Frasier – Scrambled Eggs All Over

It’s nice to see Frasier is back in action, and showing its original quirkiness.

For anyone, who still watches Frasier (Tuesdays, at 9 pm, on NBC), the show has been on autopilot for the last couple of seasons, and it wasn’t even heading anywhere good. Ever since Niles and Daphne have gotten together (yippee), the quality of the writing has gone down, and stayed that way. This has affected the entire cast, since the writing was all about the characters, and little about the situations they’re in.

Even Frasier and Rose had a fling for a few episodes – how low was that in terms of comedy writing? Eddie’s been reduced to a sight-gag, even though in the earlier years, there were a few inside jokes about that dog. And Marty vs. Daphne dynamic has become nothing but insult exchange.

Maybe it was still funny, but I kept seeing actors going thru the motions, instead of family members dealing with life situations (as bizarre as they can be given the social/financial status of younger cranes, Marty’s cop past, and Rose’s romantic life).

Finally, after mediocre ratings, and an unsuccessful move to Tuesday nights, it was announced that Frasier will end this season. Sighs of relief everywhere, probably including the stars, who just couldn’t wait to move on to other things. But, it was a good sign that NBC decided to stick with the show for another year (maybe all the stars’ contracts running until 2004 had something to do with that). So it was without any specific expectations that I sat down to watch this show for its last season.

And what a surprise – the network has decided to end the show on a high note. Or at least, heading for the high note. I’m doubly impressed – first by their decision to bring back original writers/producers (Christopher Lloyd, welcome back), and then, by the results of this “comeback”. The show feels fresh again. The show can actually end with an impressive finale audience, unlike many other good shows that were allowed to die a slow death, and nobody just cared how and when(‘Third Rock From the Sun’, ‘Dharma and Greg’).

Just look at these characters again – they’ve been “gayed” down a lot (if you remember, Frasier and Niles kept being thrown into situations with homosexual undertones, and the show, for a while, felt like it was evolving into an older version of ‘Will and Grace’). This season, the unnecessary vague homosexuality is gone – the boys are having “straight” problems, even using “straight” language. Seems that the writers went back to the characters created back in early 90s, and not the caricatures they’ve become over the years.

The themes are also more engaging. Gone are the days of picking a shade of color of Niles’ binders, and wine-tasting club shenanigans. These are regular people (still snobbish but no longer with “in-your-face” superiority attitude) who have problems, just like we do. And their problems are relationship-based. That’s it – that’s what was missing from the show in the last few years. Relationships.

With all the characters (around Frasier’s apartment, and at the radio studio), the show didn’t have enough (good) relationships. The episodes were about ideas, about possessions, but not about people. And, although you can always count on Nile’s obsessions, or Frasier’s collectibles, these are just backgrounds, and not the story. This season’s episodes (so far) are more about people, and more about how they relate to each other. Sounds simple enough? Well, it should have been that way all along.

It’s good to see the team behind this show is back in good shape. Too bad they were slacking (or not even present) in the creative process for the last 3-4 years. They missed a lot of good opportunities, and so did we. Shows get old, that’s a fact, but in Frasier’s case, it was allowed to degrade, and all they needed was just the same old team – these characters are still interesting, and still funny after a decade, it’s too bad the writers were not around during the entire run of the show. This last season is proof that the show had charisma all along, and it is shaping up to be a great ending to this lovable family of neurotics.

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