The 4 Most Thought Provoking Frasier Episodes
Is it just me, or are the standards of what now passes as comedy steadily declining?
I love watching comedy sitcoms, especially since I can watch/listen to them while doing something else, like baking or organizing my room. These shows don’t require a ton of concentration, so they’re a nice way of passing time if you’ve got nothing else to do, unlike their dramatic counterparts. If I try baking while watching Game of Thrones or Black Mirror, I think I might accidentally burn the house down.
That being said, one of my all time favorite sitcoms is the show Frasier. To me, this show represents a time when actual effort was put into making good comedy. The jokes make me laugh every time, and I actually appreciate it a little more every time I watch.
Fun fact: I hated Frasier as a kid. I couldn’t understand most of the jokes and didn’t learn to appreciate it until I watched it again as a 19-year-old.
I’m saying this because Frasier is one of the most thought provoking sitcoms I’ve ever seen; when you watch it as an adult and focus on the pretext, you actually learn more about how the human mind works. Of course this is largely due to the fact that Kelsey Grammar‘s character is a psychiatrist, so digging into the human psyche is one of the pillars the show was based on.
Before diving into my top thought provoking episodes, here is some fun trivia about the show that not a lot of people know:
- Frasier was actually a spin-off of an earlier show called Cheers. Cheers was based in a bar in Boston, starring people like Ted Danson (who later starred in the show Becker), Kirstie Alley and Woody Harrelson, who starred in an epic first season of True Detective. Frasier, at the time, was a secondary character on the show and was still married to his wife Lilith. When Cheers ended, the idea of expanding Frasier’s character came up, and it was decided to create an entirely new show with a divorced Frasier starting off in Seattle as a radio psychiatrist.
- When they started working on Frasier’s show, they initially cast Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe from Friends, even though she hadn’t played that role yet) as Frasier’s producer and friend. They changed their minds a few days in and decided to cast Peri Gilpin instead. While Gilpin was an awesome choice, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like seeing Kelsey Grammar and Lisa Kudrow work together.
- The show had an interesting theme song, talking mostly about salads and scrambled eggs. I read here and several other websites that this song was used because the producers didn’t want the song to directly refer to Frasier’s troubled callers on the show, so they chose to subtly refer to them as “mixed up” by combining salads and scrambled eggs in the lyrics, which makes sense because who eats salads with scrambled eggs anyway?
- A lot of the calls Frasier got in his radio show came from real-life actors and other famous celebrities, including Ben Stiller, Kevin Bacon, Art Garfunkel, John Cusack, Halle Barry and Cindy Crawford. You can check out some of these calls here.
Now that you have some fun trivia you can brag about at parties (if your parties include wine, cheese and Frasier fans, I guess), we can get started with our little countdown.
Warning: if you haven’t watched Frasier before, the below will include spoilers.
#4 The Three Faces of Frasier (S07/E21)
This episode starts with Frasier coming home after a doctor’s appointment; he had been suffering from high cholesterol and was trying to combat the issue by eating healthy and exercising. When asked if his results had shown any improvement, Frasier explains that his efforts had made no impact whatsoever; he was just getting older. He brags about his promising new relationship, but finds out a few minutes later that she had actually gotten married in Vegas the night before.
Even though this should have bugged him, Frasier showed no reaction and took his family out to dinner for a big surprise. One of his dreams had finally came true when one of his favorite restaurants decided to add his picture to their wall of fame. The wall of fame basically consisted of caricatures of all the Seattle icons who visited the restaurant. This was significant to Frasier because -as he pointed out in the episode- he had always visited the restaurant as a child and longed to be one of the people hanging on the wall.
While they waited for the picture to be unveiled, Frasier’s boss passed by and briefly mentioned how low the ratings for Frasier’s radio show were. Frasier, again, dismisses the issue and focuses on his big moment.
But of course, nothing ever goes smoothly for Frasier -actually, Frasier never allows for anything to go smoothly. He hated the caricature because it emphasized his large forehead. In fact, he hated it so much that he requested another caricature to be drawn, and then hated the second one too because he felt it looked virtually unrecognizable. He was so obsessed with the whole issue that he actually attended Roz’s daughter’s birthday party just to get the caricaturist there to paint him several pictures of himself so he could offer one to the restaurant to hang up instead.
