Paramount Studios presents
Frasier: The Complete Second Season (1994-1995)
Frasier: Niles, guess what thrivingSeattle night spot is closing its doors?
Niles: Roz, you're moving!- Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin
Other Stars: Bebe Neuwirth, Moose
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language, sexual humor)
Run Time: 09h:13m:00s
Release Date: 2004-01-06
DVD ReviewBefore Frasier became "the show that Emmy loved just a little too much" (see also: John Lithgow and Third Rock from the Sun), it was simply an unexpectedly funny, critical darling centered on the most unlikely character ever to be spun off from a hit show into an equally successful series. As it winds down its 11th and final (for now) season, it's nice to look back at the series' glory days. Season Two accounted for one of Frasier's unprecedented five-in-a-row best comedy Emmy wins, and is probably the best all-around season of the entire series.
In Season One, the Cheers offshoot quickly established itself as the best kind of spin-off, one that has a personality and an identity of its own, independent from the series that spawned it. Frasier's setup is wonderful—there is nothing more fun than watching bad things happen to the snooty and self-important Crane brothers, who more often than not deserve whatever misfortune befalls them. In most cases, in fact, their self-aggrandizing attitudes get them into trouble with the "common folk," and watching them get their comeuppance is supremely satisfying.
Where Season One focused mostly on the relationship between Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and his father, grumpy retired cop Martin (John Mahoney) as they struggled to get along after the elder moved in to his son's apartment, Season Two is all about the interplay between Frasier and his prissy younger brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce). It's hard to decide which of the two is more stuck up, but they are equally fun to laugh at as they argue about esoteric opera singers and wine vintages before making total fools of themselves due to a total lack of normal social skills (yet both are psychiatrists... hmmm).
Running gags are reinforced and built upon in this season as well. Niles' unrequited love for Daphne (Jane Leeves), his father's live-in physical therapist, grows more intense with every episode, a nice counterpart to his chilly interactions with oft-described but never seen wife, Maris. Frasier's radio producer Roz (Peri Gilpin) is fairly one-note (she's "easy"), but her animosity towards Niles is always good for a laugh. Martin, meanwhile, is still a major presence, but his role is somewhat pushed into the background, and he spends most of his screen time rolling his eyes at his effeminate sons.
Frasier deserved its 1995 best comedy Emmy—I can think of few shows that can boast of having such a consistent year. But at the same time, I don't love it the way I do some other sit-coms, simply because it is so hard to connect with any of the characters. Sure, I enjoy them all, and I like laughing with them and at them, but I don’t really care about any of them. The lack of continuity doesn't help (the episodes are as separate as any installment of Star Trek: The Next Generation). The characters never seem to change or grow, and they are in much the same place at season's end as they were at the beginning. But, in the meantime, at least they're good for some laughs.
This four-disc set includes all 24 episodes of Frasier's second season.
Slow Tango in South Seattle
Frasier decides to look up his first love, the woman who gave him piano lessons when he was sixteen, and whom he left unceremoniously when he was accepted to an Ivy League university.
Café Nervosa serves up 3 cappuccinos out of 5:
The Unkindest Cut of All
Frasier and Martin fight about Eddie after a neighbor complains he is responsible for her dog's litter of puppies, a fact that surprises Frasier, since he thought Eddie had been neutered.
Frasier asks his new boss to dinner in an effort to find a date for Daphne. Except his new boss (understandably) assumes that Frasier is gay and is asking him over for dinner. When they figure out what's going on, Niles and Martin share a very good laugh.
Niles decides that he wants to have a child. Frasier suggests he test his readiness by taking care of a bag of flour for a week and treating it like a child. Niles proceeds to do all the usual parental chores: late-night feedings, storytime, dousing with water to extinguish the flames, etc. etc. Best line: "A real child would have started crying before it burst into flames!"
Duke's, We Hardly Knew Ye
Frasier and Niles unwittingly buy into the mini-mall development that is going to tear down and replace Duke's, Martin's favorite watering hole. The boys try to bond with their dad by stopping the bulldozers.
