Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pursue Your Dreams While Ye May

"Dad, I thought we had an agreement. Eddie doesn't roll around on my sofa, and I don't throw him in front of a bus."

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer)

In the Frasier episode that aired 20 years ago tonight, Frasier's aunt had just died, and her will had put Frasier in charge of her memorial. Apparently, she was nobody's favorite aunt. Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) described her as a "dreadful old harpy" and said that she never said anything to him that wasn't "scornful, derisive or contemptuous."

Why had she put Frasier in charge of her memorial? Roz (Peri Gilpin) wanted to know.

"I was her favorite," Frasier replied.

Back at Frasier's apartment, Aunt Louise was the topic of conversation for Frasier, Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and their father, Martin (John Mahoney). According to Aunt Louise's will, Niles was to dispose of her ashes so he felt under pressure to pick the perfect spot for her to spend eternity, and Frasier had been designated to deliver the eulogy at the memorial service in two weeks.

Martin suggesting flushing the ashes down the toilet. Daphne (Jane Leeves) protested that they couldn't do that. "Why not?" Martin asked. "She loved the water."

That inspired Niles to scatter the ashes at the beach, but then he thought better of it. "No, no, she hated seagulls," Niles recalled. "And vice versa."

Then, in one of my absolute favorite dialogue exchanges from Frasier, the Cranes reminisced about how Aunt Louise used to complain about the winters in Seattle. Martin recalled that Aunt Louise always wanted to go to the South Pacific but wouldn't spend the money. So she would whine about "how she'd like to be in a warmer climate."

"My guess," Frasier said, "is she finally made it."

That prompted Daphne to muse about how sad it would be to go through life with a secret dream that went unfulfilled. "You'd never do anything silly like that, would you, Mr. Crane?" she asked Martin.

It turned out that Martin had been writing song lyrics for years and kept them in a shoe box. Because Martin and his late wife had been fans of Frank Sinatra, Martin had written the lyrics with Sinatra in mind. His fantasy had been that he and his wife would go to Las Vegas and see Sinatra in concert — and he would open the show with one of Martin's songs.

But Martin had never followed through and sent any of his lyrics to Sinatra because he was convinced they weren't any good. Except for one. Upon reading the lyrics, Martin conceded, "I've gotta admit. This has Frank written all over it."

But Martin could only write lyrics. He had no musical training. Niles and Frasier did, though, and they volunteered to help their father complete the song so he could mail it to Sinatra. It took some persuading, but he finally agreed. And, after a long night, they finished the song, and Martin resolved to mail it to Sinatra the next morning.

If only Frasier's eulogy had gone as smoothly, but he was still working on it an hour before the memorial service. It was his commitment to the truth that got in his way. He refused to, as he put it, "invent virtues the woman didn't have."

Niles was faring no better with trying to find a place for Aunt Louise's ashes.

And Martin was still waiting to hear from Sinatra.

Niles and Frasier hit upon the perfect place for Aunt Louise's ashes — a meadow where she once took Niles to fly a kite. When the kite got lodged in a tree, she made Niles climb up after it. He fell and broke his collarbone in two places. "It was the only time I ever saw her laugh," Niles recalled.

So they went to the meadow before going to the memorial service, but Niles couldn't get the urn open.

As Niles struggled with the urn, Frasier and Martin had a conversation. It turned out Martin had heard from Sinatra's people. They had rejected the song.

Niles asked Frasier to help him open the urn. "I may have loosened it," Niles told Frasier a split second before the urn came open and Aunt Louise's ashes spilled out — mostly onto Niles.

Well, that solved Niles' problem.

And, as it turned out, Martin's rejection solved Frasier's problem as well.

Aunt Louise's entire retirement home turned out for her funeral — not because they were sorry to see her go but because radio personality Frasier Crane was giving the eulogy.

But rather than deliver a eulogy — although he did deliver a brief one, observing that Aunt Louise touched them all during her life and, after brushing her residual ashes from his suit, remarked, "She touches us still" — he directed the church choir in a rendition of Martin's song, "She's Such a Groovy Lady," fulfilling his father's dream of hearing the song performed once.

And that is what the episode that aired on this night in 1995 was really all about — fulfilling, or attempting to fulfill, one's dreams.