Turns out the restaurant’s caricaturist was the owner’s mother, who was so hurt and offended that Frasier was kicked out and banned from the restaurant forever.
While he sulked at home, his father, Martin, pointed out that Frasier had been behaving this way simply because he wanted to feel in control. His health was deteriorating, and he couldn’t control it. His ratings were low, and he couldn’t control it. His love life was a mess, and he couldn’t control it. So when he finally faced one issue he felt he could control, he just couldn’t let it slide without trying to fix it. It was all just a subconscious attempt to feel in control.
Why it should make you think:
This sort of thing happens to us in real life every day, except we don’t have Martin to explain it to us. How many times have you obsessed over something trivial without understanding why? How many times have you subconsciously tried to take control? How many times have you had a horrible day at work, and when someone cut you off in traffic decided to chase them down just so you could have some verbal (or physical) revenge?
The truth is, we do this all the time without understanding why, so we end up focusing on trivial matters and missing the big picture. We deflect attention from the core issue because we can’t understand what the core issue is.
So, next time you find yourself obsessing over a bad driver, flat tire, recipe or any other trivial matter, stop and ask yourself why. Believe me, I’ve cried over a million batches of ruined cookies before ever realizing the actual problem lied elsewhere.
#3 Daphne Returns (S08/E19)
Before this episode, Daphne had disappeared for a few episodes at a “Fat Spa” because she had gained 60 pounds. In real life, Daphne just needed a break because she was giving birth.
This episode was Daphne’s first return after going to the spa, and she was telling Niles, her now boyfriend, all about the experience and the therapy sessions she went through while at the spa. According to her, she had gained the weight because she was subconsciously afraid of not living up to Niles’ expectation of her. See, Niles had been secretly in love with her for seven years before they ended up together (yikes!), so he saw her as this “perfect, unattainable dream” and naturally, she felt she couldn’t measure up.
Niles was not at all convinced, and started acting so passive aggressive they got into a fight and almost ended their relationship. To try and help, Frasier went over to Niles and they looked back on all those years when Niles wanted Daphne but couldn’t tell her. Frasier pointed out that Niles used words like “perfect” when describing her, putting her on a pedestal and indeed making it stressful for her to measure up to that vision.
Naturally, Niles asked him why he would do that. What did he stand to gain from idealizing her so much? Frasier then told him that he was doing so out of fear of discovering she wasn’t perfect. After all, if it turned out Daphne wasn’t the perfect picture in his head, then Niles would have wasted seven years chasing an illusion. But now, he had a chance to experience her in a real way and discover the real her, throwing away all those pent up expectations from seven years passed.
Thankfully, Niles did sit and think about it, and he and Daphne made a huge breakthrough that day. They comically fought about what annoyed them the most about each other, and suddenly their walls were down and they were able to take their relationship to the next level (wink, wink).
Why it should make you think:
Look back on your previous relationships; how many times have you idealized someone so much that you refused to experience them in a real way? How many times have you been more in love with the idea of someone rather than the person themselves? How many times have you put someone on a pedestal just because you feared that they wouldn’t turn out to be perfect for you? Maybe your fear of growing old alone makes you deflect attention from bad qualities, maybe your expectations caused you to see a shiny, unrealistic version of the person you’re with.
Personally, I’ve done this several times, and it stopped me from seeing the real person, whether for their good qualities or bad ones. In simple terms, you need to remove your love goggles and push your subconscious expectations and fears out of the way so you can actually experience a person. Then, and only then, can you make an informed decision of whether or not the relationship is worth it.
#2 Don Juan in Hell: Part 2 (S09/E02)
In a previous episode (Part 1) Frasier had dumped Claire, a woman who was seemingly perfect for him in every way, because he had feelings for another woman named Lana. Lana was Frasier’s complete opposite; in fact, they had tried dating before and had failed miserably. Before he got the chance to start things up with her again, she had reconciled with her ex husband.
That day, Frasier went home and acted extremely defensive when his family blamed him for the whole ordeal. Nobody could understand why he had left Claire when there had been so much potential for the two of them.
To calm down, he took a trip to a cabin to clear his head, but his subconscious was filled to the brim with ex wives and ex girlfriends. They all chimed in with their own interpretations of why Frasier was so unlucky in love. It got so chaotic that his late mother joined in and they formed a little discussion group in Frasier’s head.
