Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Things Are Looking Up for the Fras...

It's taken me forever to get through season 4 of Cheers. This has been for a number of reasons, such as my other professional obligations.

But perhaps one of the reasons it's taken me months to get through this season is the fact that Frasier's downfall is (pathetically) hitting a little too close to home for me. This of course led to the well-received posts on what I dubbed "the art of hitting rock bottom." And throughout the season, the Fras has floated along on this show being depressed, unable to stand being around Diane while simultaneously unable to stay away from her, and trying in vein to fit in with Norm, Cliff and the gang by being just one of the regular joes.

And through that drifting along, something curious has happened -- Frasier has let go of Diane. It happened in episode 15, the appropriately titled "Triangle." In typical sitcom fashion, Diane convinces Sam to fake being depressed so that the actually depressed Frasier can get his mojo back by professionally treating Sam. Fras buys into Sam's depression but is convinced that it spurs from his love for Diane, thus complicating matters even worse than they were before.

By the episode's end, Frasier is able to accept that Diane and Sam are made for each other and pushes Sam to admit this fact to himself and to Diane. This all comes from the contrived nature of sitcom plots, sure, yet the episode's last scene has some realistic weight behind it with Frasier forcing Sam and Diane to address the elephant in the room. Of course it's a laugh out loud moment since Frasier ends up screaming at the two of them for being so naive to not see the obvious, but it still works as a great scene.

And with this episode, it seems Frasier Crane has come into his own as a main-stay character on Cheers. He will forever be intertwined into the SamAndDianeWillTheyWontTheyLoveDrama (which I'm stylizing as one word because, honestly, at this point it deserves to be it's own pronoun). But rather than just being the third person involved in the triangle, Frasier begins to come into his own as a character as season 4 pushes towards its conclusion.

He's beginning to come into the bar without any pretext of wanting to speak to Diane, leading to more scenes between he, Norm and Cliff, which works well with the three's dialouge bouncing off one another. And it doesn't hurt that nearly everything Frasier says goes over Woody's head, similar to what we used to see in the first two seasons of the show with Coach misinterpreting nearly everything coming out of Diane's mouth.

Another important development of Frasier's resurgence is the debut of Lilith, the character who becomes Frasier's wife and ex-wife. He introduces the gang to her as they stop by for a drink on their first date.

If you're familiar with Lilith at all, it should come as no surprise that she comes across as cold, impersonal, and uptight. The big laugh from her debut is her declaration that Frasier should not expect any sugar post-date. This would be fine with, and probably welcomed by, the Frasier we once knew. But fully developed Frasier, who considers Mayday Malone a good friend, is more than frustrated by the declaration.

Thus, sparks do not (yet) fly between Fras and Lilith in season 4. So, once again feeling the need to help out a friend, Mayday sets Fras up with one of his countless number of bimbos. Note that bimbo is not editorializing on my part, the actual description of the episode reads "Sam sets Frasier up with one of his young bimbos."

The bimbo in question here is a young Jennifer Tilly who plays her role pitch perfectly. She's exceptionally dumb, even by Mayday's low standards. But the kicker is she is just what Frasier needs after his bad date with Lilith. The two have nothing in common yet hit it off and get engaged. Of course typical sitcom storywriting rears its head and the two come to their senses after a talking down to by Sam and Diane. Still, this is a Frasier more personable and laid-back than we've seen before.

And perhaps most important of all, it is clear that Frasier has finally come into his own because Kelsey Grammar has finally been moved from a guest star to a regular cast member.

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