Frasier Season 1, Episode 5 “Here’s Looking at You”
Written by Brad Hall
Directed by Andy Ackerman
Aired October 14, 1993 on NBC
In its early hours, the sole narrative focus of Frasier is the relationship between Frasier and Marty; save for the nascent handful of scenes establishing Niles, Roz, and Daphne’s presence, these first handful of episodes are nothing but insular explorations of the Crane patriarchs and their attempts to fix the family nucleus. It’s a smart move, because with only four half-hours under its belt, Frasier‘s already formed a strong emotional foundation for the series to start building on; it’s also just good writing from a veteran writer’s room, finding harmony in the balance between Kelsey Grammar’s bombastic performance, and Mahoney’s more measured take on Marty – which, as it has in previous episodes, helps land the emotional arc of “Here’s Looking At You” in powerful ways.
Now, there’s no discounting how fucking weird the premise of “Here’s Looking At You” is; the idea of Frasier buying his father a telescope so he can look in apartment windows from across the city (which he calls… a hobby?) is an odd fucking choice, to say the least. The genesis of the idea, of course, is solid – Frasier doesn’t want his father to get bored and depressed – but it is certainly a strange way to backdoor itself into the actual story of the episode, which has nothing to do with Irene, the woman Marty starts ‘dating’ (via telescope) after they catch each other peeping from their respective scopes.
But what I do like is how “Here’s Looking At You” establishes a template the show would follow throughout the years, often to great effect (or at least, more consistent effect than its other fallbacks, like its many, many attempts at farce). As a show about a psychiatrist, it makes sense Frasier would often structure episodes to embody that of one in practice – if only on a larger narrative scale, to consider some larger thoughts about human interaction, and how we try to heal ourselves (and others) as adults.
The format is a simple one: after introducing a specific conflict – in this case, Marty not wanting to date the cute woman he’s been talking to via telescope across the city – the first two acts typically feature Frasier and company brazenly pursuing specific resolutions, then analyzing the (usually disastrous) results. Most often, the subject is Frasier himself, but Frasier regularly shifts to other characters in search of the cathartic and/or revealing moments these stories can bring – and in “Here’s Looking At You”, delivers a powerful one for Frasier’s gruff, prideful father.
Once “Here’s Looking At You” works itself through Frasier’s cycle of a few times – revealing that Marty turned down Irene’s attempt at going on a date – it ends up in a familiar place to anyone who watched the first four episodes. This time, however, Frasier leans even further into the awkward silent studio audience and lack of score in its most emotional, climactic moment, as Frasier tries to pry into why Marty is just so afraid to go on a date, even though it’s been six years since Hester passed.
Frasier can be a silly show, sometimes to its detriment, but it often knew when it was time to let its emotions lead. When the stalker jokes and laugh tracks finally subside in the third act, “Here’s Looking At You” hits audiences with an unexpected “twist”: Marty doesn’t want to date his neighbor because her middle name is Rose, the same as Hester. This silences Frasier, stunned that he would be so arrogant as to pry into something so personal (let me quote Niles here: “Do you forget what you do for a living?”).
The silence that moment produces is compelling – and, surprisingly, becomes even more powerful once Frasier leaves and Marty passes it off for a joke with Daphne. It’s not a dramatic misdirection, per se, but what is shows about Marty certainly is: resilient enough to know life continues, even after the love of your life is gone, to vulnerability, reluctant to show his physical limitations as the result of being shot in the line of duty.
Without trying to make him look like a fool, she slyly mentions that he’s always hiding his cane before he goes to the telescope to talk to Irene – Marty’s stunned face when she walks away sells it all, a stunning display of restraint for a young sitcom to let the moment fall silent, to let Marty sit, his self-consciousness exposed… in a moment that Frasier doesn’t even see, an important facet in making this moment such an effective conveyance of Marty’s shame, and how it’s holding him back from living life.
It’s a strong moment, one completely sold by John Mahoney’s ability to convey Marty’s embarrassment and shame – the look on his face when Daphne smugly walks into the dining room is powerful, only heightened by the director Andy Ackerman’s long shot from outside the kitchen, leaving Marty wide-eyed and alone, framed by the wood trapping him in the lonely kitchen. It’s really quite a beautiful shot, that makes for a beautiful metaphor of Marty feeling trapped; by his broken body, by a world that took his wife from him – and of course, by the son who won’t just let him suffer in peace.
The resolution that follows, is among the best Frasier would ever offer; after offering up the aforementioned image of Marty in the kitchen, “Here’s Looking At You” closes with Irene arriving at the apartment for a date, a moment seen entirely from her point of view. What could be a corny visual trick turns out to be an incredibly potent directing decision: you can feel the world opening up to Marty once again, supported by those who love him, and propeled by the boundless potential of Irene (or , since we never see here, the concept of Irene, at least). The visual contrast it provides is also quite strong: the space trapping Marty in is gone, the support of family allowing Marty the freedom to be happy, to allow himself to open up again as a human being.
In that moment, we get a true glimpse of Frasier‘s inner musings about the psychology of family, and the unlimited potential for healing and reconciliation it offers us as adults (of course, the Jung v. Freud debate would wage for years between Niles and Frasier, but that’s another story for many other episodes). Where it seemed “Here’s Looking At You” would end on a somber moment, it ends on a hopeful and cathartic one, suggesting that, sometimes, we need the love and understanding of others to help us unlock the parts of ourselves we may have forgotten.
That’s a powerful message – and it ends “Here’s Looking At You” on a breathtaking image, Marty beaming while the family (minus Niles; blah blah blah, something about an annoying aunt and Maris) watches on, excited to see what happens with Marty and Irene. We’d never see or hear of Irene again, of course, but that closing shot is an integral one to Frasier realizing its own potential; those moments would grow to become the show’s most powerful weapon, and seeing the writers wield it for the first time in “Here’s Looking At You” remains a potent experience.
- It almost feels like Frasier is trying to kill the very concept of a B and C plot with its early episodes, especially with the lack of focus on his life at the radio station – of course this isn’t true, but boy, it is noticeable in these first five episodes. Give me more Roz!
- Frasier: “If people were so concerned about their privacy, they wouldn’t leave their blinds open at that certain angle, where you can see the mirror over the mantle that reflects down the hall, to the waterbed in the back room.”
- Yes, Roz tells Frasier her mother is the goddamn Attorney General of Wisconsin. Bet she didn’t have to spend her time suing politicians, though!
- Daphne: “Little Eddy’s in there twitching; I think he’s dreaming about rabbits. I can’t explain your father’s twitching, though.”
- When Niles convinces his friends to trick a wine club president into drinking a chateau petrus while he thinks he’s drinking a fourcas dupre, chaos breaks out: “And as it so happens, rough house turns to tears.”
- The Aunt Patrice scene is such an oddity. Love a show that gives all of its one-off character quirks, but “crazy aunt who puts a “g” between every syllable for fun” ain’t it.
- “Did you ever meet someone and know she’s not the one?” Frasier: “Yeah, five years after I married her.”
- Jeff Daniels features as this week’s caller, who has to endure Frasier’s condescending grammar lesson before hanging up in a rage.
- Daphne: “I found a box of pizza rolls in the freezer one day past the expiration date. We game?”
- Marty, to Frasier: “There’s nothing you don’t say often enough.”
- I love Daphne’s little monologue about history being full of limpers.
- Another fantastic character detail: Marty’s ties are always covered in dog hair, because he has to tie them on Eddie first.