Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frasierquest 3.20: Police Story

Martin and Maureen on a date
Niles: Maybe underneath it all, you’re attracted to this woman, and you wanna go out with her.

Martin: Oh, are you nuts? That’s sick! That’s disgusting! But for the sake of argument let’s say you’re right.

Marty Crane has a way with the ladies. It’s not something he tries too hard at most of the time, unlike Frasier- women just seem to like him. “Police Story” has him returning to the dating scene after a hiatus of a couple of seasons, and as such it actually sets up material for some later episodes. On its own, it’s a sweet enough little story, marred by not quite knowing when to stop.

Frasier has agreed to drive Roz to a date while her car’s in the shop, and while speeding to her destination he gets pulled over. The cop, Maureen Cutler (Jane Kaczmarek) turns out to be a fan and lets him off with a warning, and Frasier is smitten enough to want to see her again. He gets Martin to accompany him to McGinty’s, a favorite watering hole for Seattle’s finest, and sure enough runs into her again. However, in the course of things, Maureen and Martin get to talking, and it turns out she’s more attracted to Crane the elder, asking him out. This puts Martin in two quandries- whether he can tell Frasier that Maureen picked him, and whether he wants to date again.

Something that’s obvious but not really stated is that Maureen is at least a couple of decades younger than Martin. I make no moral judgements beyond a certain point, and Jane Kaczmarek is clearly well over 18, but TV does have a double standard and it is more common to see older men with younger women than the other way around. The episode doesn’t bring this up, though I imagine Maureen was always going to be around Frasier’s age. Niles does sense some nervousness on Martin’s part about dating Maureen, but some of the subtext may be that he’s worried about getting into a relationship with someone younger. Either way, he takes the plunge.

Martin has dated before on the show, but it’s after this episode that we start to see him as an active ladies’ man. His scenes with Maureen are played well by both actors (that Kaczmarek is good is hardly a surprise), with a real sense of chemistry. Martin’s dating life is solid material for the show, because he tends not to make the epic blunders his son does (in fact, Maureen stays his girlfriend well beyond this season.)

Unfortunately someone has to lose in this arrangement, namely Frasier. The episode takes place around his 43rd birthday, and he’s been some time without knowing the touch of a woman. This weighs heavily on him, and though meeting a sexy police woman gives him some confidence, it ends up being taken away just in time for the worst surprise party ever. The last scene comes off as almost unpleasant; it’s the kind of unearned embarassment I have a hard time laughing at. Frasier just ends up having a bad day and it’s not really his fault.

There’s an amusing scene here introducing two of Daphne’s Anglo-American friends, Charlotte (Jillie Mack) and Maggie (Denise Poirier). They are never seen again, but it’s a brief picture of Daphne’s life outside the Crane home, something that was never developed much. (Incidentally, Mack is Tom Selleck’s wife and Poirier is the voice of Aeon Flux.) Luck Hari appears again, and we learn about an unhappy love affair Frasier had with one of his coworkers many months ago.

“Police Story” would probably have worked better if it were focused more on Martin; Frasier’s story is just him having a terrible day, without much to learn from it. Still, the episode has its moments, and it’s more significant than it looks. From here on in, Martin’s no longer content to be a lonely widower, and when a Crane man is on the loose, that can never end well.

No Guest Caller

Written by Sy Rosen
Directed by Philip Charles Mackenzie
Aired April 23, 1996

Niles [to Frasier]: The gleam of her jackboots, her dangling nightstick, the glint of her handcuffs hanging on her leather belt... you’re off on some lurid little disciplinary fantasy.

Daphne: Oh, Dr. Crane, shame on you, you’ve got icing up and down your sleeve.

Niles: Oh. I am a naughty boy.

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