The TDF Top 10: Frasier
In our latest TDF Top 10, we look to the king of all spin-off series, Frasier...
Frasier is one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. A spin-off of the already massively popular sitcom Cheers, it moved Kelsey Grammer's Frasier Crane off to Seattle and introduced us to his neurotic brother Niles, grumpy dad Martin, housekeeper and 'slightly psychic' physical therapist / housekeeper / love of Niles' life Daphne and sharp-witted producer Ros as he turned his psychiatry career into a radio show. Running for eleven seasons, it was one of the biggest shows of the 90s.
Like many shows, picking your top 10 often comes down to the characters. All five members of the core cast are comedy greats and across 263 episodes delivered laughs, slapstick and plenty of heart-warming charm. Is it Frasier's cringe-worthy antics, Niles' desperate unrequited love for Daphne, Frasier and Niles's insane endeavours, Ros and Frasier's frankly terrible radio show moments or Frasier and Martin's many disputes? There are many, many episodes to choose from, making everyone's top 10 different from each other,
Here then, are my favourites, as we present The TDF Top 10: Frasier...
10. The Matchmaker (2.03)
Frasier was at its very best when it threw the title character into situations he was hopelessly oblivious too. This early season two classic sees Frasier invite his new boss over to his apartment, hoping to set up hopeless-in-love Daphne. What he doesn't realise is that his boss has eyes for him.
The Matchmaker is pure slapstick and packed with cringeworthy moments as Frasier tries to heighten the romantic mood without realising that poor Daphne is completely out of the picture. The episode builds and builds to the moment that Frasier finally clicks what is happening, providing plenty of laughs for the audience but none for the characters involved.
9. A Mid-Winter's Night's Dream (1.17)
One the best running gags of the first seven seasons was Nile's desperate unrequited love for Daphne. Back in season one he was still married to the always off-screen ice queen Maris, but that doesn't stop him when Daphne is stranded at his gothic mansion during a storm, leading to plenty of heightened shenanigans.
With Daphne drenched, she finds a flowing white night gown, setting to mood for a candle-light encounter with Niles as the wind and rain rages outside. Of course, Daphne has no idea what is happening and Niles is caught between marriage to a woman that hates him and passion, all wrapped up in a Heathcliff-inspired night, culminating in Frasier slamming against the patio windows, desperate to stop him and Daphne's perfectly timed phrase "Dr. Crane, your Glockenspiel has sprung to life!" as the married Doctor realises he cannot given it to his lust. At least not for many years yet...
8. The Two Mrs Cranes (4.01)
Season four of Frasier opens with a comedy bang as the show indulges in what it does best - slaptick romantic comedy and mistaken identity. When Daphne's ex-fiancé Clive admits he still loves her, she pretends to be married to Niles in a bizarre double dinner date that sees Ros play Frasier's wife.
From Nile's sheer delight and playing the love of Daphne's life, to Ros playing up her lust for Clive, much to his horror, the laughs keep coming as the dinner grows more out of control. More importantly, it allows Jane Leeves and Peri Gilpin to take centre stage as Daphne and Ros have the time of the lives playing up their roles as the two Mrs Cranes, much to the surprise is all the men around them.
7. An Affair To Forget (2.21)
We return to Fraiser and Maris' gothic mansion in another episode of cross wires and spurned lovers. On his radio show, Frasier deduces that the husband of a scorned German woman caller is cheating on her with Maris - cue Fraiser's anguish over what to tell Niles and a showdown at Crane Manor.
The sight of Niles engaging Hans in combat, swinging off a chandelier (badly) and holding his nerve against a superior opponent is one of Frasier's greatest comic set pieces. A swashbuckling duel between two swordsmen this isn't, but it's all the funnier for it, with both Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce living up to the comic antics the script demands.
6. Goodnight Seattle (11.22)
The final season of Frasier is something of a return to form for the sitcom and the finale certainly sends it off on an emotional high. Everyone gets their moment to shine. Niles and Daphne have a baby, Martin remarries, ending the series not at the end of his life but a fresh start. Roz gets the big job at KACL and Frasier moves on from Seattle.
Goodnight Seattle has plenty of charm to keep it from getting sentimental. The sight of everyone watching Frasier broadcast his final radio show is lovely, while the ending teases him about to start a new life in California before diverting to Chicago to follow new love Charlotte (Laura Linney in a recurring role during the final season). The open-ended nature of the finale teases more to come and hopefully the talk of an upcoming revival will finally tell us what happened next...
