With its witty dialogue, sophisticated character development, and classic slapstick situations, Frasier
is perhaps best described as the thinking mans Friends
. Taking centre stage is pompous radio psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), whose phone-in show serves as much an outlet for his neuroses, as it does a public service for the people of Seattle. Clever intersecting storylines feature a brilliant ensemble cast, including his prim and proper brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce), their gruff retired-cop father Martin (John Mahoney), live-in home care worker Daphne (Jane Leeves), brassy radio producer Roz (Teri Gilpin), and a charismatic Jack Russell terrier named Eddie, with whom Frasier has regular staring contests but never wins. This collection includes every episode from the shows seventh series.
This is the pivotal season that finally, finally brings together Niles (David Hyde Pierce
) and Daphne (Jane Leeves
answer to Ross and Rachel. Daphne, engaged to Donny (Saul Rubinek), learns of Niles' unrequited feelings for her from an extremely medicated Frasier in "Back Talk." If Daphne's impending marriage was not obstacle enough to keep them apart, there is fussy, phobic, and formidable Dr. Mel Karnofsky (Jane Adams), Maris's former plastic surgeon, who is introduced in "The Late Dr. Crane" as a romantic interest for Niles. The season culminates in the Emmy-nominated episode "Something Borrowed, Someone Blue," arguably the show's very best, and most satisfying cliffhanger, in which Niles and Daphne make like Ben and Elaine in The Graduate, only in a Winnebago. Bebe Neuwirth makes another memorable return as the dread Lilith Crane in "The Apparent Trap," in which son Frederick employs psychological warfare to try and get a mini-bike from his parents. Episodes featuring Frasier's amoral agent Bebe Glaser (Harriet Samson Harris) are always a season highlight, and "Morning Becomes Entertainment" is no exception, as Bebe and Frasier (Kelsey Grammer
) team up to host a TV morning chat show (who knew that Frasier had "a way with voices," as witness his Sean Connery and James Mason impressions!). Dan Butler also returns as Bulldog in the poignant episode "The Dog That Rocks the Cradle," A welcome addition to Frasier's gallery of colorful characters in Simon (Anthony LaPaglia in an Emmy-nominated performance), Daphne's besotted brother.
Frasier Crane is a witty and urbane New Yorker cartoon in a lewd, crude shock jock world. In the hilarious episode "Radio Wars," he literally becomes the butt of his radio station's new morning team's stunts. Frasier is also at odds with his substitute producer, Mary (Kim Coles), a you-go-girl black woman, in "Something About Dr. Mary." The series excelled at farce, and "RDWRER" is vintage Frasier, as the Crane men embark on a New Year's Eve road trip to Sun Valley, and Niles mistakenly thinks he's been kidnapped when he falls asleep in the wrong Winnebago. Another season benchmark is "Out with Dad," in which Frasier is compelled to pass off his father (John Mahoney) as gay. The lack of extras on this four-disc set is disappointing, but as wine snob Frasier might say, the seventh season was a very good year for the show that bears his name, and it's a pleasure to uncork its many delights. --Donald Liebenson