The New ‘Frasier’ Recap, So You Can Skip It: Since When Is It A Problem for Academics to Drink?

And other questions sparked by Episode 8 of ‘Frasier’
The New ‘Frasier’ Recap, So You Can Skip It: Since When Is It A Problem for Academics to Drink?

David (Anders Keith) gets a paper back in the psych class Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) is taking — and when it is very much not what David’s expecting, it sends him into a tailspin. Frasier tells David he can rewrite the paper and accept the average of the two grades, and Freddy is excited to help David work on it. He’s got a lot of passion for the topic, B.F. Skinner, and is too drunk to hide his intellect the way he normally does when he’s hanging around his firefighter buddies! David isn’t the only Crane seeking affirmation in academia either: After correcting a student who calls him “Professor Crane,” since he technically isn’t, Frasier decides he needs to get fast-tracked to professor status.

As usual, we’ve got questions.

What Is David’s Social Life Like?

In the cold open, David and Roger (John Bucy), a hockey player seated behind him in Frasier’s class chat about the papers they’re about to get back. Roger is tense because his coach has threatened to bench him if he gets another bad grade; David can’t relate, because he’s gotten straight “A”s his whole life, but offers to tutor Roger, adding, “It can end there, but I’m also open to an offbeat friendship.” 

This ends up being a moot point when they both get “B”s — Roger is thrilled, and David existentially horrified — but while my first thought was, “Is David open to an offbeat friendship with this jock?,” I then realized we’ve seen no evidence that David has friends who are on what he would consider his intellectual level — other than Saara (Cheyenne Perez), from “The Founders’ Society,” who pops up in this episode long enough to reveal that she considers David a study buddy and possibly nothing more. We see in this episode that he has a private dorm room in a suite with a shared common area. Who are his suitemates? Does David get along with them? 

This would have been a perfect opportunity for us to meet them, and since we don’t, I have to think the writers haven’t thought about this at all. Later, when Freddy asks if David’s happy at Harvard, he lists all the reasons he is, including that there are multiple a cappella groups. Is David in one? We don’t see him performing with one over the closing credits, but then again, as I keep saying, this show’s writers’ instincts for what should be happening in that part of the show are poor.

How Serious Is This Talk About Frasier’s Memoir?

When Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst) can tell Frasier is about to butter up Olivia (Toks Olagundoye), he assumes it’s because Frasier’s going to try to make her read a draft of his memoir, which we eventually find out has the working title Becoming Dr. Crane: A Hero Mid-Journey. Based on how strangers react to Frasier when they first meet him, he probably is famous enough that a major publisher would try to get a book out of him, though if it were going to happen, the time to do it would have been when his show was still on the air, so that now this is probably just a one-episode gag to remind us that Frasier is such a raging egomaniac that he’s writing this thing on spec.

If not, he’s going to need a ghostwriter, and based on how her writing career was going during her only non-dream-sequence appearance on the original Frasier, Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) might be desperate enough to take the gig.

Why Is So Much of This Show About Academia If No One on the Writing Staff Apparently Knows Anything About It?

I realize that the average person doesn’t care to get in the weeds about the logistics of teaching at the college level. It’s been clear from the start that no one on the show wants to deal with it either, which is why it’s strange that so much story has revolved around that very subject. In this episode, Frasier has decided that his wealth, fame and (Daytime) Emmy aren’t enough: He also needs to be a professor at Harvard. As Olivia explains, “Professor” isn’t just an honorific that everyone who teaches a college course can claim: it’s earned, sometimes over the better part of a decade.

Part of the reason we’re dealing with this now is for the parallel structure of the episode: Just as David is spinning out over his perfectly adequate grade, Frasier is spinning out not having the same status as people he considers his peers, and never to be satisfied with what you have is “The Crane Curse.” But there’s no version of Frasier’s story where he could talk his way into a professorship on the basis of the one psych survey course on which he’s guest-lecturing. If you want to show his reach exceeding his grasp, go back to him punching way above his weight on the dating scene.

Already Dismantled the Founders’ Society Set, Huh?

So, fine, we accept that Frasier has a shot at being named professor and that Olivia’s going to help him do it. She’s tipping him to meet her out with Provost Sharma (Parvesh Cheena) at Mahoney’s? We met Sharma at the mixer for prospective members of the super-secret, super-elite Founders’ Society, to which we were given to understand both Olivia and Frasier were admitted. Why aren’t Olivia and Sharma getting together there — particularly if his whole storyline for this episode is worrying that his faculty are a bunch of problem drinkers? Speaking of which…

Since When Is It a Problem for Academics to Drink?

Having spent a lot of time around professors as the daughter of a university registrar, I never saw any evidence that enjoying a cocktail hindered anyone’s professional advancement.

Did Everyone But Me Know That Jack Cutmore-Scott Actually Went to Harvard and Didn’t Drop Out?

