#Hey baby I hear the blues a’-callin’ “Tossed salads and scrambled eggs”. And maybe I seem a bit confused, yeah maybe – but I got YOU pegged! But I don’t know what to do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs…they’re callin’ again#
As television theme tunes go, it’s not as obvious an explanation of the show as say, Friends or Dad’s Army. But these eccentric and obscure lyrics do well to encapsulate my never-ending fondness for Frasier. It is a comedy that gives your frontal lobe a workout as well as your chuckle muscles. Watching an episode of Frasier is like reading a good book or brushing up on a lost skill – you feel more intelligent because of it. You may be in the company of snobs but they are helplessly lovable snobs whom the audience learn from and occasionally, they themselves learn from the average joe.
Frasier is a rare piece of television that satisfies the mind and the funny bone in equal measure. The premise is beautifully simple with a cast to die for and some of the best writing I have ever come across. For those unfamiliar with this unmissable television series, Dr. Frasier Crane (played brilliantly by Kelsey Grammer) is a psychiatrist and Seattle’s biggest radio personality who can solve everyone’s problems except his own. Newly divorced, Frasier leaves Boston for a fresh start in Seattle and while his career seems to go from strength to strength, his home life is far from genial. Frasier shares every minute of his single midlife crisis with his father Martin (the wonderful John Mahoney) and this relationship provides the conflict every good sitcom needs. Martin or ‘Marty’ prefers beer to wine, TV to the theater and is more likely to know the score to a football game than that of Beethoven’s pastoral symphony.
He may not share these genes with his father but paired with his younger brother, Niles (played by the hilarious David Hyde Pierce) they are the dictionary definition of peas in a pod. Niles Crane is a little less boisterous, sometimes timid and far more neurotic than Frasier but the snooty genetics are ever-present. His snobbish mannerisms become something of a silent catchphrase throughout the series. Namely carrying a handkerchief wherever he goes to wipe the chair or surface he is about to sit on. God forbid anything tarnishes his $300-dollar suit.
But we forgive Niles of his high-maintenance ways because he is less assertive than Frasier, a nervous wreck at times but ultimately lovable and my favourite character in the series. The series may focus on the exploits of its titular character but one of the elements that kept myself and a devoted audience of millions hooked was a ‘Will they/won’t they? storyline that almost spanned a decade and one to rival Ross and Rachel any day. When Frasier hires a housekeeper and someone to care for his dad, Marty, Niles is shot with cupid’s arrow and we spend seven of eleven series wondering if his love will ever be requited. The woman in question is Manchester-born Daphne Moon (played by the beautiful and charming Jane Leeves) who knows nothing of Niles’ feelings for her until the night of her wedding.
A cliché it may be but it is the happy ending we all hoped for Niles’ character, especially when you consider the turmoil and suffocation suffered at the hands of his harsh and unforgiving ex-wife, Maris years before (and during) his infatuation with Daphne. While Frasier is never short on laughs, a vast chunk of the series is rather poignant, setting Frasier apart from shows such as Friends that, as much as I adore it, purposely avoids confronting the realistic complications and disappointments of adulthood. Frasier has a string of meaningless relationships whilst growing further apart from his son and cold ex-wife, Lilith (played sternly by Bebe Neuwirth); Martin and Frasier row constantly in almost every episode (no matter how jovial the plot) and Niles’ life is ruined in the divorce of his unjust ex-wife. In all 11 series, her character never makes an appearance on-screen. A clever move by the writers when her presence is clear enough in Niles’ unhappiness.
Amidst the often serious, adult tones bubbling beneath the surface, Frasier is a warm and beautifully written comedy of a close-knit family and their friendships attempting to avoid social faux pas’ on a daily basis. Irony is also served by the lorry-load in Frasier – a typically British feature in comedy and one of many reasons I love and admire this intelligent, American sitcom so much. Prime examples being when Frasier and Niles collaborate on a Sibling relationship book together only to resort to fighting on the floor before the opening line is completed or the fact that Frasier’s first successful blind date in years is with none other than his ex-wife. The characters are brillant, the premise is perfect and the dialogue is incredibly witty. Too frequently so that, rather than quote out of context like I could with Friends, Fawlty Towers or Dad’s Army, I urge you to experience it at first hand for yourself in this rich comedic tapestry of laughter, tears and advice on the best Opera or bottle of wine money can buy, whether you want to hear it or not.
In twenty, thirty or even forty years time, I’ll still be listening to Frasier’s problems in the hope that for a joyous half an hour, I can escape from my own. #And maybe I seem a bit confused, yeah, maybe – but I got YOU pegged#