Episode Six: The Crucible, and creamed kale

Oh what a treat, our first Frasier party!

There’s a small joy in any long-running series where you witness the beginning of what will become a long-running joke, theme, or trope. A mere six episodes in, the characters themselves don’t know it yet but any one of them who throws a party is cursed to have it end up in disaster, and this is just how it must be. Much later, about halfway through the show’s penultimate season, Frasier will send itself up by opening an episode at the tail end of one such event where everything goes wrong, with Martin emerging, gamely wearing a sash and crying “Buongiorno!” before being told he doesn’t have to pretend to be an Italian count anymore.
We’ve seen already in the series that Frasier’s life is more or less the phrase “oh how the mighty have fallen” writ large, and in this episode he really has to dwell on his hubris. We open the episode on Frasier’s radio show, where he manages to drop into the conversation with a caller that he has acquired a Marth…

Episode Five: Here’s Looking At You, and Rich Gooey Coffee Cake

The general structure of sitcoms - set up, disaster, resolution - is completely unlike real life, which is probably why they can be so comforting to watch. You know everything is going to be re-set back to the status quo by the time the credits roll, and somehow in 22-odd minutes the gang is going to cycle through some hijinks, delightful misunderstandings, and find themselves ending with a hug. Frasier is no stranger to this routine, but every now and then the show will just gently meander around doing nothing much at all, with the minimal set changes keeping the familiarity rolling - you know that when the black title cards appear the characters are either going to be at the apartment, the radio station, or Cafe Nervosa, and it could be Season 1 or Season 9.

This is one of those episodes: not an awful lot happens, but it’s a total delight from start to finish. Frasier, wanting to do something nice for his father, gets him a telescope. Martin happens to lock crosshairs with Irene, a …

Episode Four: I Hate Frasier Crane, with Fried “Chicken”

Now that we’re up to episode four of Frasier we’re at the point where we can get some actual plot, as opposed to the first three episodes which were all variations on Frasier’s uncomfortable relationship with his father. Of course; that relationship is still explored here, all in good time my friend. The episode is called I Hate Frasier Crane and wastes no time in showing us why it was named thusly: we open with Frasier, Martin and Daphne (plus Eddie the dog staring at Frasier as though he is “a large piece of kibble”) getting ready for dinner. Niles appears, and we get a nice bit of classic Frasier humour as Frasier yells at the dog for staring at him while he’s saying grace, and Niles thinks he’s being reprimanded for staring at Daphne. Mistaken identity, things overheard and misconstrued, and apparently-necessary falsehoods that have to be upheld are the absolute bread and butter of this show. Anyway, there’s no mistaking the intent of local Times columnist Derek Mann, who has comm…

Episode Three: Dinner at Eight, with Steak, Potatoes and Bacon Bits

When Daphne and Niles meet it really feels like the show starts to hit its stride: as well as that, we get the first mention of the restaurant from which this blog gets its name, La Cigar Volant! Which translates rather amusingly to “the flying cigar”. Frasier and Niles are so enamoured of the place that they high five over it, which naturally results in sore hands for both of them from the unnatural display of exertion. This episode gives us some more progress in the relationship between the sons and their father, as they insist on taking him out to a fancy dinner in order to spend some time together. Their reservation at La Cigar Volant is lost, but all is not lost: Martin takes them to somewhere where he is infinitely more comfortable, a steakhouse called The Timber Mill. Niles and Frasier are so very busy luxuriating in their snootiness that they lose sight of their manners and Martin delivers a diatribe as searing as the steak his sons reluctantly ordered. I’m just going to put i…

Episode One: The Good Son, with Beer Bread and Dominique Crenn’s Cultured Butter

A pilot episode is a strange and crucial thing! So much exposition and world-building is needed, so much instant connection from the viewer is hoped for, so much is subject to change and evolution. The Good Son is a gentle little episode - in fact much of Frasier is very gentle - but by the time the famous credits roll, we’ve established everything we need for the series to progress. His emotionally distant father Martin was shot in the hip and can’t live alone, so with great reluctance on both sides, he’s moved in to Frasier’s fantastically fancy apartment. A charmingly daft home carer from Manchester, Daphne, has also moved in, and as some kind of final blow to Frasier’s semblance of control over everything, Martin’s small dog Eddie is part of the deal too. On the fringes are Niles, Frasier’s fussy younger brother who evades the responsibility of taking on Martin on account of his even fussier wife Maris; and Roz, Frasier’s snarky producer. Aside from a brief interaction with a wait…

Episode Two: Space Quest, and Bran Muffins

The thing with Frasier is that it wasn’t afraid to get dark, just in a matter-of-fact, quiet, day-to-day kind of way. Space Quest is really by and large a rehash of the pilot, as many second episodes are, but moved slightly further along. Basically, Frasier is continuously butting heads with his father and struggling to come to terms with the fact that his privacy and the titular space have been compromised. The episode appears rather gloomy on paper - Frasier spends most of it highly frustrated, and it culminates in he and Martin reaffirming that they’ve got a long way to go. Frasier literally confides in his father that he had suicidal thoughts after his marriage broke up. But the acting is so good and not a moment is wasted. Martin’s discomfort with displays of emotion, Frasier’s blustering, and Daphne’s cheerfully baffling manner all come together beautifully. It makes the small, low-key ending, with the olive branch of a beer offered from father to son, oddly satisfying.

This epi…

La Cigare Volant: at last, a Frasier food blog?

Of all the things I could do with my moderate spread of time and resources, of all the things I could offer the world, there are perhaps many, but none of their potential for fruition could outlast the words “” which kept appearing in my head with increasing insistence. Is there a particular need for this project? Not really. Have I started numerous other projects in the past with this-time-it’s-different gusto only to abandon them almost immediately? You know it. Do I already have a food blog which is struggle enough to keep updated regularly? Naturally.
But here we are. I recently learned of the incredibly sad news that John Mahoney had died, aged 77, leaving behind a rich career including his best-known role as Frasier Crane’s father, Martin. I’m always reflecting on what Frasier means to me because I’m always watching it, so this news didn’t necessarily kick off any new revelations, but I was like, damn it, now I’m really thinking about it I might as well ju…