The Good: Funny, Wonderful character development, Slim case, Good performances
The Bad: Could always use more DVD bonus features
The Basics: A perfect season of television, Frasier The Second Season develops all five main characters through the second year of "The Frasier Crane Show" and the off-air trials of the Crane family!
When a character like Frasier Crane is established by an actor, one suspects that the actor will slowly becomes tired of playing the character over the years. With the success of the first season of Frasier (click here for my review!), Kelsey Grammer could have begun to get tired of the role which made his a household name. But with the appearance of Frasier The Second Season on DVD, it seems that the exact opposite happened. The long-running series took off, at least in part, because Grammer threw himself into the role of Frasier Crane with a renewed energy that allowed his costars on Frasier to play off him with equal enthusiasm.
In the second season of Frasier, Grammer develops more of an on-screen relationship with actor David Hyde Pierce and the series becomes more about Frasier's relationship with his brother Niles as opposed to his relationship with their father, Martin. It seems that there are two types of fans of Frasier; those who love the title character and those who adore everyone but Frasier. I tend to fall in that latter category (I would have been thrilled, when Frasier ended its long run, for there to be a "Niles" spin-off) and in the second season of the sitcom, the other four characters that are at the core of the Frasier world get their fair chance to shine.
It is in this second season that Frasier and Roz take "The Frasier Crane Show" to the top of Seattle radio. Opening with a novel based upon Frasier's first sexual experiences, "Slow Tango In South Seattle," Frasier confronts his guilt about how he left the woman who ushered him into manhood, his old piano teacher. The season progresses with Eddie getting fixed, Frasier attempting to set Daphne up with his new boss (not realizing the new station manager is gay and into Frasier), Niles attempting to see if he is ready for fatherhood by carrying around a sack of flour and the boys investing in a company that is set to tear down Marty's favorite watering hole, Duke's. Frasier puts his foot in his mouth by insulting Seattle's weather, backing a political candidate that believes in extraterrestrials, and taking his new romantic interest to Bora Bora only to run into Lilith there.
Marty heals a rift with his old partner and works to solve the grizzly murder of a prostitute that has stumped him for years. The Crane brothers take on their high school bullies and Roz leaves Frasier to go work on Bulldog's show. Frasier ends up at the mercy of a con artist who steals his identity, dates a self-help guru whose work he loathes, counsels Sam Malone who flees to Seattle to see him, invades Daphne's room and tries with Niles to get into an exclusive club. He is stalked by a fan, lobbies for a raise thanks to his unscrupulous agent, and gets his chance to run a restaurant with Niles. Niles tries to garner favor with Martin by taking him ice fishing when Duke backs out and he goes into a rage when he learns Maris might be having an affair with her new fencing instructor. The season ends with a blackout in Seattle.
The second season of Frasier is a rare perfect season for a half-hour comedy. This season, rich in character development, gives the entire cast something different to do than they had done in the prior season and the show progresses as a result. Moreover, it is funny and maintains a high standard of quality in its humor. The show makes obscure highbrow jokes that many of us will not get, save to understand what they are a parody of. So, for example, I am not an enophile (the Crane men are) and while I do not know what "Montrache" (I'm probably spelling that wrong) is, other than a fine wine, it is still easy enough to understand the joke in "Seat Of Power" where Frasier says "It's Montrache time" - a parody of "Miller time." In context, the joke, like many of the ones that make allusions to sophisticated elements that many mainstream viewers might not have access to, makes a lot more sense and is actually funny.
Frasier is a situational comedy that focuses on Frasier Crane, who is a radio psychiatrist who has a show on Seattle radio. He is aided on-air by Roz, his promiscuous producer, and spends much of his time socializing with his married brother, Niles. In the first season, Frasier took in his working class (retired cop) father, Martin, and hired a physical therapist, Daphne, to rehabilitate him. That living arrangement continues in the second season, with Daphne's privacy being challenged by invasions into her room by Frasier and the other men, as well as Marty's dog, Eddie.