5. Moon Dance (3.13)
Of all the Daphne-Niles 'almost romance' episodes, Moon Dance has to be the most memorable. With his marriage to Maris seemingly over, Frasier's third season hints at a magical romantic paring between the two over a tango at a society ball.
Of course the series isn't ready to play that card yet - and rightly so as it was never quite the same after they got together. However, the dance itself is passionate and delightfully OTT; Daphne swinging her leg over his shoulder is as crowd pleasing as it is hysterical. Niles admitting his love as Daphne 'plays along' for the crowd. Her admitting it was all a joke is heart-breaking, Niles' face as he laughs it off in agreement is superbly performed by Hyde Pierce.
4. The Innkeepers (2.23)
Some of the best episode of Frasier are when Frasier and Niles attempt a mad-cap scheme. With their love of fine dining, fine wines and societal status, opening a restaurant is both an extreme next step and a logical indulgence of their passions none-the-less.
Naturally opening night all goes horribly wrong, leading to one of the finest bits of farce the show ever committed to screen. With the Gil Chesterton and an army of restaurant critics in the next room, panic rises and tempers flair. Niles struggles to prepare the eel dish, leading to a fantastic moment as Daphne steps in and kills them with her bare hands. More and more alcohol is added to the cherries jubilee, resulting in Roz caught in a flash of fire and the sprinklers emptying the restaurant. Oh an the parking attendant crashes a car through the restaurant wall. "I told you so.' mocks Martin. And he was absolutely right.
3. Three Valentines (6.14)
Three Valentines is esentially three episodes for the price of one. The first is a pure farce as Niles prepares for a date at Frasier's apartment. Told almost entirely without words, one accident after another takes place - he sets fire to the trousers he is ironing, keeps fainting at the sight of blood from a pricked finger and ends up unconscious on a burnt sofa, Eddie licking the remains of his carefully prepared dinner off his face.
The other two sequences don't quite have the pure comic brilliance of Nile's entry, but still offer plenty of humour. Fraiser finds himself on a date with the new station manager but has no idea whether it is a business dinner or a romantic meal. Lonely Daphne ends up being mistaken for Martin's date as they enjoy dinner together, brining to light their biggest insecurities. All three scenes showcase the characters at their best - or worst - making it one of Frasier's most successful, and funniest, episodes in the eleven-season run...
2. Ham Radio (4.18)
Like the upcoming number one spot, Ham Radio is all about the build up to the big event and chaos that follows. Fraiser decides to recreate an old 40s radio play Nightmare Inn for KACL's 50th anniversary, assembling almost every recurring KACL character to play a part and turning his overbearing direction to esteemed actor Mel White (Richard Easton). Frasier's constant, cringe-worth 'notes'forces Mel to quit, forcing Niles to step into the play at the very last moment and play a whole host of recurring characters.
"I can't believe he could be a multiple murderer."
"That's easy for you to say!"
The actual performance of Nightmare Inn is one of the funniest gags in the show's history. From the mispronunciation of Bulldog's girlfriend's one line " Look out, he's got a nug!" to Roz's performance as the mysteriously foreign Miss Thorndike following emergency dental surgery and a mouthful of Novacaine and Gil Chesterton's desperate attempts to shoehorn his speech about his childhood in Surrey', Ham Radio is a script packed with delicious comic moments. But it is Niles turning the story int a bloodbath with two balloons and a pin that really hits the mark. "My god, it's turning into a bloodbath!" Daphne exclaims, listening to the performance, as Niles kills off the entire cast.
1. The Ski Lodge (5.14)
Was there really any other choice? What makes The Ski Lodge the best of the best, is not just the moments of farce and comic performances, but the magnificent set piece of the lodge itself as a night of passion sends Frasier and all his guests flitting between rooms for a series of romantic rendevouz.
Fraiser is after Daphne's friend Annie but Annie is after Niles. Niles is after Daphne, but she only has eyes for ski instructor Gee. And Gee likes Frasier. What follows is a hilarious, cringe-worthy slapstick series of events as characters move from one room to another, each one unaware of the person after them as they pursue another. And poor Fraiser discovers that he's the odd one out in this five-way love pentagon. The ultimate expression of his failed love life and one of the finest comedy episodes of television ever made.
These ten episodes might be the creme de la creme of Frasier, but there are plenty of episodes veering for attention. Nile's OTT party in Halloween, the hijinks of Daphne's Room, Daphne jilting Donnie for Niles in Something Borrowed, Something Blue and pretty much any episode featuring Fraisier's deranged agent Bebe.
What are your favourite episodes of Frasier? Let us know in the comments below…
Liked this article? Check out our Greatest TV Characters feature on Niles Crane...