One of the key pieces of Freddy’s backstory at this phase of his life is that he started at Harvard, then dropped out, breaking his father’s heart. In this episode, we learn that when Freddy gets really drunk, it lowers his inhibitions, and he can’t help showing off his erudition. (Frasier, walking in on Freddy holding forth at Mahoney’s with an elaborate critical breakdown of Finding Nemo: “Freddy, what’s going on? Are you…pontificating?”) 

Given how much primacy Freddy’s exit from Harvard has had in Frasier, I was SHOCKED this weekend to stumble upon this story in the Harvard Crimson about Jack Cutmore-Scott, Harvard ‘10! How hard must it have been for Cutmore-Scott to get inside the mind of a man who started at Harvard but didn’t finish?! Now that the SAG-AFTRA strike is over and actors can promote their work again, I would love to get an interview about his process!

In this episode, we learn that the other thing Freddy does when he gets really plastered is close-up magic, and that was probably easier for Cutmore-Scott to perform: He learned several illusions when, a few years back, he headlined the ABC drama Deception as a magician who consults for the FBI. 

I should be annoyed by this stuff, but unfortunately, I find it endearing. (See also: His one line in French, because his accent? Pretty good!) I just watched screeners for Death and Other Details, which includes a scene where Cutmore-Scott’s character sings. If he wants to bring that hidden talent over here too, I won’t be mad. 

What Is This Staging?

After Frasier accidentally makes himself look like an alcoholic in his first chance meeting with Sharma at Mahoney’s, he asks Sharma back to his office for coffee and more ass-kissing. What Frasier has failed to anticipate is that Alan is going to be there, drinking. Alan’s solution for getting rid of his booze is to dump it into one of the cups of coffee, and you’ll never guess whose unless you’ve seen a sitcom before. But as Olivia, Frasier and Alan very obviously try to find the dosed mug while Sharma makes small talk with David…

…David’s sitting with his back to the audience instead of in one of the two chairs visible in the back corner of the office, where (a) he and Sharma would be able to chat while cheating out to the audience and (b) it might be more credible that Sharma wouldn’t notice Frasier and his colleagues not-so-covertly checking the coffee for rum. Whoever directed this must have no experience on a multi-cam sitcom.

Or 20-plus seasons’ worth.

How Well Did the Episode’s Writer Do in His High School Physics Classes?

When David confronts Frasier for grading his rewrite lower than his original paper, Freddy is also offended — but since he’s sober now, and therefore code-switching back to his non-intellectual firefighter persona, he quickly covers: “All I know is ‘fire hot, water cold.’” Maybe this is just a comical over-correction on Freddy’s part. Or maybe Miles Woods, credited as this episode’s writer, thinks that water puts out fire because… it’s cold? Let’s choose to believe it’s the former.

Couldn’t Someone on Set Do One Google Search About Bee Stings?

The beehive Eve (Jess Salgueiro) complained about to Frasier in the first act finally goes off, with Frasier getting stung. Seizing his advantage, David withholds his EpiPen — David having long since been established as a frail young man with many allergies — unless Frasier gives him an A. They compromise, with Frasier allowing David to try to rescue his grade with a 60-second oral defense of his thesis. When it doesn’t work, Freddy shoots Frasier with the EpiPen and announces that he will take Frasier to the hospital for a follow-up with a doctor; this is correct protocol

What we don’t hear in this scene is that Frasier is allergic to bee stings, in which case he should not get an EpiPen injection for one. In fact, with a beehive nearby and David almost certainly being allergic, the EpiPen should be reserved in case David gets stung on his way in or out of the apartment. And you know who in the scene should know all this? FREDDY, the first responder who has almost certainly received basic EMT training in addition to being, as this episode re-establishes, a stealth brainiac.

Is This a Satisfying Explanation for How Freddy Arrived at His Current Career?

Since the start of this series, the hole at its center is exactly how Freddy transformed from the fragile, nerdy kid of the original Frasier to the beefcake calendar model we now know. After the shame of his B leads David to threaten dropping out of school and becoming a firefighter like Freddy (“Being a fireman is, like, medium hard, right?”), the cousins have what is by far the most emotionally vulnerable conversation we’ve seen between them. David describes The Crane Curse (something that seems to have originated with their fathers, based on what we saw in the 1990s/2000s series, but: sure) and asks how Freddy coped with the expectations. 

“I guess I could until I couldn’t,” Freddy shrugs. “Then, one lecture, I just walked out, never walked back in.” 

“Because of the pressure?” David asks. 

“Because I wasn’t happy,” Freddy replies. 

We still don’t know why Freddy wasn’t happy — it clearly wasn’t because he wasn’t engaged by the material, since he’s still energized by the chance to help David write about Skinner and Proust — but it’s a start.

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