The Botched Language of Cranes
Frasier manages to insult the entire city of Seattle when he tells a depressed caller to move somewhere a little sunnier and more upbeat. I love the episodes where Frasier looks like a really big idiot. Which is, incidentally, most of them.
Martin endorses a political candidate that Niles and Frasier find offensive, so Frasier decides to come out in support of his own favored candidate... until he finds out the man thinks he was abducted by aliens.
Adventures in Paradise: Parts 1 & 2
Frasier meets a woman he believes might be "the one", and takes her on a romantic getaway to Barbados, only to run into his ex-wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth, in an Emmy-nominated guest starring role), a welcome reappearance from Frasier's Cheers days. Overall, though, it's a pretty weak plot for a two-parter.
Burying a Grudge
Niles and Frasier attempt to heal a rift between Martin and his old police partner, who is in the hospital for surgery. This episode is short on laughs, but saved by a great subplot about Maris going through plastic surgery.
Seat of Power
Frasier's toilet breaks, and the repairmen turn out to be a couple of bullies who abused the Crane brothers in high school. Niles handles the confrontation with his one time attacker quite well. Frasier, less so.
Roz in the Doghouse
Roz feels Frasier doesn't appreciate her, so she takes a job producing Bulldog's (Dan Butler) sports show. Frasier insults her further by implying Bulldog only wants her to work for him in an effort to sleep with her.
Retirement is Murder
Martin is haunted by the murder he never solved. Never fear, though: Frasier, Niles, and Daphne are on the case! Once you've eliminated all other possibilities, whatever remains, however unlikely, is probably Frasier's idea, and also very, very wrong.
Fool Me Once, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice...
Frasier is the three-time victim of a self-proclaimed lazy con man, played by guest star Nathan Lane.
You Scratch My Book...
Frasier decries the hack psychiatry of the author of self-help books, until he meets her and finds out she's a gorgeous, leggy blonde, and she asks him to write a forward for her next opus.
The Show Where Sam Shows Up
Frasier's Cheers alum Sam Malone (Ted Danson) shows up in Seattle, but he isn't there for a visit—he's running away from his wedding. Tea Leoni plays his fiancée.
Frasier promises not to invade Daphne's privacy again after she catches him in her bedroom, but for one reason or another, he can't seem to stay out of there. Probably the funniest episode of the season, with the most outrageous comedic set pieces (particularly the finale).
Frasier and Niles compete for membership in an elite Seattle gentlemen's club. The club has some trouble telling them apart.
Someone to Watch Over Me
Frasier overreacts when he believes he is being stalked by an obsessed fan.
Breaking the Ice
Frasier and Niles accompany their father on an ice-fishing trip in a misguided attempt at bonding with him. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
An Affair to Forget
Niles defends his honor when he suspects Maris is having an affair with her fencing instructor. Niles attempts at swordplay make for the second funniest bit of physical comedy in the second season.
Agents in America, Part III
Frasier's agent (Harriet Samson Harris) uses some crazy tactics (including a fake suicide attempt) in her efforts to renegotiate his contract.
Frasier and Niles bite off more than they can chew when they purchase an ailing restaurant and take a stab at the business. That their failure would surely bankrupt them both for years yet doesn't result in the loss of a single overpriced knick-knack in Frasier's gigantic apartment is forgivable, as this is one of the funniest episodes of the year.
