The New ‘Frasier’ Recap, So You Can Skip It: Why Must Sitcoms Keep Ruining Their Best Surprises?!

And more questions sparked by the Season One finale, ‘Reindeer Games’
The New ‘Frasier’ Recap, So You Can Skip It: Why Must Sitcoms Keep Ruining Their Best Surprises?!

The holiday season has arrived, but a few people in the greater Boston area aren’t feeling very festive: it’s the first Christmas Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Eve (Jess Salgueiro) will be observing since the deaths of Frasier’s father Martin, and of Adam, Eve’s partner and the father of her son, John. Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott) makes it his business to help Eve and Frasier make merry — or, at least, as merry as they’re able — perhaps because throwing himself into easing their grief is the perfect distraction for his own.

The episode brings up a lot of questions, and this is the last chance to ask them — maybe ever: This is the new Frasier’s season finale, and as of this writing, it still hasn’t been renewed.

Is Martin’s Dancing Santa… Immortal?

As the episode opens, Frasier is sorting through boxes of Christmas decorations, telling Freddy, when he enters, that Martin’s widow Ronnie sent them. Frasier pays particular notice to a cowboy-costumed Santa. When Frasier turns him on, he starts dancing to “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.” “It seems my attempts to kill you have only made you stronger,” Frasier intones. 

Continuity success: This is the song the figure played when we last saw it in action, back in “The Fight Before Christmas.” Continuity failure: That episode ends with Martin finding circumstantial evidence linking Frasier to Santa’s apparent death from a fall off the balcony. Just in case we weren’t certain about that, the incident comes up in “We Two Kings,” as Niles accuses Frasier of having thrown it with malicious intent. (Martin reacts as though this is brand-new information to him. Apparently continuity’s hard for everyone.)

Anyway, leaving aside the possibility that the Frasier of 2023 might have come around to an appreciation for some of Martin’s decorations that the Frasier of the late 1990s and early aughts lacked — Google “blow mold christmas decorations” to see what authentic vintage versions of Frasier’s childhood memories are selling for these days — this cowboy Santa looks pretty good for having been thrown from a 19th-floor condo. 

I’ll also note that these boxes look soft, as though they’ve been kept somewhere with a lot of moisture, and therefore aren’t sturdy enough to ship fragile items across town, never mind across the country from Seattle to Boston. Also, are we supposed to think Frasier opened them all and then re-taped them so that taller pieces of decor could comfortably stick out the top? I realize no one on the writing staff wants to talk to anyone about how college works, but they’ve also never been to the post office?

Can’t We All Be Adults About Bad Words?

When Frasier and Freddy discuss why their Christmas celebrations might be a bit muted this year, Freddy suggests cheering themselves up with a last-minute, low-key hang on Christmas Eve, for however many of their acquaintances won’t already have other plans. Frasier immediately starts thinking about what a big production he could make of it: There could be a banquet! And a dress code! 

Freddy gently asks whether Frasier might be going overboard with his plans in order to avoid having to face his feelings about Martin. Frasier: “I think my best response to that is a three-word phrase that’s often used in psychiatric circles. The first word is ‘no.’ The third word is ‘Sherlock.’” 

Brevity isn’t always the soul of wit, but by the time I got to the end of that monologue I felt like I needed to lie down. Is Paramount+ really worried that impressionable children might be watching the new Frasier and be shocked by the word “shit”? On a platform that also streams eight seasons of Paw Patrol?

Firefighters Are Still Out Here Calling Themselves Heroes?

Back in my recap of the fourth episode, I noted that while other pub quiz teams at Mahoney’s had given themselves cute, punny names derived from their members’ shared jobs, the firefighters had just straight-up named themselves First Responders Are the True Heroes; I questioned whether they would lead with that rather than wait for others to bestow that designation on them. But six episodes later, here I am again. 

Eve lets Freddy know that she’s not up to attending Frasier’s fancy party, preferring to hole up at home watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. Freddy offers to check in on her during the evening; when Eve tries to let him off the hook, he drawls, “I think I can handle helping two people in one night. After all, I do make my living as a hero.” Eve correctly calls him on having “douched it up,” but I’m still just not so sure real firefighters go around reminding people of how brave they are, even in jest — particularly not if they’re talking to someone who knows quite well how dangerous that kind of heroism can be since it killed the man she loved.

How Serious Are Alan and David About Their Party Game, Really?

David (Anders Keith) and Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst) are, like most of Frasier’s guests, bored by the party. Unlike most of Frasier’s guests, they decide to make it more fun themselves by trying to work the names of all nine reindeer into conversation without having anyone notice. Alan gets right to it by calling a female guest a “vixen”…

…and visibly counting it. Maybe turn around and block your hand with your body so she can’t see it? Take this seriously or don’t play! Also, given the other lyrics of the song they got all nine reindeer names from, I don’t know why the writers let pass the opportunity for Alan and David not to let others who notice what they’re doing “join in any reindeer games.”

Is Moose from Earth?

When Freddy checks on Eve and finds her cocooned in a blanket weeping at her corny movie, he grabs a couple of his firefighter buddies from Frasier’s party and brings them across the hall to hang out with her. Before long, Moose (Jimmy Dunn) gets sucked in by the story of a high-powered female executive who gets stuck in a small town for the holidays and crosses paths with its only ambulance driver. “They’re total opposites,” Moose scoffs. “There’s no way this will work out.” I get that Moose isn’t supposed to be especially smart or worldly, but he’s in his 40s; he has to have seen one romcom in his life, a respectable genre from which all Hallmark movies just take the most obvious and reliable tropes of the genre and boil them down into a (usually) barely appetizing slurry. 

