Sunday, November 13, 2016

Frasier's Obsession

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): That's it. I'm quirky. I'm delightfully quirky.

Niles (David Hyde Pierce): Do you realize that your delightful quirk has brought your life to a standstill?

Warning for those of you who are mathematically challenged (or "innumerate" as one of my graduate school professors liked to say in an effort to make that condition equivalent to illiteracy): I'm about to throw some numbers at you.

The episode of Frasier that first aired on this night in 2001 was called "The Two Hundredth." It was actually about the 2,000th episode of Frasier's radio show. It was also the 200th episode of the Frasier TV series.

None of that had much to do with the story.

The story was on a suitably psychiatric theme — obsession. The number of episodes was merely used as the base for the story. It was also, I suppose, a rather creative way of observing the milestone for the TV series.

The episode began with about three minutes' worth of Frasier doing his radio program. In syndication, this part was cut out to make room for more commercials. That was a shame because it featured a very special guest, Microsoft co–founder Bill Gates.

There really wasn't anything particularly special — or, for that matter, particularly relevant to the rest of the episode — about Gates' appearance. It was an opportunity to kind of poke some fun at Frasier and his well–known quirks.

In syndication, the episode begins with the part that came next. Frasier, Martin (John Mahoney), Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves) were going out to dinner to celebrate Frasier's 2,000th radio episode.

As he was preparing in his room for the evening, Frasier opened the doors of what appeared to be a sweater cubby — but was actually where he kept cassette recordings of his shows. He had tapes of every show he had ever done, and he deposited the recording of that day's show in its slot in the cubby. He glanced at the shelves filled with cassettes, smiled his satisfied smile, then closed the doors and started to walk out of his bedroom.

Then he stopped with a quizzical look on his face, went back to the cubby, opened the door and gasped. Then he summoned the other members of the household to his room where he interrogated them. Apparently, one of the tapes was stored upside down — and, upon closer inspection, the tape was not one of his shows but a collection of the greatest hits of Hall & Oates.

Turned out that Daphne was the culprit. She had been having trouble with her boombox and wanted to experiment with it to determine whether the problem was the tape or the boombox, but she only had the one cassette so she borrowed one of Frasier's to test the boombox — and discovered that the boombox, not the tape, was the problem. Frasier's tape got caught in the heads of the boombox and was ultimately ruined.

Frasier tried everything he could to replace it. He first tried the station's archives, but he soon learned that tapes were recycled at the space–strapped station. Only tapes of recent programs were in the archives, and no tape of the show, which would have been about 5½ years old at that time, could be found.

His next step was to seek the help of his listeners — so, using one of his favorite words, Frasier told his listeners he had a "boon" to ask of them. He explained that his collection was missing a tape, and, although he realized it was a long shot, he wanted to see if any of his listeners happened to have a tape of the show.

At first, no one did, but then the station called Frasier at home, where he had been in a kind of funk, to tell him a caller had called in saying that he had a tape of the show.

The caller (played by Adam Arkin) turned out to be an obsessed fan who had a wall filled with Frasier's photos and an answering machine recording that played Frasier's catchphrase — "I'm listening."

After spending some time with the fan, Frasier decided that he wouldn't take the tape after all, that he would leave his collection incomplete. He also worried about the influence he had had on the fan. The purpose of the show, he told the fan, was to help people lead better lives, "and I'm afraid I've hurt yours."

When he returned to his apartment, he told Daphne and Martin that he had not brought the tape home with him after all.

"Tonight," Frasier said, "I saw an example of how an obsession can take over a man's life. I don't want to be that man."

Good advice. Of course, Frasier proved incapable of following it.

Arkin was nominated for a 2002 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.