Second Look: Frasier Season 1 Episode 4 – “I Hate Frasier Crane”

Frasier I Hate Frasier Crane

Frasier Season 1, Episode 4 “I Hate Frasier Crane”
Written by Christopher Lloyd
Directed by David Lee
Aired October 7, 1993

After an incredibly strong trio of opening episodes, “I Hate Frasier Crane” mostly feels like a writer’s room relaxing for a moment, relieving the tension of putting together its first 70 minutes of comedy with a lighthearted story about Frasier getting riled up by a shit talking local newspaper columnist (looking for B and C plots? Look elsewhere, this episode has nothing for you!). But even a more superficial Frasier can’t avoid tapping into the strong emotional core it has already built, delivering a strong, understated resolution enriching what is, if we’re being honest, a mostly weightless endeavor.

“I Hate Frasier Crane” is one of many early episodes exploring how Frasier’s childhood has translated into aspects of his adult personality (given the she show’s Jungian approach, this is to be expected). Having Marty and Niles around offers a constantly-widening window into the unseen formative years of his life (and, incidentally, allows the tenor of Frasier’s character to completely change from his original appearances on Cheers). There’s no denying that spending extended time around our family as adults can bring out the worst in us, so I’ve always viewed Frasier on Frasier as more representative of the authentic Dr. Crane, especially given the clean thoroughline Frasier draws between the distant past and present. That’s not to say the Frasier we saw on Cheers was an inaccurate one, of course, but perhaps him in an adaptative mode, younger and more performative while spending his evenings in the iconic Boston basement bar.

Frasier I Hate Frasier Crane

It’s important to note this, because the original version of Frasier would never work in a story like “I Hate Frasier Crane”, his neuroses and childhood too vaguely defined to give voice to the episode’s story, which revolves around Marty’s lifelong disappointment in Frasier’s inability to stand up for himself (mostly physically). This version of Frasier is more developed and layered (obviously), even if the comedic approach to his character remains fairly broad – and that added space, begins to resolve some of the dissonance between East and West Coast Frasier as this conflict filters through the episode’s half-dozen scenes.

The devil is really in the details here, nuances that come to light through Frasier‘s brilliant dialogue throughout “I Hate Frasier Crane”. While a newspaper columnist and Frasier are exchanging public barbs, we learn that Frasier emasculated his father at work years ago when he backed away from a fight in middle school, disappointing Marty and fueling the insecurity we see on display during Frasier’s petty attacks at Derek Mann (more like Strawmann, amirite?) on the radio. Through this, “I Hate Frasier Crane” offers up Frasier‘s first true external conflict – which, as the conflict develops, reveals itself to be a ruse to again focus on giving depth to Frasier and Marty’s relationship, as the episode shifts from a satire of masculinity to another touching bonding story.

As with the show’s first three episodes, the third act of “I Hate Frasier Crane” coalesces these elements in unexpected ways; to save his son from a public beating, Mary calls his old cop buddies to break up the “fight” about to go down between Frasier and the much larger (but never actually seen on camera) Derek. But he only does this after Frasier pulls up his sleeves and goes out to fight; though Frasier saw this as another test of his masculinity, this was about Marty dealing with one of the mistakes he made as a father, one that robbed Frasier of potential confidence during a difficult time of his life. This seems like a small moment, but it’s extremely important in the development of their relationship: it shows us that the close proximity of the Crane men is beginning to pay dividends – unexpectedly, from Marty, who unveils a more emotional, thoughtful consideration of his son than what we might’ve expected from the first few episodes.

Frasier I Hate Frasier Crane

It’s a rather surprising display of empathy from the gruff, grizzled old cop (who is in the middle of revisiting a twenty-year-old murder he could never solve); though it’s not surprising Marty doesn’t want Frasier to get the shit beat out of him, it gives weight to just how invested he is in resolving the rift between him and his sons, and what he needs to get back on his feet after a horrible couple of years, which have sapped Frasier of so much drive and confidence in his life. It doesn’t mean he won’t get constantly frustrated with his son, and the dissonance between them (let’s admit it, “It’s all one clarinet lesson” is not as meaningful a statement as it sounds, no matter how well John Mahoney delivers it). That little twist at the end, revealing Marty orchestrated the police presence breaking up Frasier’s fight before it began, may not seem like much – but it retroactively reforms everything preceding it, resolving the episode with a surprising bit of emotional depth.

Frasier was always adept at finding strong, cathartic moments in odd comedic places, and while “I Hate Frasier Crane” isn’t going to blow anyone away with its final minutes, it’s a telling sign of the show’s growing command of its cast and delivery, even with only a few hours under its belt. More presciently, how “I Hate Frasier Crane” builds a thoroughline between the unseen part of the Crane family’s life, and their attempts to embrace the second chance they’ve given each other – and for Frasier, for himself.

Grade: B

Other thoughts/observations:

  • “I Hate Frasier Crane” opens with another ‘Eddie staring at Frasier’ joke, which is always hilarious.
  • There’s a half-assed B-story with Marty working on an old case, but this is mainly an excuse for us to watch Daphne get her telepathic “signals crossed.” The Weeping Lotus story will return in season 2, though!
  • After taking the mic and walking around with it during his monologue, Frasier pulls off a suave little trick pretending his mic is a revolver. Great little physical bit by Kelsey Grammer there.
  • One thing I always forget about these early episodes is how criminally underused Roz Doyle is. She’ll have her turn in the sun as an iconic 90’s single woman, of course, but these first four episodes her character barely registers.
  • “On line two we have Stuart, who is having a problem with delayed gratification.” “Well, he’ll just have to wait!”
  • Another bit of plot that reappears next season: Billy Kriezel appears, played by Mike Starr (in an episode that also features John C. McGinley as a plumber, no less).
  • Niles, after forgetting he’s met Roz multiple times: “I’m far too successful to feel awkward!”
  • Why are Niles and Frasier wearing the same button-down in that final scene? It was hard to pay attention, because it felt like there was a joke the show was missing there. Maybe it ended up on the cutting room floor?
  • Sherry Count: Frasier enjoys the episode’s lone sherry while his father is convincing him to fight Derek. Everyone enjoys a glass of wine during the first family dinner, though.
  • Marty insisting that Daphne eat dinner with them is just an adorable moment. That‘s how you build an ensemble.
  • This week’s caller is Tony Award-winner Judith Ivey, with Joe Mantegna featuring as the voice of Derek.

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