While we’re here and this may be my last chance ever to bitch about it: In more than one episode — this one included — we’re told that Moose got his name because he is great at making desserts, like chocolate mousse. So his name should be Mousse. Officially it’s Moose, and I hate it.

Is FREDDY from Earth?

When Freddy checks back in after a few more of Frasier’s less refined guests have crossed the hall to Eve’s place, it’s just in time to see them play the drinking game the movie has inspired: Take a sip for every Christmas cliché on screen. “Isn’t this just constant drinking?” he asks. “Congratulations, Freddy,” says Tiny (Kevin Daniels). “You figured out the point of drinking games.” I mean… exactly? Maybe that exchange was just to explain what a drinking game is to all the juvenile Frasier fans the show’s over-writing was protecting from the word “shit” earlier.

Who Is Buying Canadian Geese?

As anyone who watched the original Frasier knows, Frasier and Niles were constitutionally incapable of throwing a successful party. Even the three writers of this episode know that; when Frasier eventually finds out that all his guests have deserted him to go to Eve’s, he gets a little rant listing past party disasters, most of which are in this supercut.

Prior to that, though, Frasier has to deal with the “ghosts” of his own hasty planning, of which he tells Freddy he fears there will be three, Christmas Carol-style. The Jacob Marley error that kicks things off: Instead of the 24 chairs and one Christmas tree he wanted, he gets 24 trees and one chair. Next, he realizes he over-whisked the eggnog to a flan-like consistency. (For this, Frasier gets roasted, via text, by his extremely offscreen brother, who… presumably could not know about it if Frasier himself hadn’t volunteered the information? Frasier, my guy, you don’t have to set Niles up like this: He’s not coming!)

Then the elegant string quartet Frasier thought he arranged turns out to be four middle-schoolers who’ve somehow been permitted to do this gig on Christmas Eve by parents who presumably hate them. 

It’s not the kids’ fault they’re not up to Frasier’s standard of performance; it is his fault that he doesn’t just send them home and turn on his stereo instead of torturing his guests with the kids’ discordant string screeching. 

The final party “ghost” is the goose Frasier has planned to be the centerpiece of his banquet. Except he hasn’t ordered a cooked goose; it’s a live Canada goose. I guess I won’t claim to know how people who deal in fowl run their businesses, but I would think that getting an order for delivery to an apartment might give a quick follow-up to confirm that the customer definitely does want a live bird on Christmas Eve. 

Here’s one thing I know for sure about how people who deal in fowl run their businesses: They’re not selling Canada geese online or anywhere else, because those are wild and it’s illegal. I don’t see how this mix-up could occur unless Frasier tried to buy his cooked goose on the dark web.

Why Must Sitcoms Keep Ruining Their Best Surprises?

Despite Kim Cattrall’s and (then) HBO Max’s unambiguous statements that Samantha would not be in the first season of the Sex and the City sequel series And Just Like That…, some viewers (me) had spent the whole time holding out hope that, actually, those were lies so that producers could pull off the gag of the century and surprise us with her, maybe reuniting with Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie at the very end of the finale. They wouldn’t even have to be together, given Cattrall’s well-known personal animosity toward Parker! They could shoot separately and use The Good Wife-ish trick editing to make us think they were, say, fondly gazing at each other on a bridge in Paris! Spoiler from February 2022: That did not occur.

But this summer, huge news broke in the Sex and the City-verse: Samantha would be back in Season Two. Immediately, we knew a lot about it: The appearance would occur in the season finale, and Cattrall wouldn’t actually perform opposite any of her former co-stars. Did I still hope this expectation management was going to be a fake-out? Sure, and I was wrong again. Just basic editing was required for a scene in which Samantha phones Carrie from London to say she won’t be back for a major dinner party Carrie’s throwing. The appearance wasn’t much of a surprise, but at least some details weren’t disclosed — and afterward, showrunner Michael Patrick King told Chris Murphy at Vanity Fair he wished the cameo news had never leaked.

Maybe that’s how the producers of Frasier feel about the news that Peri Gilpin would be reprising her role as Roz, a story that broke almost eight months ago. The (presumably) few people other than me who have watched every episode of this show have been waiting all season to see her, so when Freddy comments in the finale cold open that he just thought of the perfect gift for Frasier, then frequently refers through the episode to the logistics of getting it to Boston, it’s pretty easy to figure out what that surprise is going to be.

Wouldn’t it have been nice not to have known? I guess the show’s marketing team figured that since Gilpin’s re-casting had already been reported, there was no point keeping it secret — and not only didn’t they try, but they put the climax of the season finale up a week before the episode dropped.

Maybe this live audience didn’t know whether Gilpin had already appeared in a previous episode, or whether there were going to be more after this in which a high-profile guest star would appear. Maybe they didn’t follow entertainment news at all and hadn’t seen that she was expected. Maybe I’m a total mark, but the reaction to Gilpin when the door opens sounds like authentic shock and excitement to me. That could have been us, at home, if we hadn’t known this was coming! What a shame that we didn’t get the chance to enjoy the moment as much as the studio audience did. 

When Is Freddy’s Self-Denial Going to Catch Up with Him?

In the waning moments of the episode, Eve points out to Freddy that he’s spent his Christmas Eve taking care of a woman who lost her partner and a man who lost his father, but that Freddy loved both Adam and Martin and he’s sublimating his own grief by being selfless. 

Who’s looking after Freddy? How long can he keep this up? When is he going to walk out on his emotional obligations the way he walked out of Harvard?

Oh right — the show hasn’t been renewed. So maybe never!

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