Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Good Writing Still Matters

Martin (John Mahoney): Well, how was dinner?

Niles (David Hyde Pierce): Let's just say that when I picked my lobster out of the tank at the restaurant, I had no idea it was in for a better evening than I.

I am part of a vanishing breed, I suppose. I think good writing still counts for something in television — all evidence to the contrary.

Take the episode of Frasier that aired on this night in 1999. Frasier's brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), was eager to return to his home in the swanky Montana.

To save money during his divorce proceedings, he had moved into a less expensive apartment and sublet his permanent residence.

Now, his divorce from the never–seen Maris was official, and he could afford to resume his previous lifestyle, but the tenant who sublet his apartment still had some time left on his lease.

Frasier and Niles went to the Montana to speak to the tenant, who apparently had had some run–ins with the neighbors over his tendency to tap dance.

Niles assured the neighbors that the tenant would be leaving, but they were prepared to throw Niles out, anyway. He decided to invite them to a dinner party to persuade them to keep him in the building. His family, including Roz, came over to help out.

Niles thought things were going swimmingly — until he was told that his pet parrot had died, supposedly because the bird ate one of the appetizers that was being served to the guests.

It wasn't much of a loss for Niles; he wasn't very attached to the bird. His neighbors at the low–rent Shangri–La where he had been living had delighted in teaching the bird obscenities.

Which set up exchanges like this one between Niles and Daphne:
Daphne (Jane Leeves): I don't mean to alarm you, but there's something wrong with the hors d'oeuvre.

Niles: How do you know?

Daphne: A little bird told me. [lifts towel to reveal bird's body]

Niles: Did you see how it happened? Anything?

Daphne: Well, I did hear her last words, but I don't think they'd be of much comfort to you.

To revive the party, it was decided to play a game of Murder, in which one guest would be the killer and someone else would have to deduce who it was.

Frasier volunteered to be the detective, and the activity seemed to be reviving the party — until one of the guests, Mr. Probst (Bill Morey), dropped dead.

Turned out that Mr. Probst was the only one who wanted to give Niles the boot — and none of Mr. Probst's neighbors seemed particularly upset that he was deceased. Well, they didn't actually know. They only knew that he had left early. They did not know that he had been taken to the morgue.

The board voted by acclamation to keep Niles in the building.

No moral to the story, I suppose. Just a reminder of what clever writing can do.