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Frasier AU

Been watching a lot of Frasier lately for the first time in a while. It's a remarkably good show with writing that was really top-notch. It's really funny and in a uniquely sophisticated way, never talking down to the audience, but being unafraid to also incorporated more accessible jokes. It delivered consistently well-shaped, unified plots on a per-episode basis, and carried on long-term arcs with spot-on pacing. It blended humor with pathos as skillfully as any television comedy I've seen. It even managed to achieve that elusive dynamic equilibrium that any serialized story must strive for-- characters and themes that grow and change over time while still remaining true to their intrinsic spirit that got us interested in them in the first place. They managed to keep Niles and Daphne's relationship interesting even when they finally got the two of them together, and while they maintained the core contrast of Frasier and Martin's characters, they had them grow into getting along while still staying themselves. And on top of that, I thought it maintained its quality level through all eleven years of its run. It's my favorite sitcom ever, and definitely in my top ten, maybe even top five favorite shows of all time.

The actors are also pretty fabulous. Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce will always be among my favorites. Grammer honestly seems like a pretty lousy human being, but I've always thought he was a phenomenal performer. If you don't believe me, you need to see him talk just as himself. He played Frasier so long (twenty years) that I think people assume he must be similar to the character, but he's not at all-- his speech patterns, his carriage, even his facial expressions are different. And David Hyde Pierce is just amazing, doing a much subtler performance without Grammer's occasional over-the-topness, with a hilarious comedic deadpan.

When I first got seriously into the show, it was in its ninth or tenth year, and I was a kid in high school. Being the impatient thing I am, I didn't want to wait to catch up on the episodes when they reran on TV. Being the nerd I am, I went on the Internet and came across an equally-nerdy website that transcribed all the episodes there had been up to that point and read through them. There was a plot in the later seasons about Frasier's war with his upstairs neighbor Cam Winston. Reading the transcripts, I didn't quite get the whole joke because I wasn't getting the audio or the visuals. When I finally saw the episode, I cracked up to realize that Cam was supposed to basically be exactly like Frasier. He was played by a really great African-American actor named Brian Stokes Mitchell who is similarly suave and distinguished and with a mellifluous theatrical voice like Kelsey Grammer's. I really liked the interaction between them, particularly when Martin and Cam's mother Cora pretended to start dating just to irk the two of them, and then ended up falling for one another.

Now don't get me wrong, I love the show the way it is. It's one of the few long-running shows I've seen that I thought stayed just as good right up until the end. But I think it's a real missed opportunity that they never followed through on that plot line. I would have loved it if Martin and Cora actually did end up together, and had an extended plot where Frasier, Niles, and Cam were suddenly family. It would have kept the very funny Cam character around, and would have gone a long way to building on that dynamic equilibrium a sitcom needs.

A lot of the show was built around the conflicts between the characters, such as Martin's blue-collar tendencies against his sons' snobbish refinement, and the sibling rivalry between Frasier and Niles. But as characters must grow and change over a long series run, those conflicts need to lose their teeth a bit or else they become repetitive. Those characters must evolve and learn and encounter new conflicts. Giving Cam a larger presence in their live would have given Frasier and Niles a new source for that. They eventually did have Martin remarry (to a character played by Wendie Malick), so it wouldn't have changed the course of the series too much. And if the show did have any failings, one of them was a fairly morbid lack of diversity, and this would have added two regular black characters.

I'm not usually one to get too invested in AUs, but damn, as a writer I really think that idea has potential. Chalk it up to a thought exercise for now. But who knows, maybe it can help me figure something out in my own writing someday.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 24th, 2013 04:21 am (UTC)
I might like Frasier a lot.
David Hyde Pierce is really amazing, and one of the better physical comedians I've seen, up there with Alexis Denisof. I also really super enjoyed Peri Gilpin on that show. Not often handed the best lines, but never a bad performance. If you like Jane Leeves, I recommend taking Hot in Cleveland for a spin. Actually, I recommend that anyway.

I also really enjoyed Cam, but I feel like he's best in small doses. Otherwise the show has two and a half Frasiers, which is one too many. Maybe if that marriage happens but Cam subsequently moves to Boston and starts loitering in a bar? Or maybe seeing him more gives him more traits and makes him more his own person.

It possibly says something about me that I find Lilith unreasonably attractive. Probably nothing good.
Dec. 25th, 2013 02:25 am (UTC)
They really are all fantastic actors! And I have totally been meaning to check out Hot in Cleveland.

You've got a good point about Cam, it might be too much of a good thing. But you know, maybe if he were a real character we would have learned more about it and he would have gotten more dimension that differentiated him from Frasier. </p>

I ALSO think Lilith is gorgeous, so no need to justify yourself here. :-)

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

About Me

My name is Phoebe. I'm Boston area theater professional and English professor focused in writing, acting, directing, and modeling. I'm known for having lots of interests, lots of opinions about those interests, and a very high estimation of the value thereof. This blog is for talking about whatever's on my mind, from my daily life to my activities to musing on any number of abstract topics. Thanks for taking the time to read.

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