Sunday, April 20, 2014

Frasierquest 5.17: The Perfect Guy

Billy Campbell as Dr. Clint Webber

Frasier: Oh, I am not jealous.  Yes, the man is handsome, but I'm sure there are a number of areas in which I am his superior.  You know, let's not forget that good looks can be a mixed blessing.  People just roll out the red carpet for you but that robs you of any incentive to develop other qualities. After a while you're left an aging narcissist bent at the water's edge, realizing those lines in the pond aren't ripples, they're wrinkles.

Martin: Amazing.

Frasier: Thank you, dad, I rather like that one myself.

Martin: That guy could be a movie star!

It's been a while, I know. Sorry about that.

"The Perfect Guy" is one of those episodes with not a lot to write about, even in comparison to "Beware of Greeks" (which at least offered a change of scenery.) It's not bad, but it feels underdeveloped, one of those scripts a show has to go with because there isn't time to do something better. We do get a fun performance from Bill Campbell, though, and another look at Frasier's own insecurities- not to mention a brutal exposé of the gourmet dog food racket.

There's a new voice at KACL, that of Dr. Clint Webber (Campbell), who's hosting a medical show. He's handsome, brilliant, and really just the nicest guy. Roz gets all twitterpated just talking to him, as do the other women at the station, much to Frasier's chagrin as he was just getting flirty with Sharon (Lindsay Price.) He searches desperately for something with which to one-up the new arrival, but is continually flummoxed. Where he knows opera, Clint has Jose Carrera for a godfather; where he played a little squash, Clint is a former champion. At a certain point it becomes less about being better than Clint than about finding something wrong with the new guy. Meanwhile, Martin goes and gets Eddie hooked on gourmet dog food which is only available from one shop in town, where he had, at the start of the half hour, insulted the snooty owner (Francois Giroday) and been banned from the store.

After several farces in a row, the story for this one is disarmingly simple. It's entirely about Frasier trying to find some flaw in a flawless man, and even given the limitations of a half hour sitcom format, it feels like more could have been done here. Clint, being a one-off, isn't given a lot of room to develop as a character, but then that's the problem with being "perfect". Campbell (formerly the Rocketeer) does his best with the material, though, and plays it at the right level of plausibility.

That being said, the story is less about Clint than Frasier. He's doing what he normally does, obsessing over things he can't control. He's partly driven by his conviction that Clint can't be better than him in every single way. But there is at least some sense of Clint being a threat; Sharon is clearly impressed by him, and when Clint does a guest spot on Frasier's show he ends up giving better advice to the first guest caller we've heard in a LONG time. The stakes are pretty low but there's just enough of a conflict to move things along.

The upscale grocery subplot is pretty basic as well- a lot of it revolves around Martin's, and later Daphne's, disbelief that places this pricey actually exist. There's not a whole lot of material there, but Giroday gives a memorable turn without going too over the top. Generally there's a sense that the actors are carrying the material this week, but it's a testament to their ability that it works. More notable is a scene where the effeminate Gil "comes out" as straight, revealing he has a wife, in what would be the start of a running gag with surprisingly long legs.

"The Perfect Guy" ends abruptly, with Frasier getting an unusual win; not only does he discover Clint's fatal flaw (he's totally tone deaf and doesn't know it), he exposes it to all of his coworkers. There's something unsatisfying about the resolution, and the sparse feel applies to the episode overall; there's just enough material here for 22 minutes of reasonably diverting television, but it's nowhere near as satisfying as the show's best installments. It's not so much a failure as an inevitable result of the demands of a full television season; sometimes a story or script isn't great, but it's functional, and serves to feed the beast. Frasier was not immune to the pressures of network TV, but here it handles them with just enough charm and grace to get by.

Guest Caller: Jill Clayburgh as Marie

Written by Rob Greenberg
Directed by Jeff Melman
Aired March 24, 1998

Clint: Who's as lovely as a chicken beak?

[Transciption via]

1 comment:

Venger Satanis said...

You critiqued an episode of Fraiser?