The New 'Frasier' Recap, So You Can Skip It: Would Frasier Really Have Rorschach Wallpaper?
Having ended the first episode of this revival series by announcing that he’s taken a teaching job at Harvard and bought the apartment building Eve (Jess Salgueiro) and Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott) already live in, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) has arrived at his first day of class. It doesn’t go great! And I have questions.
Is It Supposed to Be a Surprise That Eve and Freddy Are Running Lines?
Eve: But I need you!
Freddy: I don’t believe you. Prove it to me.
Eve: Please, I can’t do this without you!
Frasier: What is the word on the streets these days about herringbone?
It’s established in the series premiere that Eve is an aspiring actor, so it’s not a huge shock when this turns out not to be a heartfelt, emotional exchange about their relationship, but rather dialogue from a play she’s hoping to be cast in, for which Freddy is just helping her run lines. But since they’re not holding scripts, it seems like the idea is for us to initially mistake this for a conversation between Freddy and Eve — otherwise, why would Freddy also be off-book?
So if we all agree that this is the gag, why isn’t it the gag? Frasier enters the scene and has no misapprehension of what’s going on. I’m not saying it’s such a great joke that its total lack of payoff is a huge disappointment, but since farcical misunderstandings were a key component of the original show, teeing this up to go nowhere is, sadly, typical of this version and its many missed opportunities.
Would Firefighters Love ‘Backdraft’?
When Freddy tells Eve he doesn’t quite buy her performance, she shoots back, “You’re judging me on an acting scale of 1 to Backdraft.”
“Backdraft is a cinematic masterpiece!” Freddy snaps back.
This is a load-bearing joke: It’s telling anyone who somehow wandered into this streaming show mid-run that Freddy is a firefighter. But is it the best possible Backdraft joke? In my experience, just about everyone who’s ever seen their job portrayed on screen is annoyed by inaccuracies. Furthermore, since Freddy came to his very active, physical, traditionally-masculine-coded job out of an extremely nerdy childhood (not that any of that backstory has made it into this series yet), I would think he’d have a convert’s zeal about firefighting and defend its fictionalization all the more passionately.
Does Frasier Know Eve Well Enough to Be Mean About Her Play?
Eve tells Frasier she’s auditioning to play a woman who tries to organize workers at a slaughterhouse. Frasier: “Well, if the dialogue I overheard was any indication, then the cows are the lucky ones.”
Hey man, you just met this lady two episodes ago. Do you really think you’re at the roast phase of your relationship yet? Not to mention you’re the benefactor who’s providing her and her child with free rent; it’s not like she’s in a position to zing one back at you.
Would Frasier Have Rorschach Wallpaper?
According to this Vulture interview with showrunners Joe Cristalli and Chris Harris, production designer Glenda Revelo insisted on this wallpaper, telling Harris and Cristalli, “(T)rust me, this is on the cutting edge.”
But even if wallpaper inspired by Rorschach ink blots might be a cool touch in your home or mine, would someone we’re supposed to think is one of America’s most famous psychiatrists choose it? Or would he think it was EXTREMELY ON THE NOSE.
While we’re on the subject of Frasier’s apartment, his has a second floor. Eve’s, across the hall, does not. Is there a third unit above hers? If so, who lives there and what do they think about their new landlord?
Would an Aspiring Harvard Provost Want Someone of Frasier’s Status Teaching?
Olivia (Toks Olagundoye), chair of Harvard’s psychology department, aggressively recruits Frasier to take a full-time teaching assignment, believing his TV celebrity will somehow drive enrollment, propelling her to the provost job she is desperate to get in order to feel she has not been bested by her older sister, provost at Yale. Her repeated references to “the numbers,” which she claims “are bad,” don’t convince Frasier, and can’t stand as a plot point. The episode has to show Frasier replying — correctly — that “Harvard’s endowment alone could power a small country for centuries!” Olivia also admits that it is only Frasier’s skills as a “dancing bear” that qualify him for the teaching job she’s offered him, since his lack of experience or publications definitely don’t.
The show itself sells out the premise of Olivia’s job offer — and apparently it’s right to. Vulture’s Devon Ivie sought comment from all eight of the Ivy League’s psychology department chairs, who all agreed that they would not hire Frasier. Shout-out to Jutta Joormann of Yale, who charitably floated the idea of having him “come for a visit and give a talk to our students or even teach a course on media and pop culture — which I’m sure would see large enrollments and may indeed attract students.” “May”? Great lead-in to my next question.
Would 2023 College Students Be Impressed by a Daytime Talk Show Host At All, Never Mind Teaching Their Class?
