needs her to need him (as Cheap Trick so eloquently put it.) It... almost works, but she doesn’t have the same level of emotional attachment to him.

It takes the play to realize this, and lucky for us. “Rhapsody and Requiem” is a giant in-joke for Cheers fans, being an eerily note-perfect recreation of the show, turned into an ego trip, as the patrons of a Boston bar profess their love and obsession with a wonderful barmaid named Mary Anne. The great John Carroll Lynch (of Fargo and The Drew Carey Show) gets stuck as “Franklin”, Frasier’s double, but it’s “Stan” (Perry Stephens) who has stolen Diane’s heart just as Sam once did. Or at least he’s a fling.

So Diane comes off not so well in this episode. She doesn’t mean to hurt Frasier, and she doesn’t even seem to be consciously giving him the wrong impression, but her self absorption blinds her to a lot. Frasier isn’t at his best either, but this being a fairly empathetic show, in the end both of them are able to make their amends and say a fond farewell. It may just be for nostalgia’s sake, but it’s a fitting ending anyway. (From some accounts this was also a burying of the hatchet for Grammer and Long, after some bad blood during Cheers’ run when Long apparently resented the attention the new character was getting.)

Diane really only pops up this one time in the flesh, but it’s not Shelley Long’s last work on the series. Still, the episode is a fitting denouement for their relationship, such as it was. The various Cheers reunions really only exist for old time’s sake, but this one captures that wistful nostalgia quite well. There’s really no getting over a relationship, at least not one that ended as badly as this, but Frasier finds what closure he can.

No Guest Caller

Written by Christopher Lloyd
Directed by James Burrows

Aired February 13, 1996

Frasier: What you are feeling is that this woman has reached into your chest, plucked out your heart, and thrown it to her hell-hounds for a chew toy! And it's not the last time either! Because that's what this woman is! She is the Devil! There's no use running away from her, because no matter how far you go, no matter how many years you let pass, you will never be completely out of reach of those bony fingers! So drink hearty, Franklin, and laugh! Because you have made a pact with Beelzebub! And her name is Mary Anne!

(Transcriptions by Mike Lee at

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