Second Look: Frasier Season 1 Episode 7 – “Call Me Irresponsible”

Frasier Call Me Irresponsible

Frasier Season 1, Episode 7 “Call Me Irresponsible”
Written by Anne Flett & Chuck Ranberg
Directed by James Burrows
Aired October 28, 1993 on NBC

Frasiers seventh episode certainly would not be last to explore Frasier’s adherence to his professional (and/or personal) code of ethics – and like most of those to follow, “Call Me Irresponsible” boils down to a classic tale of Dick vs. Brain, of hormones vs. logic (in which the former wins consistently, I don’t think that is a spoiler). But as the genesis of this particular brand of Frasier episode, “Call Me Irresponsible” is a mix of intriguing and unremarkable, occasionally suggesting towards something with a complex emotional palette, potential it ultimately never realizes.

Given the episode’s singular focus on this plot – Frasier begins dating the ex-girlfriend of a caller to his radio show – one of the obvious issues with “Call Me Irresponsible” is the lack of a B or C story to lean on (unless you count “Daphne decorates for Christmas in October” a plot line). This means “Call Me Irresponsible” sinks or swims based on Frasier’s interactions with Katherine, his first real romantic pursuit of the series (Amanda Donohoe, squarely between her run on L.A. Law and her most notable film role in Liar, Liar), and the ex-girlfriend of a recent disgruntled caller into his radio show. Unfortunately, Frasier is too enamored watching Frasier squirm considering his ethical dilemma than to piece together a meaningful story, which makes “Call Me Irresponsible” a strange mix of horny desperation and weightless histrionics.

Frasier Call Me Irresponsible

Sure, there’s plenty of humor to be found in Grammar’s bombastic, swooning frustration with his inability to close the deal (nèe fuck) with Katherine, but there’s not much “Call Me Irresponsible” has to offer than reinforcing Frasier’s weaknesses and insecurities. One’s mileage will most certainly vary with how the episode progresses, as Frasier insists he’s doing nothing wrong by trying to form a relationship with a woman as tired and beleaguered with the prospect of dating again – however, the script’s definition of Katherine as a combination of impulsive and desperate, don’t really allow her character, or the story around it about ethical dilemmas in dating, to flourish.

That’s not to say it is an entirely empty affair; at the very least, “Call Me Irresponsible” does feign briefly at the idea of Katherine and Frasier as as actual couple, in ways displaying a bit of versatility from the interfamilial conflicts and hammy sitcom antics of the first six episodes (though this episode certainly contains plenty of the latter in its later acts). Frasier and Katherine’s meet-cute at the radio station, eating M&M’s on the hallway floor, is an undeniably endearing one, their equal proclivity for the yellow candies in the bag and disdain for dating is a glimpse of Frasier as a romantic comedy, an identity that would wax and wane for all its main characters through the series.

Of course, it would be nice if “Call Me Irresponsible” took advantage of that moment; instead, the episode devolves into nonsense by its conclusion, where Katherine tells off Frasier and boasts about the crazy sex they would’ve had, if he’d only been able to get past his goddamn ethics. For such a strange, unbecoming premise, “Call Me Irresponsible” smartly realizes the episode only works if Frasier doesn’t get laid, instead squirming under the knowledge even he’s only willing to stretch his ethics to a certain point (far beyond what Niles would consider acceptable for a psychiatrist).

Frasier Call Me Irresponsible

And for an episode that’s particularly underwhelming in its second act (which is mostly Frasier arguing on the phone with Katherine’s ex-boyfriend Marco), I love where “Call Me Irresponsible” finishes; Frasier, lamenting a life alone in his fancy chair, while the rain outside echoes off the walls of his empty apartment. Expressing jealousy for the simple life of a dog with caring owners, we end the episode with Frasier contemplating his position in the world as someone who is ready to love again, but (mostly) determined to try and find it in the right places.

Across its 263-episode run, of course, Frasier would compromise that vision for the sake of comedy many times; but here, it all least closes a somewhat underwhelming episode on a contemplative, hopeful note. That thoughtfulness doesn’t excuse what is a middling episode of Frasier, of course – but as we’ve seen in these first seven episodes, that third act magic is something Frasier‘s had a pretty solid handle on since “The Good Son”, which gives this forgettable episode just a little bit of utility, in filling out the still-forming persona of West Coast Frasier.

Grade: C

Other thoughts/observations:

  • This episode was written by the series creators – which would lend itself, one would think, to feeling more monumental than it ultimately does. It definitely feels like a script that’s the result of a full writer’s room still feeling itself out.
  • There are a number of funny little details in this episode: the first caller trying to hear himself on the radio (Eddie Van Halen), the coffee shop patrons groaning when Frasier makes his little “please don’t change” joke, or Niles ignoring stop signs, then trying to slam on his brakes in the middle of an intersection. These moments almost make this episode worth sitting through.
  • “Call Me Irresponsible” suffers from a severe lack of Marty and Daphne; they’re really only in the one Christmas scene, which sticks out like a sore thumb among the other scenes of the episode.
  • Frasier seriously looks like he’s turning into a wolf when he unbuttons his shirt and sits in the moonlight. That mana has a hairy chest for the ages, that is undeniable.
  • The title card for the last act simply reads: “The Obligatory Sex Scene.”
  • The second caller, Marco, is played by character actor Bruno Kirby, who passed in 2006.

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