Frasier serves up its funniest installment of the returning series so far. Here’s our review of episode 6, Blind Date:
One quirk of traditional American studio sitcoms of yore, built around charismatic male actors, was just how often they would be thrown into fairly frivolous romantic relationships. You saw it in Cheers, in Friends, Seinfeld and most certainly in Frasier.
Somebody must have kept a tally of the amount of dates Frasier went on during the 90s and early 00s, and how many women he romanced. One of the earliest was a sultry, LA Law-era Amanda Donohoe. Many followed. All in the shadow of his viperish ex-wife Lilith, who would occasionally pop up to remind Frasier of the failure he had escaped Boston to avoid. Rarely did a relationship stick for our love lorn psychiatrist.
Come the end of the original show, Frasier seemed finally to have found love with Charlotte, sailing off into the sunset. Yet the moment he was destined to return to screens, it was patently clear he couldn’t bring a wife with him. Frasier in the middle of domestic bliss would restrain him. Kelsey Grammer works best when he’s striving as Dr Crane, when has a personal goal, or when he is repairing aspects of his life. A happy marriage simply wouldn’t fit that template.
Out went Charlotte, with the odd mention here and there, with Frasier back as a single older man, allowing for the set up involving living opposite Freddie (Jack Cutmore-Scott) etc… yet thus far, little has been said about his love life. Joe Cristalli and Chris Harris have steadily, as I’ve documented in earlier reviews, tackled the various aspects of Frasier rebuilding his life in Boston one by one, so it makes sense for Frasier to finally start dating again. Leaving it deeper into the season feels like a wise choice.
Blind Date is for me the funniest episode of an already successful revival series. I laughed an enormous amount across this outing, in no small part thanks to the perfect romantic comical farce set up – Frasier and Freddie both having blind dates set up for the same evening, and neither can figure out who she’s come to date. Cristalli has to craft the dialogue of comely June (June Diane Raphael) to not give the game away, and it’s slightly laboured, but it works. “Having a great time with Fr… oh it auto filled” she says, mentioning a text, is a great example of the wit and cleverness involved here.
You can also buy this as a set up, given Frasier’s vanity. Of course he wouldn’t necessarily assume the attractive, intelligent, cultured woman half his age was here to date his son. Of course he might assume she was for him. Said vanity was always a prepossession of Frasier, a pomposity frequently pricked by Niles or Marty back in the day, but it feels hugely enjoyable to throw him into a situation like this with a grown up Freddie. He too has shades of his father at points – interests in culture, competitiveness, some sense of vanity – so the two peacocking around is good fun.
I mean there is a hint of manic pixie dream opera-lover about June. She does seem impossibly gorgeous and perfect, positioned precisely at a point of age where she could get away with dating either man, and festooned with cultural references and interests that appeal to both Frasier’s snobbery and Freddie’s common man appeal. The casting makes it work – Raphael, best known for playing the spiky but sensitive Brianna in the charming Grace And Frankie – is a fine comic performer who knows how to bounce off both men, Grammer particularly, to fine effect. It’s a shame she likely won’t play a recurring character.
Though the comic situation here was funny and well executed, I’m not entirely sure that having June actually be into Frasier worked as more than a means of stroking Grammer’s ego. Look, he’s great for his age. I would wear almost everything Frasier wears. But would June really fancy him more than Freddie? Hmmm. That didn’t convince me. Plus the comic denouement of the dating confusion doesn’t really reach any kind of cathartic or satisfying climax. The funniest moment is when Frasier thinks Eve’s batty old babysitter is his date, and that comes in the middle.
Speaking of Eve (Jess Salgueiro), the sub-plot (such as it is) sees us glimpse into her world of performance, as she corrals Olivia (Toks Olagundoye) and Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst) into attending a terrible play where she plays a Sherlock-style detective. It’s brief but fun. It reminded me of Friends when Joey would invite them to watch him perform in awful plays. An old-fashioned but enjoyable break in the dating farce, and while Olagundoye and Lyndhurst get less to do, they still spill off comic lines with relish, growing ever more confident in their characters. Alan expounding on his sexual proclivities was hilarious.
Eve serves as the catalyst for pairing Frasier and Freddie up, and Blind Date certainly seems to put paid to my theory about Freddie’s sexuality, rather ascribing his lack of partner to attachment issues and a psychological barrier. This feels the less brave choice for the character, though we could still see a twist in the tale. I suspect I am overthinking his character development. They’re more than likely gearing up to a romance between he and Eve, or certainly a will they-won’t-they situation. Which will be fun, as the actors have good chemistry, but it would be more predictable. Time will tell.
Ultimately, Frasier’s first dabble back in the saddle makes for some comfortable but genuinely well executed comedic farce. As he quips at the end, “still got it!” Which for me applies for Frasier as a show overall.
You can find A J. on social media, including links to his Patreon and books, via Linktr.ee here.