Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Frasierquest 5.4: The Kid

Roz gets another surprise.

Frasier: You get to share your life with a remarkable little creature... who only lives in the present, runs around naked without the slightest bit of shame, and can entertain himself for hours just staring at a shiny object. Isn't that wonderful?

Roz: Isn't that Bulldog?

Roz got some very surprising news last time, and now we move from farce to fallout. "The Kid" is a title with two meanings, referring both to Roz's unborn child and the father, himself only college age. (Incidentally, way to go Roz.) It's a graceful handling of the subject matter, which, while not as controversial as it used to be, was probably sensitive nonetheless. And it's a real moment of maturation for Roz as a character, as we finally see her handle a genuine crisis and incipient life change. All in all she takes it rather well.

The morning after receiving confirmation that she's pregnant, Roz has already decided to go ahead and have the baby. There's just the little matter of telling the father, though, and it's a problem since the father is Rick (Todd Babcock), a 20-year-old college student who works as a waiter at Café Nervosa. Roz doesn't want to ruin his life with the news, but Frasier insists he has a right to know. Rick inevitably freaks out a little on finding out, but he decides to do "the right thing" and propose to Roz, who then has to talk him out of it.

Single motherhood may now only be controversial among people who make a hobby of sending letters to the editor, and this was well after Murphy Brown made its point on the subject and incurred the wrath of Dan Quayle, but the subject still needed some delicate handling. Martin brings up the subject of the baby needing a father, but doesn't press it. Roz's baby-daddy isn't a bad guy at all, but he's obviously not fit for fatherhood just yet; still, she knows raising a child alone will be tough. The challenge of being an unwed mother is key to the story, and at the end Frasier helps her build the courage to face that challenge.

The fatherhood question, in addition to being a logical one for the story, is a way to lighten the mood- we get the humor of Roz trying to avoid an unpleasant confrontation, and the humor of Rick's sheer naivete.  Roz gets to display her emotional maturity in gently letting him down, and it's fitting that on a show like this the dad is a really decent fellow who wants to do the right thing. This part of the story isn't all laughs, but it does help balance the greater fear that Roz has, of a future she is in no way prepared for.

Frasier's dialogue with Roz at the end is inspired. Whether or not parents "fall in love" with their children is something that is still debated (God knows there are far too many parents who don't), but nonetheless the speech gets at something profound, even when undercutting it with a wonderfully character-specific joke. It's a thoughtful episode overall, taking the time to ponder some of the possibilities of youth and parenthood and other verities. It takes a positive view of most of them, being a lighthearted comedy and all, but it comes by those emotions honestly. (Both Grammer and Gilpin handle the comic and sentimental extremes very well, but praising the leads on this show often feels redundant.)

Roz's character is changed in a subtle but noticeable way after all of this. She doesn't exactly stop being man crazy, but the experience forces her to mature. It also brings her closer into the ensemble; already we see how the other characters care about her and start treating her like family. Pregnancy storylines are often difficult for TV shows, but Roz's incipient motherhood gives the writers a new angle on the character without compromising who she is. It's going to be great fun to see this play out over the season.

No Guest Caller

Written by Jeffrey Richman & Suzanne Martin
Directed by Jeff Melman

Aired November 4, 1997

Frasier: Hey, Dad, what are you doing here?

Martin Crane: Oh, Sherry took her sister to that store across the street to buy some foundation garments.

Frasier: I think they call them "bras" now.

Martin Crane: Not these, you don't. You could cross the River Kwai on one of those babies.

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