Saturday, October 15, 2011

To Dream the Impossible Dream

Perhaps no one in TV history was as good at interpreting recurring dreams as Dr. Frasier Crane — until he had to interpret one of his own.

Fifteen years ago tonight, Frasier was being tormented by a recurring dream in which he woke up in a seedy motel room with a crescent moon lamp, a nearly empty bottle of tequila and the word "Chesty" tattooed on his left forearm. As the dream played out, it was revealed that Frasier was in the motel with Gil Chesterton, KACL's prissy food critic who was widely assumed to be gay — or, at least, to have gay tendencies.

In typical Frasier fashion, he obsessed over the dream. What could it mean? He sought Niles' input and followed up on every theory the two of them proposed — that the dream was related to Frasier's diet or that it was connected to his relationship with his deceased mother.

But each one fell apart on closer inspection.

Finally, Frasier was forced to face the possibility that perhaps the dream was telling him something about his sexuality.

That wasn't a prospect that Frasier wanted to consider — in fact, he had been trying to avoid it — and it sure wasn't the kind of thing his father wanted to talk about in the wee hours of the morning when he couldn't sleep. But when Frasier obsessed about something, he could not be denied.

"You don't care if I ever sleep again, do you?" Martin asked when Frasier told him what the dream had been about — but, in spite of his uneasiness about the topic, he persuaded Frasier that the dream couldn't possibly be a message about his sexuality because "you would have known by now."

That left Frasier with only one option. His call–in show hadn't been presenting him with anything that was challenging enough for his intellect so his subconscious mind had created a dream for him to interpret that defied easy interpretation.

Convinced that was the answer, a relieved Frasier went to bed, certain that he wouldn't be bothered in his dreams again.

Until Sigmund Freud paid him a visit during what Gil called Frasier's "midnight movie."

On another note about Frasier ...

One of the things that I always liked about Frasier was the vignettes that could be seen played out behind the closing credits. They were, at best, a minute long and always related in some way to the main story that had just been told.

Those vignettes always enhanced the stories — occasionally, I thought they were better than the stories.

Anyway ...

When this episode ended, Eddie the dog could be seen dreaming about a plate of muffins on the kitchen counter, and he was jumping continuously, catching brief glimpses of the muffins each time.

As the credits concluded, Eddie could be seen slowly sauntering from the kitchen into the living room. Had he finally gotten the muffins? Had he tired of jumping? One could only guess. All that was certain was that the episode and its credits were over.

Perhaps it was the way that particular vignette focused on the dog in the household, but it reminded me then — and still reminds me today — of the occasion when I went with my mother and some family friends to see "The Muppet Movie."

When the story had ended and the closing credits scrolled on the screen, our group remained in our seats transfixed while everyone else in the theater got up and left. At the very end, the camera focused on Animal, who stared straight at the "audience" and implored them to "Go home! Go home!"

We all stood up, laughed and left the theater per Animal's instruction.

And, in a non–verbal way, the Frasier closing served the same purpose. When, in his dream, Eddie came sauntering into the living room from the kitchen, it was clear that the story was finished.