Sunday, February 07, 2016

A Super Bowl Story

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Later today the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos will meet in the 50th Super Bowl. I plan to watch it with my father.

I've been thinking lately about some sitcoms' Super Bowl–themed episodes — there have been a few of those, although they haven't been as numerous as, say, Christmas or Thanksgiving episodes. Of course, there is more of a time crunch. In theory, you have all year to plan an episode for Christmas or Thanksgiving. We know those holidays will be coming up every year.

Of course, we know that the Super Bowl will be played each year as well, but if you want to do more than a generic Super Bowl episode — you know, if you want to actually mention the names of the teams that will be competing in the game — you only have two weeks between the conference championship games (in which the participants will be determined) and the big game itself.

Some episodes actually have mentioned the names of the teams that were playing. I can only presume that the script had been written in advance, and the writers merely had to fill in the blanks. A few of those come to mind, and my memory is they were entertaining episodes.

But the one I have been thinking about lately never mentioned the participants. It was on Frasier in January of 1999. Now, normally I write about movies or books or songs or TV episodes that are marking anniversaries with a five (i.e., 25th) or a zero (i.e., 50th) in them. This one doesn't fit either, but I still feel compelled to write about it today.

Why? I don't know. I just do.

I guess because it underscores one of the funniest aspects of Frasier — at least as far as I am concerned. I'm talking about the conversations he had with the listeners on his radio show. They were usually played by celebrities whose voices were known to most people, and I always enjoyed watching the closing credits to see if I had correctly identified them.

The episode was about Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Roz (Peri Gilpin) trying to set up their parents on a blind date. The Super Bowl was merely the backdrop to the story — and that was set up by a conversation Frasier had in the show's opening with two radio listeners, a husband and wife played by real–life husband and wife Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue.

Thomas' character called in and told Frasier her husband was having some friends over to watch the Super Bowl, and she thought it would be nice — and fair — if she invited some of her girlfriends over. Frasier agreed and told Donahue that he sided with Thomas.

"That just proves you don't know the first thing about football," Donahue replied.

Frasier started to protest that his knowledge of football was irrelevant, and Donahue interrupted.

"OK, how's this," he said. "My wife's friends can come over if you can answer even one little football question. Like ..."

Frasier tried to protest again, and Donahue cut him off again.

"You're down by six, you're on your own 40, three seconds left, what do you do?"

Roz got Frasier's attention from the control booth.

"Well, all right, you would ..." Frasier said. Roz held up two telephone handsets. "Line up your receivers ..." Roz made a throwing motion. "... and throw a pass ..." Roz made a throwing motion for a long pass. "... a long pass."

"Yeah, and what's the name for that?" Donahue asked (technically breaking his own promise by asking a second question).

Roz knelt, crossed herself and struck a prayerful pose with her eyes cast skyward.

"A Hail Mary," Frasier replied.

Having won that conversation with Roz's help, Frasier told the listening audience, "I hope you enjoy the game. In the meanwhile, this is Coach Crane saying, I'm listening."

When they were off the air, Roz told Frasier, "I'm impressed you're so good at Charades."

"I'm impressed you could mime a virgin," Frasier replied.

I hope you all enjoy the game.