Monday, October 03, 2011

Frasierquest 4.11: Three Days of the Condo

The condo board 

Martin: Oh hi there, Mrs. Langer!

Langer: Ms.

Martin: Oh, right, Ms… (elevator doors close)… ssserable old cow.

A man's home is his castle, only it's never that simple. "Three Days of the Condo" is an interesting foray into the politics of condos, neighborhood associations, and other petty tyrannies. It's the sort of thing you'd expect Frasier to be really good at, but it wouldn't be much of a show if he did everything right. This is a broad misadventure of an episode, one that feels not terribly important to anyone involved, but, well, we're talking about a condo board.

The troubles begin when Frasier attaches an antique Japanese knocker to the door of his apartment. This, as it happens, falls afoul of the condo board's regulations, as decided by its cruel president Ms. Langer (Dana Ivey). Frasier makes an impassioned if largely pointless speech at the next meeting, and is contacted by the resistance, a shadowy group of secret plotters whose spokesperson, unfortunately, has a personalized nameplate and stationary and is also quite obviously Austin Pendleton. (A common mistake.) The resistance wants Frasier to run for board president, and so he does.

Dad and Sherry are a major presence in this episode, more than you'd expect seeing as the latter doesn't really figure into the plot. Sherry is in the episode simply because she's Martin's girlfriend, which means that she's not only going to be here for a while, she's also going to be visible. It's a very realistic touch, having a character be there simply because they would be around.

The main story is played at just the right pitch. It's deliberately over-the-top in its use of political thriller imagery (Pendleton's character is obviously trying to be Deep Throat) in the context of a story about trying to install a door knocker, but it's not too far a leap; it's a widely held truth that the lower the stakes on something are, the more seriously people will take it. Ms. Langer is the kind of control-happy figure who makes rules for the sake of having rules, and we get a hint that the lure of power is starting to corrupt Frasier as well.

I'm not entirely satisfied with the climax, wherein Frasier misinterprets one of Ms. Langer's no-no slips so spectacularly he manages to make himself look in favor of indecent exposure (it's a long story) and is forced to cede the race in embarrassment. It's a bit of a downer because he is, for once, on the right side, and it's the kind of situational irony that could have been avoided had he spoken clearer or possibly looked closer at the slip itself. Of course, it doesn't really matter in the long run what rules the condo board has, or what Frasier can put on his door, so it's not a major flaw, and frankly, given his personality, more power is probably the last thing he should have.

So far Frasier is batting 0 for 2 in his ventures into the political world (though it is 1 for 3 if you count him helping Woody get elected to higher office in another series.) This isn't the last tangle he has with the condo board, which is good, because the deathly seriousness with which building and neighborhood "authorities" can take themselves is as good a target for deflation as Frasier's own pomposity. "Three Days of the Condo" is a funny and cleverly-put-together first stab at one of modern life's little stupidities.

No Guest Caller

Written by Michael B. Kaplan
Directed by David Lee

Aired January 21, 1997

Frasier: You know, I came down here expecting a fair hearing in the democratic tradition, but I see now that you are a tyrant, concerned more with the exercise of power than with justice! Well, fine, I will leave now, taking solace in the certain knowledge that in time, you, Ms. Langer, will join all tyrants on the ash heap of history!

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