Second Look: Frasier Season 1, Episode 22 – “Author, Author”

Frasier Author, Author

Frasier Season 1, Episode 22 “Author, Author”
Written by Don Seigel & Jerry Perzigian
Directed by James Burrows
Aired May 5, 1994 on NBC

“Author, Author”, though not the most memorable of Frasiers many “the brothers Crane work together” episodes, is the first entry in what would become a very popular, well-worn format for the sitcom over its 11-season run. It makes sense: the conflict baked into their relationship as sibling psychiatrists makes for an easy avenue into shouting matches, playing heavily off the physical comedy of both performers, and the swelling chorus of ironies often driving the comedy behind the show’s two most hubristic characters.

Being the first episode of this specific Frasier subgenre, “Author, Author” is in an enviable position of telling this story for the first time; and while it doesn’t quite reach as deeply as it has with Marty and Frasier-centric episodes in season one, it’s a fine example of how Frasier could explore the psychology of the two brothers for humor – and sometimes, even a little bit of pathos.

Frasier Author, Author

Understandably, Marty and Frasier episodes are easier to get ‘deep’ with: Frasier and Marty’s relationship has a very defined break in it, the utter incapability of either man to understand each other providing a neat thoroughline through their stories. With Frasier and Niles, things are understandably more difficult, given their proximity as siblings and their similar tastes and interests as adults; for the most part, their conflicts on Frasier boil down to ego checks borne out of childhood conflicts or minor philosophical differences – which makes the premise of “Author, Author” a bit of a perfect fit as a late entry in season one.

When Niles runs out of time to deliver a book draft to his agent, he ropes in an unenthusiastic Frasier as his reluctant co-author, on a book about sibling psychology. It’s a wickedly simple premise, but one “Author, Author” immediately begins to reap benefits from, as the two quibble over first what their book subject will be – and then for the second half of the episode, what the first sentence of the book should be.

As Niles and Frasier try to start brainstorming ideas, they immediately begin poking holes in each other’s theories and ideas, “Author, Author” pushes anything even remotely resembling a subplot to really hone down on the Crane brothers and some of the jealousies they still harbor for each other. Eventually, as their dichotomy drives them to a drinking bout in a hotel room, Niles reveals he’s always felt a bit in Frasier’s shadow – and Frasier, of course, drops the iconic “You stole my mommy!” line to really nail home his character’s long-established Freudian underpinnings (in contrasts to Niles’s more Jung-ian mindset, a reference I’m making one episode too early to make sense).

Frasier Author, Author

While Frasier doesn’t have anything new to say about how messy sibling relationships can be in adulthood, “Author, Author” does a solid job of amplifying the minor conflicts into something that encapsulates all of the personas Frasier’s embodied in its first season. There’s a sprinkle of philosophical debate, a great Marty anecdote (more on that in a minute), sharp punchlines and a healthy dash of physical humor; though the professional dynamic between Frasier and Niles would take on its own life and personality in later seasons, its first offering is perhaps its most balanced, balancing hilarious moments like Niles’s “radio voice” and their drunken wrestling match, with more carefully constructed moments like their shared spark of inspiration early on, or the episode’s undeniably heartwarming conclusion.

Oh, how I love the episode’s final scene: “Author, Author” cuts away from Frasier and Niles choking each other on the hotel bed (Niles: “I’m having a flashback of you coming into my crib and jumping on me!”) back to Frasier’s apartment, where Marty steps in to put the brewing conflict to rest. He regales them with a story of a partner he once had a fight with, who requested a transfer and later died before the two could reconcile. Slapstick gives way to somber as the brothers recognize each other’s traits and accomplishments, and they reach a tenuous peace as the episode closes – that is, until Marty reveals to Daphne his story was total crap, of course, sealing the episode with a reminder that the smartest Crane in the family is still Marty.

Frasier Author, Author

That final moment is so subtle, so easy to miss, but it’s an important moment in returning the focus to the bond between generational triad of the Crane family, and how strong it remains, even after decades of bickering. When three very different people are able to find a tenuous, loving peace between them, it is to be maintained at all costs; making the moral price of an occasional white lie from Marty more than worth it to maintain some semblance of family peace (also, his lack of hesitation to use this tactic suggests it isn’t the first time, which I love).

That strong sense of family is fundamental to Frasier as a show (even as it branches out beyond the Crane family in later seasons), and one that drives the resolution of a very entertaining episode in heartening fashion. It does so by not lingering on Frasier and Niles’s make-nice, resolving the story around Niles’s still undelivered book draft – we end on a smirking Marty getting smacked with a kitchen towel, which is about a perfect an ending to a Frasier episode could one hope for. After a lot of floundering in recent weeks, Frasier‘s quickly recentered itself on its strongest elements; and though we’d certainly get more hilarious adventures in Niles and Frasier’s shared adventures, the incredibly light touch of the ending to “Author, Author” will always make this episode stand slightly apart from its many counterparts to follow.

Grade: B+

Other thoughts/observations:

  • “We’re not pugilists, we’re psychiatrists!”
  • Frasier pouring a shot into his mouth upside down with Niles in the foreground is one of Frasier‘s finest cinematic moments. What a shot.
  • It’s less a part of the series as it would continue, but Roz’s early disdain for Niles is something I always enjoy.
  • Publishing executive Sam Tanaka is memorably played by Mako, who would later provide his iconic voice to the roles of Aku on Samurai Jack and as Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender (which… my god, what an incredible performance).
  • Niles in suspenders: always hilarious.
  • Ahh, laptops in 1994. That image pairs well with the VCR camcorder we saw in “Travels with Martin.”
  • Another sign it’s 1994: Sam uses a pay phone to make a business call. A pay phone!
  • “Niles, I would shave my head for you.” “A gesture that grows less significant with each passing year.”

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