The Good: Twenty-four hilarious episodes with great characters, wonderful acting and emotive situations.
The Bad: No DVD bonus features
The Basics: Funny, well-acted and with vivid characters who are mature, but quirky, Frasier The Complete Fifth Season is only missing bonus features and is a must-buy!
I suppose there are different niches of DVD buyers and it is pointless to assume everyone wants the same thing out of their DVD experience. Still, it is hard to imagine there is a large contingent of DVD buyers out there who DON'T want bonus features for DVDs. And for works that are vast and impressive, like long-running television shows that may still be seen in syndication on network or cable television, it makes little sense that the DVD manufacturers would avoid creating DVD bonus features to add extra incentive to buying the DVDs. In the case of the fifth season of Frasier, the absence of DVD bonus features is the only thing I could find that detracts from the DVD presentation and that is not enough to downgrade the season, at least in my book.
The Fifth season of Frasier appears on DVD as a welcome breath of comedic source material from the season that became the most obvious turning point for the series. Indeed, it is in this season that Niles finally stands up to Maris and his estrangement leads him to initiate divorce proceedings in earnest. As well, Roz finds herself pregnant and Martin and Frasier find themselves struggling as single men in the world. Lilith makes her yearly return, with terrifying results and Frasier's antics lead to a huge change at the end of the season that has ramifications for every character on Frasier!
Picking up precisely where the fourth season of Frasier ended, Dr. Frasier Crane boards a plane to get closer to a woman, only to discover she finds that creepy. Rejected, he moves seats and finds himself conversing with a supermodel zoologist. Because she is going through a messy breakup, the zoologist asks Frasier to keep their relationship quiet, which leads Niles, Martin and Daphne to assume he has snapped and has created an imaginary friend. When she storms out and confirms her existence to the others, Frasier is both rejected and exonerated.
Set adrift in the dating world again, Frasier works to find love, avoid Lilith and help Roz, who has managed to get herself pregnant . . . from a college student! Meanwhile, Martin's desire to get Sherry into a long-term, committed relationship meets with a strange resistance and he finds himself single as well. Niles, who is in therapy with Maris, hits a speedbump when Maris wants counselors who criticize her fired. Against Frasier's advice, Niles continues to give in to Maris until she meets a counselor she likes . . . well beyond the professional boundaries! Emasculated, Niles relies on Frasier, who takes him and the rest of his family on a cruise and the men try their hand at a single's party. But when Frasier takes up the cause of social justice, Daphne ends up arrested and the entire crew at KACL is shaken up!
The Complete Fifth Season of Frasier has twenty-four episodes on four discs and the season is largely bookended by two parties: one where word leaks that Roz is pregnant and a second one (a "Marty Party") which Roz must flee from when she goes into labor. In between, there are episodes of classic situational comedy, like Frasier dating a high-powered lawyer who essentially makes him into a trophy wife and another where Daphne finds a British pub in Seattle that seems perfect until Frasier horns in on it. This season has farcical episodes aboard a cruise ship and another in a ski lodge where hormones are flying for everyone, except Frasier.
Having ditched his agent in the prior season, Frasier tries to renew his contract using an ethical representative in "The Zoo Story." As well, Lilith returns, left by her husband for another man, and Frasier calls upon Niles to help him resist her charms. Niles moves toward asking Daphne out on a "First Date" under the guise of meeting another woman and the season uses recurring characters like Gil Chesterton more than in prior years.
For fans of dramedy, the complete fifth season of Frasier has arguably the best episode with "The Maris Counselor." Representing the emotional low point for Niles, Frasier and Martin, things appear to be looking up for Niles and Maris just as Martin and Frasier hit all-new dating lows. Things turn abruptly, though, when Niles realizes Maris is having an affair on him with their marriage counselor. This episode culminates in one of the most heartwrenching scenes as the three Crane men commiserate on the natures of their lost loves and the scene is dramatically the best the series gets and emotionally a powerful last act.
Even so, this season of Frasier is incredibly funny, even as it strives for episodes that are more meaningful than most situational comedies. Roz, for example, meets with the parents of her child and gets freaked out at the size of their noses, fearing her child will need all sorts of plastic surgery just to be accepted. As well, "Bad Dog" features Bulldog, who appears to have been heroic, though Frasier knows he actually used a pregnant Roz as a human shield when a gunman was spotted at Cafe Nervosa!
But like all great programs, more than the situations, Frasier is about the characters. In the fifth season, the principle characters are:
Dr. Frasier Crane - The snooty radio psychiatrist, he searches for love and marks the milestone of his 1000th radio broadcast. After relationships with a supermodel zoologist and a woman who is dominant, he works to resist his ex-wife when she shows up in Seattle vulnerable. This year, he m.c.s the Seebies as well as is granted Dr. Frasier Crane Day in Seattle. He acts as Niles' best friend and confidant while trying to keep his father, who lives with him, happy,
Martin Crane - The father of Frasier and Niles, he knows how to read Frasier completely by this point, often predicting when Frasier will meddle in things that he advises his son not to get involved with. Accompanied by his dog, Eddie, Martin watches his relationship with the flamboyant Sherry fizzle because they want different things out of life. He is less of a curmudgeon now,
Roz Doyle - Having gotten pregnant as the result of a one-night stand with a college student, she finds herself more emotionally dependent upon Frasier and undergoing vast mood swings. Giving up her free-love lifestyle makes her look to her career for more stability and she turns to Frasier's ex-agent to get her more work,
Daphne - Martin's physical therapist and the object of Niles' undying affection. She is kind and good and works hard for Frasier, though she seldom is acknowledged for it. She spars with Frasier over a neighborhood pub when the two end up wanting the same watering hole and she ends up pushing the divorcing Niles into a relationship with a neighbor, completely ignorant of his love for her,
Bob "Bulldog" Briscoe - Generally a blowhard and a misogynist, he quickly sees through
Roz when she tries to pin her baby on him. The antiintellectual foil of Frasier, he is regarded as a hero when he supposedly foils a gunman at the cafe,
and Dr. Niles Crane - Professionally, Frasier's equal, he despises and envies the commercialism and success of his older brother. He works to reconcile with his wife, but soon discovers that is a lost cause. He begins dating after filing for divorce, almost getting up the courage to ask Daphne out. When he thinks Daphne is pregnant, he goes so far as to propose! After a bout of narcolepsy from dealing with Maris's lawyers, he takes comfort in the least likely place!
The fifth season of Frasier is far less formulaic than most of the earlier seasons with twists coming more organically than some of the earlier seasons as well. The show focuses gives more time to peripheral characters as well. For example, "First Date" allows Niles and Daphne to almost entirely carry an episode with little presence by Kelsey Grammer's title character. Still, Frasier Crane gets in some great moments, like the punchline to "The Ski Lodge."
The cast of Frasier truly has their roles down pat by this point in the series with Kelsey Grammer leading the tight cast. Grammer and costars David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, and Jane Leeves (and even Dan Butler with his few appearances) play off one another masterfully and this season is a study in just how good actors can be when they know their characters backward and forward.
Anyone who likes great comedy will love Frasier The Complete Fifth Season and for those who have never seen the series, this stands perfectly well on its own. For those who already love Frasier, this is a welcome return to one of the funniest television settings of all time for a year full of comedy, heartwrenching drama and great performances. The only thing more we could ask for would be bonus features.
For other seasons of Frasier, please check out my reviews of:
Frasier Season 1
Frasier Season 2
Frasier Season 3
Frasier Season 4
For other television and film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.