Some of the floating ideas included how Frasier’s mother had cheated on his father, possibly creating trust issues for Frasier. Another idea was that no woman could ever measure up to the love of his life, his mother. And another idea was that he had been left and dumped so many times that he had a chronic fear of rejection.
There came a moment amidst this discussion where you can almost feel Frasier turning red with frustration. He identified the problem himself; these women, these past loves, were always in his head.
“How can I ever move forward, if I can’t put YOU behind me?”
And that was it. Peace, quiet and no more exes and late mothers. The episode ended with Frasier feeling at peace, like a burden had lifted, and simply going home.
Why it should make you think:
Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have baggage. Baggage from ex lovers, baggage from family members or even from childhood experiences. When you see or go through a failed relationship, your brain registers everything, even after you feel like you’ve moved on. You might not realize it, but when you fail to address why a relationship ended and how it made you feel, it can creep up on you when you least expect it.
A simple example is if you’ve been dumped before and end up having trust issues with your current partner, because you’re subconsciously afraid of seeing them leave. Or if you were with someone who cheated on you, mistreated you or neglected you. Even if you were the one who mistreated your ex partners, it all settles into your subconscious, and it’s your job to be aware of these thought patterns so you can address them. The gist here is this: don’t allow your past to influence your present.
#1 Frasier’s Edge (S08/E09)
This episode is very special to me, because it was the first episode that got me to appreciate the depth behind the entire show. It’s one of those episodes that doesn’t have a happy or funny ending, because it was created with the intention of making you think.
This episode revolves around Frasier receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, a prestigious award usually given to much older people. Frasier was on his way to the banquet where he was to receive the award when he received flowers from his college mentor. The attached note and its wording made Frasier feel like his mentor somehow didn’t approve or didn’t appreciate the fact that Frasier was receiving this award.
Frasier went over to his mentor to better understand what the note meant, which was actually written by the man’s secretary. His mentor suggested that maybe Frasier was the one with mixed feelings about the award, which was why he had chosen to over analyze the note.
They sat together for hours, arguing about why Frasier didn’t seem happy about the award. They dove into when Frasier first took interest in psychiatry, how it seemed to give him distance from a world that scared him and how terrified he would be without his title as a psychiatrist. Frasier argued that this made absolutely no sense, and started blaming his feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction on a midlife crisis. Their fighting and analysis went on and on.
As a psychological exercise, his mentor instructed Frasier to pretend he was a caller on his own show so he could identify and fix his own problem. During the exercise, Frasier tried his best to help his called, quoting research papers and offering psychiatrical exercises, all of which the mentor dismissed, since the caller was Frasier Crane and he already knew about these exercise and read all those research papers. He instructed Frasier to address the problem itself.
The peak came when Frasier started getting angrier and angrier. If the caller had all this information, why was he calling in? His mentor told him it was because he felt empty. He shouted at Frasier, asking him why he insisted on burying the caller in psychiatrical exercises.
“Because it’s all I have!” Frasier shouted back.
He couldn’t help the caller, but at least he knew what the problem was. He had nothing going on for him except for those psychological tips he gave the callers on his show. He had nothing else.
Why it should make you think:
You need to actually watch this episode to understand why it’s so thought provoking. Observing the whole process between Frasier and his mentor shows how thought patterns are formed, why people do the things they do and how they can get their hands dirty and dig so deep into their psyches that they finally reach the core of their problems.
The raw anger, frustration and pain in this episode makes it -in my opinion- one of the most emotional Frasier episodes ever.
If you can learn to gradually apply their approach in your own life, you might discover brand new things about yourself. The process wouldn’t be pretty or easy, but it would be rewarding as hell. It’s satisfying, feeling you can dig through your psyche with a shovel to actually look your deepest, darkest fear in the eye and finally learn to address them.
I know this post was a bit longer than usual, and if you took the time to read it, I thank you. I know that some people think Frasier is just another sitcom and might feel like I’m being silly, but the truth is, we all have the one show or movie that speaks to us. This speaks to me, and I thought I’d share it with you in the hopes that you may find in it the same joy and enlightenment it gives me.
Also, Eddie (the dog) is freakin’ adorable. His real name is Moose, by the way.
What movie or show speaks to you? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think.