Saturday, July 09, 2011

Frasierquest 4.2: Love Bites Dog

Bulldog: Last night, for the first time in my life, I actually said those three little words... ‘Stay for breakfast.’

Up until now, Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe has basically been a one-note character. He’s a horny jackass who loves sports almost as much as he loves himself. And this is all well and good, seeing as he only shows up once in a while as the plot demands. “Love Bites Dog” doesn’t upend the boat, but it takes that first crucial step in character development by having him play against type. It’s Comedy 101, but the character is unexplored enough for it to work.

Roz is worried about Frasier’s continuing dating dry spell, and decides to try and fix him up with a friend of hers, a gorgeous woman golfer named Sharon (Jennifer Campbell). She’s a big fan of his show, and they hit it off for all of two minutes before Bulldog happens to butt in. After a vigorous and flirty argument on the merit of golf as a sport, Bulldog steals away Frasier’s intended, and comes back to KACL the next morning acting a bit odd. He’s happy, pleasant, and understands the lyrics to “Time in a Bottle”. He’s in love. But before the full impact of a romantic Bulldog can hit his co-workers, he’s dumped, and takes it hard, breaking down on-air and running out, leaving Frasier to fill in. So, it’s either find a way to bring Bulldog back to his old scummy self, or let Frasier try and talk about sports for three hours.

The episode pulls a nice emotional swerve on us early on. Frasier’s initial frustration with Bulldog is easy to sympathize with; though he and Sharon weren’t even on a date, they were nonetheless in mid-flirt when Bulldog swooped in, and anyone who’s ever tried to chat up anyone has to give a knowing wince. But the pain quickly subsides in the face of the sheer madness of a lovestruck Bulldog, with Dan Butler doing some of his best work with the character. Something has gone fundamentally wrong, and as in many sitcoms, we find ourselves anxious to see the status quo restored. It’s just not right otherwise.

We actually get two subplots in this episode, the first being Niles’ attempt to expand his practice with a little advertising, the second being Daphne’s attempt to find Martin a new pair of weather-resistant Muckabee shoes after accidentally burning them in the microwave. Neither story is terribly substantial, but they speak to an attempt to get every one of the regulars involved in the episode. Roz sets Frasier up, Daphne and Martin go shoe hunting, Niles ends up appealing to the wrong clientele- I noticed this with the premiere as well, and I can’t help but think there’s a more conscious effort this year to showcase everyone. Daphne and Martin in particular are a nice mix; logically they should interact a lot, as health care worker and patient, but we haven’t seen it that much previously.

The episode resolves with one of those neat little balancing acts that take place in sitcoms; one character has strayed far outside his status quo, so someone else- in this case Frasier- must stray outside his own in the opposite direction to bring about balance. The perverse joke of the episode is that the characters are better off with Bulldog as a sexist uncaring pig than as a sensitive lover, though it’s largely in the name of Frasier getting to go to a restaurant and not demonstrated his ignorance of popular sports.

This is an episode with a lot of memorable scenes, even if overall the impact isn’t that huge. Bulldog himself gradually becomes more of a regular over the next few years, and stories like this give him some potential beyond simply irritating Frasier and Roz. As for Sharon, we never see her again, which is probably for the best. We don’t need another maneater so long as Roz is around.

Guest Callers: Marv Albert as Jerry, Bob Costas as Jake, Julius Erving as Mike

Written by Suzanne Martin
Directed by Jeff Melman
Aired September 24, 1996

Jake: Yeah, you think it was a good idea for the Sonics to give up those draft choices so they could free up some money under the cap, you know to go after a wide body to help them in the paint?

Frasier: Yes.

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