Monday, December 09, 2013

A High Old Time

As a general rule, I don't usually care for Christmas episodes of TV series.

They tend to be too sugary for my taste.

But the holiday episodes of the Frasier series always fell into a different category for me, and the one that premiered 10 years ago tonight, in the final season of the Frasier series, is an excellent example.

The series was about midway through its final season, and, frankly, I thought many of the episodes that season were contrived. But, in many ways, the episode that aired 10 years ago tonight rang true for me.

It was about teenage rebellion.

The contemporary story was about Frasier's son, Frederick (Trevor Einhorn), who arrived for the holidays sporting a new look — goth — which was disappointing for Frasier because he had been discouraged by his life recently and had been looking forward to spending time with his son. Then Freddy showed up wearing clothes inspired by a goth girlfriend, and Frasier concluded that it was characteristic of teenage rebellion.

This, in turn, inspired a dialogue among the adults about teenage rebellion and what they had done to rebel as teenagers. During the conversation, Martin (John Mahoney) observed that mild–mannered and fussy Niles (David Hyde Pierce) never rebelled — which wasn't really true. Earlier in the series, it was mentioned that Niles once "mooned" President Nixon.

But that wasn't mentioned in this episode. Instead, it was accepted by everyone — including Niles — that he had never rebelled, and that set him on a mission to finally rebel. Better late than never.

Niles decided that the way to rebel was to consume some marijuana ("reefer," as he called it), and Roz (Peri Gilpin) set him up with a pot brownie made by her neighbor. When Niles told Frasier what he was going to do, that he had decided to throw caution to the wind and indulge in "one act of utter, devil–may–care, crotch–grabbing brazenness," he added this: "And, of course, I'll have a nurse on speed–dial in case things get too hairy."

Just as Roz was delivering the brownie to Niles at the cafe, his car alarm went off and neither he nor Frasier could stay. As they left, Martin arrived and Roz gave the brownie to him to give to Niles. Martin was trying to cut down on junk food, but the sight of the brownie was just too tempting so he ate it.

Martin didn't realize, of course, that the brownie was spiked with marijuana, but he did know he had to replace the brownie before Niles returned to the cafe so he got in line to buy an ordinary brownie, purchasing it just in time to slip it into the aluminum foil in which the original had been wrapped before Niles came back to the cafe.

Martin gave the normal brownie to an unsuspecting Niles, who left the cafe under the watchful (though equally unsuspecting) eyes of two police officers.

Niles and Martin encountered each other later. Niles had consumed the normal brownie by that time and was imagining all kinds of psychological effects he was experiencing. (Earlier, he had spoken of the things he expected to experience. "I'm especially looking forward to something called the 'munchies' stage," Niles confided to Frasier. "It's where one enjoys bizarre food combinations. ... I'm thinking of pairing this Chilean sea bass with an aggressive Zinfandel!")

His father, meanwhile, was experiencing the real thing — but didn't realize it. He was having his own munchies and told Niles he would soon be thanking his father for "turning you on to the best thing you will ever eat: barbecue pudding chips!" When Niles declined, Martin said, "They looked at me funny in the store, too, but you taste that and tell me that's not better than a woman."

Niles was despondent when he learned the truth — that he had eaten a normal brownie and hadn't really rebelled — but he was cheered somewhat when Frasier said to him, "You're a good man, Niles. In a way, isn't that rebelling against rebellion?"

Niles smiled and said, "Nice try."

"All right, look at it this way," Frasier replied. "You did get our cop father stoned tonight."

Happy holidays.