Frasier Season 1 Episode 14 Review: “Can’t Buy Me Love”


There are few episodes of Frasier – even the mediocre ones – that are completely without merit; there’s always a few good nuggets of humor to find, and at least a passing attempt at some kind of cathartic poignancy. Then there are episodes like “Can’t Buy Me Love,” installments that abandon the show’s intelligent examination of social psychology for something much more superficial and unsatisfying; known to many as ‘The Ironic Episodes,’ entries like “Can’t Buy Me Love” represent the darkest underbelly of Frasier‘s 264-episode legacy.

Where should we even begin with this forgettable mess? Frasier getting manipulated by an angry tween? Bulldog trying to feed a visibly-intoxicated Daphne more champagne? Frasier attempting to date a model who leaves her child with a stranger? There is really no value in “Can’t Buy Me Love” at all, for actors or the audience – except as an early chapter in the colorful collection of “Frasier the Sad Clown” stories, of course (we even get the clown’s sad frown, when the model reveals to him that they would not be sleeping together that evening). But what does “Can’t Buy Me Love” even do with that idea? After getting bought by a model who listens to his radio show, Frasier spends half the episode with a petulant, spoiled child who spits a bunch of lies about her mother to Frasier, which leads him to yell at his date for being a terrible mother and all-around human being.

When the best joke of the half hour is Eddie barking at Frasier to get him more Cheetos, it’s pretty obvious “Can’t Buy Me Love” is a classic punch-the-clock episode, a story that feels cobbled together from various comedic scenarios (Daphne drunk, Frasier shamed, etc. etc.), none of which land with any consistency. Sure, Daphne insulting Bulldog over and over is hilarious, but his creepy behavior in the limo sucks any energy out of the scene, an instance of the show pushing his chauvinistic caricature a little too far, tipping the scale into genuinely disturbing territory for the sake of an empty laugh. But this is how “Can’t Buy Me Love” treats its characters, turning each one into a ridiculous, idiotic caricature of themselves for the sake of creating some short-lived comedic tension. I mean, how can they give Roz only one line in an episode that features a man auction, and think they can get away with it?

Wall to wall, “Can’t Buy Me Love” is a disappointment; like the raw cookie dough Frasier and Renata eat during their bonding time, “Love” is a mushy, sugar-coated mess, completely devoid of any real value to its characters, or the show as a whole. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be Frasier’s first run with ‘irony’ – and strangely enough, not even close to some of the worst.

Other thoughts/observations:

– “If he back pedals any faster, he’ll trip over his walker.” That is the best zinger you’ll find in this dud.

– Frasier tells Renata to take the cookie dough and “put it in her pipe and smoke it.” How hip!

– Roz is the highlight of the episode, though she’s only on-screen for about ten seconds, when she buys a Seattle Seahawks linebacker at the auction: “I saw what I wanted and took it. You – stay!”

[Photo via NBC]

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