Frasier (TheByteScene Review)

Frasier 3.5 Rolling-on-the-floor-laughing-psychiatrists out of 4

Frasier Crane has troubled me since the day I started watching his show. Every single aspect of his program should make me dislike the main character; he’s picky, conceited, hypocritical, rude, extremely snobby, verbose and loquacious to a terrifying degree, and self-centred to the core. What troubles me the most is that despite these obvious failings, I am drawn to both his circumstances and his personality; Frasier’s wit and charm is more than enough to make up for his snobbish personality, and the culture and intellectualism he exhibits more than compensate for his conceited and hypocritical attitude. His inability to deal with basic day to day scenarios without launching into a pseudo-intellectual rant about morality and the human conscience doesn’t put me off as much as it normally would.

Granted, Frasier’s failings extend far past his personality; the man is an even worse psychiatrist, often choosing to hand out advice instead of offering genuine therapy (whether through the radio or otherwise). Furthermore, due to the nature of his situation (his radio show), he very rarely provides anything more than a ball park figure for a patient diagnosis. Moving past this, any real mental illness Frasier diagnoses is sent to psychiatrists who are, no doubt, more competent than he. Once again, however, I find that his so-called “Drive-thru” psychiatry more than sums up the problems of his patients, and once a situation calls for an actual diagnosis or therapy session, he more than compensates by providing genuine help to his patients.

His treatment of his brother, father, and house-keeper/live in physiotherapist at the end of the second season proves this almost immediately. Interestingly enough, despite the failings in his diagnostic methods, he is shown to truly care for his patients, and regardless of how hard he does try, Frasier is incapable of remaining objective, choosing to provide help to the full extent of his abilities and emotions.

I discuss the failings of Frasier the character as a precursor to discussing the failings of Frasier the show for the simple reason that one must recognize the flaws of the characters to understand the failings in the program. Each episode is structured in typical sitcom fashion, where a maximum of two potential plot points are slowly revealed throughout the course of 22 minutes. The minutiae of plot B might have some correlation with the minutiae of plot A, but whether or not there is any relation, Frasier Crane is usually at the centre of both conflicts (whether he is the cause of the two conflicts is often disregarded entirely, though his inability to keep his mouth shut is ironically used as further character development. After all, he’s a psychiatrist who spends more time revealing patient history than attempting to solve any of the patient’s history).

That being said, the show has its failings; for a sitcom based so widely around culture, intellectualism, opinion, thought, and character development, most of the conflict that occurs throughout the show can be summed up with a single statement: the characters should have just asked. Over the course of the past week, I’ve been tweeting a similar hash-tag ad nauseam; each conflict that occurs within the Frasier universe can be avoided entirely if one of the many so-called “smart” characters just asks what everyone else is talking about. Granted, therein lies a point that must be mentioned: Frasier Crane and Niles, his brother, are psychiatrists who spend most of their time listening to their patients (Frasier, hilariously, leads a radio show), and the remainder speaking.

As such, they expect complete disclosure from those around them, and when they do ask a question, it’s only to listen to the response. The basis of psychiatry revolves around full disclosure with one’s physician; a doctor can’t listen if a patient won’t talk. In terms of their private lives, however, the two expect a similar relationship to the point that every character, at one moment, discusses that they don’t want to talk about their problems with the two (at the given moment, everything changes when the problem becomes too much to bear, of course). The implication being that the two brothers pry into the personal lives of those around them to such a degree that their family and friends must blatantly tell the two that they have no reason to be involved.

Despite this detail, the program makes it a habit of hiding details from the two brothers in every episode. I say this not as hyperbole, but as a fact; every episode (if not, then almost every episode) has a plot point that can be resolved succinctly if one of the brothers asks about the problem. Instead, the two bumble around the set acting on nothing more than assumption and “professional” judgement. The assumptions that the two characters make, interestingly, often cause further conflicts to emerge. At one point, during the fifth season, the show essentially lampshades this fact by having the younger brother, Niles, blatantly and obviously point out that one character is not aware of his feelings for her by having him dance around the set waving his arms like a madman.

The show raises a strong point about the importance of communication; listening is incredibly important, and not being able to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others is a failing, but not being able to provide an opinion or thought of one’s own is an even greater disadvantage. Granted, the show addresses far more than the importance of basic communication, as it’s repeatedly brought to the attention of the two brothers that they must stop talking and opining so others can do the same, but the core of Frasier is the relationship and constant struggle between speaking and being heard. On one hand, there is no point in speaking if no one is listening and, on the other, speaking too much causes others to stop listening, a point that is all too clear to Dr. Frasier Crane and The Frasier Crane Show.

Annoyingly, I can’t claim that the show’s only shortcoming makes me like it any less. Thanks to the wit, charm, intellect, and dialogue of the program (not to mention it’s wonderful characters, and brilliant acting), Frasier is one of my favourite sitcoms. The setting provides enough diversity to satisfy the most discerning of viewers, and the characters provide a sense of intelligence that I’ve yet to see replicated on television. The show addresses several very important issues directly, rarely taking the easy way with any joke, always forcing the audience to be as fluid as the characters. The show has a level of maturity that very few sitcoms can provide, let alone support, and as such I find myself drawn to it further, relishing every moment and always craving more; more detail, more development, and more laughter. All desires that the show is more than happy to oblige.

Frasier is, in every sense of the word, the perfect sitcom; it’s funny, the dialogue is brilliantly written, the characters are portrayed with a level of finesse and style that many actors can only dream of achieving, and while the plot might be paper thin thanks to the “should’ve just asked” trope, everything else makes up for it. As such, I cannot deny the brilliance that it provided the televised world during it’s initial run, and I can safely guarantee that every moment of Frasier is worth watching. Even the really annoying bits where simply speaking can solve the episode’s conflict.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger (who hasn’t been very Avid lately); comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

    • Karan Malhotra
    • April 10th, 2012

    I like Seinfeld now that it’s called Fraiser

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