The second season of Frasier sees the radio psychiatrist socializing more, most notably dating. In this season, he dates a successful Seattle entrepreneur, a self-help guru, and reveals that he had sex with a woman who turns out to be Sam Malone's fiancé! He finds himself involved with his agent as well and that affair nets him a raise at work! Daphne, Niles and Marty all have generally fallow love lives this season, though virtually every episode Roz mentions being with another man. Roz even gets an episode that focuses on her, when she is injured and becomes Bob "Bulldog" Briscoe's producer and love interest!
Frasier, like all great television shows (of any genre) is about characters and the second season of the series keeps the same core quintet. The essentials for season two are:
Dr. Frasier Crane - Seattle's eminent radio psychiatrist. He finally gets a date, sweeps her off her feet to Bora Bora only to discover Lilith in an adjacent cabin, which makes him terribly jealous. He feels like more of a loser when it turns out Lilith is remarrying! He becomes competitive with Niles over their mutual attempt to get into a snooty, exclusive club in Seattle as well as trying to keep Niles and Maris together despite Niles's obvious attraction to Daphne,
Roz Doyle - Frasier's producer, who has a lot of sex, but refuses to find any good in the misogynistic Bulldog. She is injured, realizes the new station manager's true sexual orientation quickly, and comes to covet a Seattle radio award, despite having a terrible breakout the night of the award show. She is quick with the comebacks and Frasier's personal equal,
Marty Crane - The widower father of Frasier and Niles, he limps around this season from his gunshot wound. Irritable from Frasier and Niles getting Duke's torn down, he tries to get Frasier to loosen up and enjoy life instead of analyze it. He struggles to say "I love you" to his boys while on an annual fishing trip,
Daphne Moon - Marty's physical therapist, she has fewer psychic flashes this season and remains oblivious to Niles' obvious affections for her. In fact, she invests in stocks based on his tips and rewards Niles with pecks to the cheek. Otherwise, she supports the Crane household, though she gets an episode where she has to deal with Frasier invading her private sanctuary at the end of the hall,
and Dr. Niles Crane - Frasier's brother, a psychiatrist in Seattle who has worked for years to climb Seattle's social ladder. Married to an heiress, Maris (who remains unseen in this season), he competes with Frasier and works to forge a deeper bond with both Frasier and Martin. Often nervous and deeply insecure, Niles spars with Roz whenever they meet and has a powerful love for Daphne, despite being completely loyal to his wife.
On DVD, the twenty-four episodes are spread over four discs, with each disc having a series of clips from the episodes on each disc revealing who the guest callers are for the episodes. Guest callers to Frasier's show in the series were voiced by celebrities like Gary Senise, Lily Tomlin and Alfre Woodard this season! On the final disc, there are also featurettes on the making of season two and the way it progressed, Maris, Niles and Daphne and Eddie's role in the season. There is a commentary track on "The Matchmaker" which is a hilarious exploration of the farce where Frasier's boss comes over for dinner, attracted to Frasier unbeknownst to him. The DVD bonus features are funny, but real fans will wish there were more commentary tracks. Frasier - The Second Season is also unique among the Frasier boxed sets in that it comes in a slim plastic case as opposed to the more bulky cardboard cases the rest of the seasons come in.
Frasier has an amazing ensemble cast and in the second season, each of the principles has a chance to shine. Kelsey Grammer's Frasier is often deadpanning, John Mahoney often makes Marty acerbic and Jane Leeves as Daphne has a chance to add a controlled sense of loopiness to the show that is utterly hilarious. Peri Gilpin makes all of Roz's quick comebacks work with her lightning-fast deliveries.
But it is David Hyde Pierce who steals this show. Pierce plays Niles and he has an extraordinary sense of physical comedy that he plays through Niles being physically stiff to match his emotional inflexibility. Pierce sells lines like (referring to Maris) "She doesn't trust anything that loves unconditionally" ("The Unkindest Cut Of All") with facial expressions - in this case, awkward realization - that are both realistic and a parody of reality.
Anyone who loves great comedy would do well to pick up the second season of Frasier on DVD; it is well worth the awards it won and it is a season people who like to laugh will revisit over and over again! Then again, it might be enough to make them want to buy Frasier: The Complete Series!
For other memorable sophomore seasons, please check out my reviews of:
30 Rock – Season 2
The West Wing – Season 2
The Big Bang Theory – Season 2
For other television season reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.