You can tell the writers’ room of Frasier was starting to run out of steam by this point: this is a 22-minute episode derived around Marty’s chair, and Frasier’s distaste for it. There’s been a certain formula established in the back half of Frasier‘s first season, and “Give Him the Chair!” embodies it to a T: feature a scene with Frasier getting laughed at on the radio, cut to Niles hitting on Daphne in some creepy way, then get Frasier in a tizzy so his hair flops around and Kelsey Grammar can go complete slapstick. Every Frasier season has a handful of these episodes (or most of the episodes, as is the case in later seasons), and while they can often act as lighthearted palette cleansers between Frasier‘s deeper, more engaged installments, too many of these in a row and the premise of the show nearly falls apart.
Thankfully, “Give Him the Chair!” tries to embrace the show’s premise wholeheartedly. However, after watching Frasier and Marty’s relationship develop for 18 episodes, their fight over his old chair seems overly sour, even for the good doctor. When Frasier decides his father needs a new recliner, Frasier and Niles find a massage chair that appears to give people a slight orgasm when they sit down – as you can predict, hilarity ensues. Not before Niles, Marty, and Frasier make a dozen jokes about Maris, of course, or they make wonderfully poignant observations like “Who’da thought the mentally disturbed had this much money?” while shopping for said new recliner, which Marty hates because of said sexual pleasure one derives from it (he calls it “disgusting,” which seems a bit out of character, even at his crankiest).
Once the episode gets past all that, it tries to make its big emotional ploy, how Marty gets mad at Frasier for throwing away a memory, rather than an old piece of furniture. And Frasier never acknowledges how this flies in the face of its own premise. Tied up in the “awww”-ness of Marty’s nostalgia was the complete abandonment of an important Frasier principle: the entire show is about the Crane family letting go of the past, of the failed marriages, ended careers, and lost loved ones that have held them back for so long (or in Niles’ case, the wife who holds him back for seven seasons). It’s what was supposed to have brought Marty, Frasier, and Daphne together, and “Chair!” rejects this for something much simpler and mawkish story about nostalgia, and just how wonderful it is to live in the past.
That sticky sentimentality is the killer stroke for most sitcom stories, and it works its evil magic to perfection in “Chair!”, reducing it to a bunch of exaggerated Frasier faces and jokes about how awful a human being Maris is (seriously, for an episode about Marty’s chair, they sure dump on Niles’ wife a lot in this episode). Sure, there are some fun one-off characters – the terrible help Frasier hires to move furniture, the disinterested furniture salesman, the suicidal music teacher – but its emotional ploys are off-base, ultimately rendering it a half hour of empty catharsis and mean-spirited comedy, two particularly dissonant notes that both ring false through the course of the episode.
– I’ve got nothing here. This was really an unfunny episode, lacking in any kind of personality. Truly a low point for this first season.
[Photo via NBC]