Tensions are high in Frasier's apartment after a blackout traps everyone indoors. Frasier uses all of his skills to bring everyone back together, but all he really wants is some alone time. The season ender is a little odd—there's a lot of angst, and it seems like we're actually supposed to feel a little bit sorry for Frasier—and it ends the year on an unusual note. Incidentally, this blackout story happened independently of that season's much publicized Must See TV theme night, during which characters on Friends, Mad About You, and "Whatever Junk Aired Between Seinfeld and E.R." dealt with a massive power failure in New York City.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A
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Image Transfer Review: Frasier looks about the same on DVD as other contemporary programs, primarily the early seasons of Friends. That is to say, it doesn't exactly look wonderful, but the quality is far better than what you'd see via cable, particularly now that the series is regularly syndicated. The image is generally clear and brightly colored, but does suffer from some softness (likely because sit-coms today are shot on film but edited on video). There is also some noticeable grain, particularly in darker shots, that doesn't show up too much on a 27-inch set, but can be a big distracting when viewed on, say, a 55-inch projection TV. Otherwise, the source material appears clean and well preserved.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a straightforward DD 2.0 mix that confines everything to the front soundstage. It's perfectly appropriate to the material—a sit-com hardly warrants a lot of surround action—and is a nice improvement the sometimes muddy audio of broadcast and cable television. Speech is clear and concentrated in the center speaker. Score and sound effects are mixed to the front mains, but presented with occasional directionality or stereo separation.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 96 cues
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director David Lee and writer Joe Keenan on The Matchmaker.
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Extras Review: Though the back of the box boasts of an impressive number of special features, Frasier: The Complete Second Season Season is on par with most sit-com releases: there is actually very little of substance.
The set includes a single commentary track, for the season favorite, The Matchmaker (included on Disc One), from director David Lee and writer Joe Keenan. Lee is one of the series' original masterminds (Frasier's radio station's call letters, KACL, are the initials of the executive producers, and Lee is the "L"), and Keenan one of its most celebrated writers. The Matchmaker was one of the first episodes to prove the plot could hinge upon a ridiculous, farcical misunderstanding (someone assumes Frasier is gay) and still remain original and intelligent, and Keenan and Lee discuss crafting the episode and maintaining the fragile balance like a house of cards. They also fulfill the congratulatory commentary checklist, praising everyone from the actors to the set dressers for a level of brilliance heretofore unseen in the annals of human history.
Each of the set's four discs also includes a brief Celebrity Voices montage that reveals which celebrities contributed their pipes as callers on Frasier's radio show. It's a welcome feature, as the callers usually aren't credited and there's nothing so annoying as a familiar voice you can't identify (which is why I hate the trend of having famous people do commercial voiceover, unless it's Alec Baldwin, because he's easy).
Otherwise, the rest of the extras are included on Disc Four, and consist of a series of five featurettes with a total running time of around 20 minutes. Marching On to Season Two is the best of the bunch, but the six-minute piece is still pretty fluffy. In recently taped interviews, surviving executive producers David Lee and Peter Casey (the third, David Angell, died on one of the planes on 9/11/02) recall the successful second season, what they call, "the most consistent" year of Frasier ever (I can't say I disagree). Brief bits of their interview are intercut with lots of clips from the show and a few blink-and-miss them contributions from the cast (recorded sometime during Season 10, judging by the hairstyles).
The rest of the featurettes are more like themed montages. Each starts with a very brief comment from the producers setting up a rundown of related scenes from the second season. The Mystery of Maris Continues is a highlight reel of all the comments made about the unseen Maris (that the series has never shown her remains a relief, as no actress could embody everything that has been said about her. Come to think of it, none would want to, I'd wager). Roz's Dating Tips is all about how Roz really doesn't mind dating lots and lots of men. The Niles and Daphne Attraction highlights the former's then unrequited love for the latter, which regularly results in some of David Hyde Pierce's best moments. Finally, And Then There Was Eddie reveals that the show's biggest ham is not Kelsey Grammer, but Moose, the little dog who plays Eddie.
Excluding the commentary and bits of the first featurette, the extras are pure fluff and not worth watching. If it would knock $10 off the price, I'd say leave them off entirely. Or at least add the basics, like subtitles, a "play all" option, and chapter selection menus.
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsThough it's a little light on extras, both Frasier fans and casual viewers should enjoy the The Complete Second Season. Let's hope Paramount follows Warner's example and starts releasing them a little faster, though, or it will be 2008 or later before we have them all.
Joel Cunningham 2004-01-05