Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ah, Wilderness!

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): What did you do?

Frederick (Trevor Einhorn): We played frisbee. It sucked with all those trees.

The generation gap existed long before anyone slapped a label on it, but seldom has its portrayal been as entertaining as it was 15 years ago tonight.

The episode of Frasier that first aired on this night in 2001 — "Cranes Unplugged" — was about the generation gap between Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and his son, Freddy (Trevor Einhorn), a typical 13–year–old boy who was visiting from Boston.

In anticipation of Freddy's visit, Frasier had made all sorts of grand plans. He and Freddy had had a tradition in which they picked out a book to read, read it and then discussed it. Frasier had chosen "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau, and he was very excited about it, but Freddy showed no interest. Frasier was sorely disappointed.

So Frasier told Freddy that he, Freddy and Martin (John Mahoney) were going to go camping in the woods — three generations of Cranes bonding in the wilderness. It is safe to say neither Freddy nor Martin was enthusiastic about the idea, especially after Frasier proclaimed, "We leave at daybreak!"

Their cabin was rustic, which was what Frasier wanted. He was bound and determined to read "Walden" in the woods, and he had bought journals for Freddy and Martin to write down their thoughts. He had the whole thing planned out.

But things didn't go as planned — things seldom do seem to go as planned when you're dealing with teenagers, and Freddy was, as I say, an average teenager. He was more interested in the other teenagers he had met at the campground — especially one of the opposite sex — than spending time with his father and grandfather.

Meanwhile, back at Frasier's apartment, Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves) — who were, by now, a couple — had made it their mission to find a man for Roz (Peri Gilpin).

Niles had been playing squash with a handsome young surgeon friend of his, and Daphne thought he would be ideal for Roz. So Niles and Daphne tried to set up a date for Roz and the surgeon to join them at Frasier's apartment. And the doctor and Roz did come over.

But it fell through. The doctor and Roz seemed to hit it off, but he called in and was told there was an emergency and he was needed so he left, telling Niles to apologize to Roz (who was picking out a jacket to wear from Daphne's closet) for him.

Niles, though, didn't do a very good job of explaining to Roz what had happened, and she thought the emergency had been her.

Niles tried to make up for it by bringing another young man into the circle and passing him off as another doctor — but Daphne recognized him as the "moron from the corner deli." She ordered Niles to send him away, which Niles did while Roz was in the kitchen telling Daphne how well they were hitting it off.

When she learned that he had gone, too, she was convinced she had driven off two doctors in one night.

I'm not sure what the lesson was in that substory — except, perhaps, not to meddle in other people's affairs.

Back at the campground, Freddy came in after an evening with the other kids, including a cute young girl who, he told his father, he had kissed. It was the first kiss for both of them.

Freddy had plans to see her the next day. She was a cheerleader, he told his father. Frasier reminisced about a young cheerleader from his youth.

So Freddy and Frasier had their bonding moment, after all. "Don't tell Mom," Freddy told his father.

"Don't worry, son," Frasier replied. "It's just between you and me."

Now, as a fan of Frasier and the show that gave birth to the character, Cheers!, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a couple of inconsistencies here.

First, Frasier told Roz early in the episode that Freddy was 13 years old — but Freddy's character was born on Cheers! in November 1989, which would have made him actually 11 years and a couple of months old when the camping trip episode aired in 2001. What's more, Freddy was said to be 13 a couple of years after "Cranes Unplugged" in an episode in which Freddy had his bar mitzvah. That's a pretty neat trick, staying the same age for two or three years. In TV, though, I suppose anything is possible.

Second, in an episode in the first season, Freddy was said to have severe allergies that forced him to wear all sorts of protective clothing at a chess camp in the mountains. I guess he had outgrown those allergies when he went on the camping trip with his father and grandfather because there was no mention of them. That, too, is possible, I suppose. My brother had an allergy to dairy products when he was little, but he outgrew that so I guess it would be possible for Freddy to outgrow the kinds of allergies that the Crane children always seemed to have.

No important lesson to take from this episode, I guess — except that there really isn't anything new under the sun, is there?