Though it can be comfortably argued that part of the sitcom’s appeal lies in its ability to present us with a look at lives similar to our own and how people deal with them – the pressures of a family changing its structure, the pursuit of love and happiness, navigating your career and the foibles of your moderately diverse colleagues – there’s also something to be said for how completely unrealistic many of the situations are, and how there is a certain joy in beholding that unfamiliarity.
For example, in this episode of Frasier, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, we watch as our leading man finds himself in a celebrity bachelor auction, a plot device I don’t think I’ve ever been faced with in my lived experience. When I consider my leading story arcs of the current 24 hours – my online banking app froze up so I wasn’t able to check if I had enough money to buy my avocados, psyllium husks and double A batteries at the supermarket and had to just hope for the best at the checkout; or whether I’ll have time to finish this post AND do a full face of makeup before I have to go to work, well, it’s a bit touch and go but it just doesn’t compare, does it?
The whole thing with the celebrity bachelor auction conceit is that it entirely subverts the usual boy-meets-girl or girl-meets-boy (this is the nineties, those were your two options) where there is an enormous level of uncertainty. Think of how many episodes of sitcoms, dramas, your own life in fact, that you’ve bore witness to the absolute frozen-ness of either party: I can’t tell them I like them! Then they’ll know I like them! I think she likes me, I’d better ignore her completely and be mean to her – no, I’ll make it look as though this other really attractive person is interested in me and that will catch my love’s fickle eye – you know what I mean, right? But with this celebrity bachelor auction, the chaser’s intention is not only explicitly announced in front of an audience, it’s god damn monetarily quantified. It’s unusual in a show that so often sees Frasier doing the clumsy chasing, to have someone stand up and say “I choose you, yes you, not the guy standing behind you.”
And then it all goes wrong, of course.
Christina is a model and a mother but she is, above all things, a Girl Of The Week. How does it play out? She gets a last-minute modelling job and needs a babysitter for her truculent teenage daughter Renata on the night that Frasier had got all dolled up and cooked her dinner. (Christina: “You even rented a restaurant trolley”. Frasier: “don’t tell me you don’t have one?”) There is much humour to be mined from Frasier – barely able to communicate in plain English with people his own age – trying to appeal to Renata, who only wants to talk on the phone to her friends, all named Tiffany. It all comes crashing down when Renata winds Frasier up, telling him that her mother is neglectful and only cares about modelling and how she’s been “nine for the past three years” so people won’t know how old Christina is, and naturally Frasier, who deals in sincerity, swallows it whole like the Cheetos and cookie dough they’d been sharing. When Christina returns it suddenly becomes super clear that Renata was just being a dick for the sake of it, Christina is mad, and Frasier is left alone, sharing some refrigerated cookie dough with Eddie, the dog.
The notion of having cookie dough that is there simply to be consumed as cookie dough, was as foreign to me in my youth as a celebrity bachelor auction. The audacious autonomy of it! The wilful illicitness! The delicious pointlessness! I mean the cookie dough, that is. Anyway, that’s what I made to go with this week’s episode – Cookie Dough For One, in fact, to really lean into the fact that Frasier’s position as prize to be claimed was but fleeting, and he finishes the episode as he started: alone.
Cookie Dough For One
- one tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- one tablespoon golden syrup
- three tablespoons plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- half a teaspoon vanilla extract
- three tablespoons (or so) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Roughly mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and eat in solitude. Refrigerate before consuming if you wish to give it that real convenience-food chill.
There is a fantastic subplot involving Daphne, who successfully bid on Bulldog Briscoe. If you don’t remember from the previous times he’s appeared, Bulldog is the short, balding, performatively womanising sportscaster at the radio station. I cannot help it, I nurture a small crush on this puckish character.
It turns out Bulldog is no match at all for Daphne as they proceed to drink champagne in the back of his limo: “Now don’t go getting any ideas. Oh wait, you don’t have an idea in your head do you? Oh dear I just insulted you again. Let’s drink to that!” She then yells “shut your bloody cakehole” to someone holding up the traffic and as a final home run, called Bulldog “Pitbull”.
Em-Maris-Ment of Riches: We have GREAT Maris content this time around – Niles has just put her on the train to Chicago (“and you know how desolate I am without my Maris. Champagne?”) and Daphne asks why she doesn’t just fly there.
Niles: She’s been afraid to fly since her harrowing incident.
Daphne: Oh, dear. Did a plane almost crash?
Niles: No, no. She was bumped from first class. She still wakes up
Favoured quote: Roz, saying “I saw what I want and I went after it” about a football player up for auction, it’s not that it’s the most amazing line but I think we should just always be taking a moment to appreciate Roz, for whom life is a celebrity bachelor auction.