Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Malcolm In The Middle will commence next week, so for one more time in August, I’m excited to set the figurative table by resurrecting an entry from this blog’s decade-long run. Here’s how it works: I’ll provide a link to a piece that I first published many seasons back, and then I’ll offer a bit of updated commentary. But, as I always caution, please be gentle; this early article is from a long time ago, and my standards have changed as I’ve changed — I’ve improved as a thinker, a communicator, and a television-watcher.
So, let’s revisit… The Ten Best FRASIER Episodes of Season Eleven: https://jacksonupperco.com/2018/03/13/the-ten-best-frasier-episodes-of-season-eleven/
Frasier is probably the best sitcom of the 1990s, simply for the fact that, despite a few ebbs and flows, it’s reliably gem-filled and mostly excellent throughout its first seven seasons — that’s 1993-1994 through 1999-2000. It’s also never less than the second-best sitcom on the air. The problem is, as the show enters the 2000s, it not only becomes not great, but I think it becomes actively mediocre as well — in the sense that it’s no longer an easy candidate for even annual Top Five lists… well, until its final season, 2003-2004, when it once again emerges as a bit of a contender. What changes? Well, in addition to the knowledge that the series would finally be ending, which allows for closure-seeking stories that have a deliberately enhanced relevance and weight for character, two of the show’s best scribes returned for the first time since 2000 — Christopher Lloyd, who really captures Frasier Crane’s voice and restores for the series its tonal identity (which stems from its lead), and Joe Keenan, who knows how to project this character-rooted ethos through a specific and popular brand of comic storytelling: farce. Accordingly, Season Eleven goes back to offering classic episodes on a more regular basis (the previous three years had very few, mind you), and even though the show is basically broader and less fresh than it was in the 1990s, it’s again honoring its core character and reflecting his depiction in every part of its weekly functioning — thereby flattering the series in a way that had long been missing. Many of the writers here would eventually go on to Modern Family, a laugh-laden show with well-drawn regulars — but not to the extent of Frasier; it’s still rare to see a show as steeped in the sensibility of its central characterization. Oh, Becker tried to a degree (it just didn’t have any other well-defined leads to support it), and I suppose the 2010s have seen the emergence of more personal and autobiographical half hours — like Louie, for one — but they’re intentionally not as funny, forsaking an important tenet of the genre (the thing that makes it a unique art). In this regard, Frasier remains a high-water mark for comedic character writing on the sitcom. Few shows before or since are as brilliant, in the 1990s, 2000s, or any era. (Let’s hope the forthcoming “revival” is able to maintain and not harm its wonderful reputation!)
Come back next week for another early ’00s rerun! And stay tuned for a new Wildcard!