In the show’s conception, Frasier’s students have signed up for his class because they know him as a syndicated daytime TV personality and are anxious to pepper him with questions about their own problems and collect gossip about him. But would they? It’s a freshman class, meaning most of the students are around 18; that’s a demographic cohort in which people who report watching linear TV daily are vastly in the minority. I almost buy that one kid would relay a fan question from his mother: His age would probably make her a Gen Xer, making his grandmother the more likely Craniac in the family.
“Harvard Cozies Up to #MentalHealth TikTok” is the real headline of a news report from the New York Times this week. We probably should have heard that Frasier’s pursuit of celebrity had led him, or his show’s social team, to build up his presence there. (And wouldn’t it have been fun to have seen the character embracing trendy TikTok dances with the same zeal he announces his Fra-vorite Things?)
Why Would Frasier Do This Job for ‘Almost Nothing’?
Frasier is distressed that the career legacy he leaves will be all the corny pandering he did on his show; we’re told this is why he took the Harvard job, and why he’s so opposed to bringing any of his old showmanship to it, despite Olivia’s exhortations and manipulations. As soon as it becomes clear that’s all she wants, and all his class wants, and that he’s not going to be able to do anything in this gig to eclipse the one that earned him his celebrity and wealth, and that the money is negligible, AND that he’s kind of bad at teaching, why doesn’t he ignore Freddy’s needling, listen to his instincts, quit and enjoy living off all the money he didn’t just spend buying a whole-ass apartment house?!
Who Was This Sidekick?
Though we’ve been hearing about Frasier’s daytime show since the premiere, this is the first episode where we actually get a look at what it was like, including that after a stripped-down, serious first season, Frasier eventually got a sidekick.
Who was this guy? Why did he, of all possible people Frasier knew, get hired? What’s he doing now? Are he and Frasier still in touch?
How Often Are They Going to Bring Up Better Characters and Stories While Stranding Us with These Ones?
As noted above, Freddy uses Frasier’s demoralization to drag him about considering quitting Harvard, presumably using the very same language Frasier (and probably Lilith) did when Freddy himself dropped out. When Frasier changes course and says he’s not a quitter, Freddy remembers that Frasier and Niles once bought a restaurant that they gave up on after the first night. I guess we’re supposed to be impressed that anyone working on this version of the show remembers anything about the original; that was definitely not in evidence in Episode Two, when we find out that Freddy, in shame, told his friends his dad was dead, exactly as Frasier did with Martin in the original show — a parallel that, bizarrely, Frasier does not note.
Anyway, stop making us remember that version of the show or else we’re just going to click over and watch that instead.
Why Don’t These Producers Trust Their Actors?
In an attempt to redirect his students, Frasier asks Eve to join the class as an audience plant, asking a prepared question about the course material. David (Anders Keith), sitting in the front row, evidently thought that was going to be his job, and keeps interrupting. “I’m your helper! I’m your— I’m your Sancho Panza! You planned this without me! You totally went over my head!” Eventually, David turns on Eve and calls out the ruse, forcing Frasier to break it up.
First: If this were a Niles/Frasier scene, David Hyde Pierce would be communicating everything David is saying without opening his mouth. Presumably Anders Keith was hired because someone thought he knew how to act; give him the chance to show what he can do and stop spoon-feeding the audience.
Second: In my opinion, the turn of this scene should have been that what seems like a chaotic fight was, in fact, rehearsed by Eve, David and Frasier, as a way of creating drama to focus the other students’ attention, ending with them arranging for a different disguise for Eve in the next episode. If we’re supposed to invest in Frasier staying in this job, it should be a fun surprise that, actually, he does have some natural talent for it. And I shouldn’t be sitting here iterating on a sitcom scene as it’s going on. That’s work that should have happened in the writer’s room.
What Happened After the Credits Blackout?
As Grammer sings “Tossed Salads And Scrambled Eggs,” the episode closes on another clip from Dr. Crane: As his nameless sidekick stands strapped between targets labeled “INNER DEMONS” and “BAD BODY IMAGE,” Frasier picks up an ax labeled “SELF-ESTEEM,” then puts on a blindfold. He’s about to throw when another associate points him in the right direction. The segment ends before we see what happens next, but are we supposed to think he actually did it? Tacky stunts like selling fans a puffy “thinking cap” or endorsing a moisturizer with “I’m glistening” are one thing, but are we actually supposed to think Frasier’s dancing bear era involved him putting another person in potentially mortal peril? Interviewing Tom Arnold live is harrowing enough.