Kelsey Grammer …. Dr. Frasier Crane
Jane Leeves …. Daphne Moon
David Hyde Pierce …. Dr. Niles Crane
Peri Gilpin …. Roz Doyle
John Mahoney …. Martin Crane
Bebe Neuwirth …. Dr. Lilith Sternin
Jean Smart …. Lana Gardner
Patricia Clarkson …. Claire French
Derek Jacobi …. Jackson Hedley
Jane Adams …. Dr. Mel Karnofsky
Alan Tudyk …. Todd Peterson
Anthony LaPaglia …. Simon Moon
Saul Rubinek …. Donny Douglas
Rene Auberjonois … Dr. William Tewksbury
It amazes me how durable a character like Dr. Frasier Crane really was. Through several seasons on Cheers and then more than a decade on Frasier, Kelsey Grammer’s high brow high jinks have entertained audiences longer than most can even remember. For a long time it seemed like Frasier had simply always been on TV. It’s sad really that when the show finally went off the air, it was more with a whimper than it was with ratings glory. Watching Season 8 of the show, you can really see the charm this series had and why it had the staying power it did.
The big new storyline in this season is, of course, that after seven years waiting for resolution, David Hyde Pierce’s Dr. Niles Crane and the woman he has longed for, Jane Leeves’ Daphne Moon, finally get together. In the season’s two-part season opener And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon the two lovebirds must suffer through the wrath of those they have scorned in the name of their long awaited love.
Pierce is especially good as his wimpy Niles has to deal with the demands of his soon to be ex-wife, Mel (Jane Adams), so he can be with the woman of his dreams. In order to be granted a painless divorce, Niles agrees to masquerade as a happy husband around town, so that Mel won’t lose face. This leads to some hilarious over acting from Pierce, and brings about some embarrassing and rather touching bittersweet moments.
Saul Rubinek’s Donny Douglas also gets some funny scenes as the man Daphne left at the alter in the previous season’s cliffhanger. A sequence where Frasier goes to talk Donny out of suing his brother’s new love turns disastrous as Donny learns it was the elder Crane sibling that brought Niles and Daphne together. In typical sitcom fashion, as the situation seems almost at resolution, Frasier himself is struck with a lawsuit for his good deeds.
Jane Leeves is actually off-screen for a big portion of the season, as her real life pregnancy forced a storyline where she has sudden weight gain as a form of dealing with the pressure of living up to Niles’ affections. In Daphne Returns a rejected Niles must deal with his Goddess-like perception of Daphne. In a nifty scene, a psychiatric session has Niles and Frasier reliving old moments from the series. The modern Grammer and Pierce are entered into older scenes digitally, but the effect is done so with class. The episode ends up being one of the best of the season.
Grammer himself is stalwart throughout the entire season. In the opener he gives a toast to Niles and his “true love” that is rather heartbreaking. Other episodes have him deal with the nature of mentors. In, The Great Crane Robbery, Firefly fans will get a kick out of seeing Alan Tudyk play “nouveau riche” billionaire Todd Peterson, who has just bought the radio station that Frasier works for. Peterson starts to worship Dr. Crane and starts to creep Frasier out by copying everything from his apartment to the suits he wears.
Other episodes have Frasier dealing with his own mentors not living up to his perceptions. In The Wizard and Roz Crane has to deal with catching his personal psychiatric hero Dr. William Tewksbury (Rene Auberjonois) sleeping with his producer and friend Roz (Peri Gilpin). In The Show Must Go Off, Derek Jacobi plays Jackson Hedley a Shakespearean actor that was a great influence on the youthful Crane. Merriment ensues when Frasier learns that this great actor is actually quite awful.
The season starts to build to a satisfying conclusion in Semi-Decent Proposal, in which Frasier falls for Patricia Clarkson’s Claire French, who seems to be quite perfect for the poor lovesick psychiatrist. Unfortunately, to get close to her he must placate the loud and obnoxious Lana Gardner, played by 24’s newest First Lady Jean Smart. To secure a proper introduction to Claire, Crane must tutor the rather uninterested son of Lana and secure a passing grade for the boy. The episode builds to a side-splitting sequence in which his date with Claire goes awry due to Lana’s outbursts.
In the season finale, Cranes Go Caribbean, everything seems to be going wrong for Frasier. His getaway with Claire turns into a family vacation where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. The episode features a nice little cliffhanger for the season to go out on, and even a cameo from Bebe Neuwirth as everyone’s favorite Crane Ex-wife Lilith.
All in all, this is an effortlessly entertaining season of Frasier. Each member of the cast had been playing these parts so long that the chemistry seems to be second nature to all involved. This season was also pivotal to the evolution of the show as even though we had to wait to really get to savor the union of Niles and Daphne due to off-screen problems, the moments are still worth it. While the show was hardly “inventive” at this point, it was still worth a look and welcomed you in with open arms.
The video looks fine, but isn’t anything to scream about. The episodes are shown in there original presentation of Fullscreen with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The audio has no glaring problems, but isn’t very dynamic either. But I wasn’t expecting Star Wars quality sound, so it was fine. The episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround.
b>SPECIAL FEATURES: trailers
Trailers for DVD seasons of MacGyver, Charmed, and The Brady Bunch – For one of the most critically acclaimed and award winning sitcoms of all time, these extras are pretty lame. These trailers are fine, but you would think Paramount could spring for a commentary or two.