Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas

"The Cranes of Maine have got your Living Brain!"

Niles (David Hyde Pierce)

In the initial part of the episode of Frasier that first aired on this night in 1995, viewers were treated to a kind of collage of Christmas jokes.

For example, during one of Frasier's radio programs, a caller called in to say he was conflicted. He was supposed to fly to Newark for the holiday, but the next flight over was to Maui. "It's calling to me," the caller (Ray Liotta) told him.

Frasier wanted to know why the caller was hesitant to go home. The caller said it was because the conversation was always the same. It wasn't about hopes or dreams. It was about the turkey.

Frasier assured him it was the same for everyone and said the important thing was to spend time with family. How would he feel, Frasier wondered, if he woke up the next morning 6,000 miles from home? The caller said that really put things in perspective. "I got a plane to catch," he said.

"Mele kaliki maka, Bob," Frasier replied.

A Christmas party was in progress at the radio station, and Bulldog (Dan Butler) had hired a stripper named Candy Cane. He tried to use her to get Frasier discombobulated while he was reading a holiday parable he had composed — but Frasier resisted.

The real story, though, was about Frasier's son Frederick, who was coming from Boston to visit his father in Seattle for Christmas. Frasier's gift order — all mentally stimulating gifts — had been sent to a Crane family in Maine by mistake — and their package, containing Barbie dolls and a cooking set, had been sent to Frasier.

Martin (John Mahoney) tried to tell Frasier that he was always giving people gifts he thought they should want instead of things they actually wanted. Martin said he knew what to give Frederick — a toy called an Outlaw Laser Robo Geek, a hot toy that was being heavily advertised. Frasier insisted that he had to give Frederick educational toys for Christmas so he and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) went to the mall on Christmas Eve (on their way to the airport to meet Frederick) in search of last–minute substitutions.

They weren't very successful — at least until they encountered a shopper who had the kind of things Frasier wanted to give Frederick, but the store where he bought them had been closed for half an hour. The shopper wanted $1,000 for what was maybe a couple of hundred dollars' worth of toys. Frasier started to haggle, but Niles reminded him of the pending arrival of Frederick's plane. So Frasier gave in.

When they got back to the apartment, it turned out Martin had been right. Frederick did want an Outlaw Laser Robo Geek.

Freddie went to bed, eager for Christmas morning to arrive, and Frasier had a heart–to–heart with his father. They agreed that picking the perfect gift is not always an easy thing. Some people are just plain hard to shop for.

A crestfallen Frasier handed a box to his father. It was his gift to him, but he said he knew his father would be disappointed. Martin tried to act pleased, thinking the garment was a robe, but Frasier corrected him — it was a dressing gown.

"Noel Coward would love it," Frasier said.

Martin gave Frasier his gift. When Frasier opened it, he teared up. "Oh, Dad," he said. "How did you know it was just what I wanted? My very own Outlaw Laser Robo Geek!"

Frasier taught its viewers a special lesson about Christmas on this night 20 years ago.