Saturday, November 21, 2015

Frasier's Unexpected Surprise

Niles (David Hyde Pierce): Frasier, I'm sorry I ruined your evening.

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): It's all right, Niles. It's a small price to pay to finally see you and Daphne together.

I guess it was around this time in the Frasier timeline that my interest in the series began to wane — mostly because I found the relationship between Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves) implausible.

They had been going through a very difficult time trying to be a couple after Daphne left her fiance at the altar and Niles left his wife of just a few days. The two jilted lovers were all too eager to make life difficult for their exes, and the story really was a nice one about the commitment and love Daphne and Niles shared.

At the time this episode was shown, I suppose — to my great regret — that I was being very superficial. I couldn't comprehend why Daphne would want to be with Niles, and I began to lose interest in the series.

Later, I caught up on the episodes I missed and discovered that the episodes about Daphne and Niles were very inspiring.

The episode that aired on this night in 2000, "Taking Liberties," was a tantalizing taste of things to come. Having watched all those episodes in syndication, I must say that Daphne and Niles were great role models. It's a pity there aren't more like them today.

The episode opened with Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) searching for a housekeeper to replace Daphne. Now that she was Niles' girlfriend, Frasier felt uncomfortable asking her to do household chores around his apartment.

Niles was having his own problems. His wife Mel (Jane Adams) was stringing him along, trying to lay the foundation for a face–saving way for her to exit the marriage by having Niles act boorishly in public. She promised that, within a few weeks, he would be free to pursue a public relationship with Daphne. But she kept pushing back the deadline, and Niles was getting frustrated.

The latest indignity had come at a prominent colonel's funeral. Niles' cell phone rang during the service, and Mel would not permit him to answer it. The ringer had been set to play "La Cucaracha."

While describing the service, Niles mentioned that the colonel's butler had been there, and Frasier interrupted him for more information.

Frasier contacted the butler (Victor Garber) and hired him to fill the role that Daphne would be giving up — and then some.

The butler, whose name was Ferguson, took considerable liberties, making suggestions for Frasier's self–promotion — not that Frasier objected although, eventually, he chastised Ferguson for "taking far too much liberty with the liberty taking."

But Ferguson was generous. He was prompted to take liberties not for his own sake but for the sake of others.

In Frasier's ongoing campaign to climb the Seattle social ladder, Ferguson suggested a pre–opera party for the folks who could make a difference in his bid for a spot on the opera board. Many of the board members were elderly and a post–opera party might be too late for them.

Things seemed to be going very well — the party was a success, and Niles and Daphne had plans to go out — until Mel unexpectedly showed up.

To Daphne's great pleasure, Niles stood up to Mel and proclaimed his love for Daphne for the room full of people to hear.

It appeared that Frasier's bid for the opera board was suddenly brought down in flames, though. But he claimed not to mind, that it was worth it to see Daphne and Niles free to live and to love each other in the open instead of the shadows.

Over and over in its last few seasons, Frasier pleasantly surprised me like it did 15 years ago tonight. Or it would have if I had been watching the series in 2000. But I wasn't — darn it!