It’s with some authority, a small amount of investigation, and no desire to actually google the matter any further, that I inform you that the reason American sitcoms all stretch endlessly across seasons like pleather across a thigh, is that American television producers have one thing in mind, and that is syndication. Once a TV show hits 100 episodes it can be syndicated forever and ever, and as a result you have a comfortably reliable source of income for all involved. Over in the UK it’s quite the opposite, its shows will pin-prick you with episodes, painstakingly doling them out like a chef carefully and sparsely allowing droplets of white truffle oil to fall into a pan of risotto. (Consider: Blackadder aired only 23 episodes over four seasons in the space of six years, which makes Gavin and Stacey – 20 episodes over three seasons in three years – seem practically excessive in its rollicking output.) Where I’m going with this is, with that much content to frantically cycle through to make gains, you’re going to end up with episodes that are…just…fine. This episode is one of them. Luckily, this is still Frasier, and a just-fine episode of this is still a better way to spend your time than, I would say, 39% of television out there.
This being Frasier’s first season we meet many a plot contrivance that will become a recurrance; in this case it’s the annual SeaBea (as in, Seattle Broadcast) awards, and naturally Frasier is whipped into soft peaks at his first nomination and the prospect of influencing the judges with trinkets. Roz is in cahoots with him on this and Martin doesn’t like it. Harriet Sansom Harris makes a re-appearance as Frasier’s oily agent Bebe Glaser. At the awards, there’s a rivalry with Fletcher Gray, an old-timer who is up for retirement and who has been nominated eleven years in a row without winning already. By the end, everyone loses and no one learns anything. It’s fine, but I want more – Martin’s moralising over Roz and Frasier buying the judges gifts has little drama to it; Bebe Glaser is always wonderful but completely underused; the awards feel anticlimactic and also like, where is Bulldog? He livens up anything! Like a metaphor for the entire episode, Frasier even cuts Niles off when he’s about to launch into a ridiculous story about why Maris couldn’t make it to the awards.
It’s not all bad, mind! Harriet Sansom Harris (her name keeps tripping me up as I type, I’m perpetually writing her as Harrient Hanson Harrins) takes her small window of opportunity and throws it wide open. As I said the first time she appeared, in episode 9, Selling Out;
Bebe talks like a cross between a femme fatale in a 1930s noir film, Mama Rose in Gypsy, and Judy Garland on one of her final tours, constantly vamping and pouting and delivering every line with such oily unctuousness and urgency and full-mouthed performativeness.
She’s Moira in Schitt’s Creek, she’s Kristin Wiig’s impersonation of Katharine Hepburn carrying a tree, she is Frasier himself at his most Frasier-ish.
Roz gets plenty of attention in this episode which is great, even if she is a little more hapless than she deserves to be – for example, she brings along Noel Shempsky as her back-up date when Brad MacNamara (“Channel Eight’s Most Handsome Reporter”) has to cover a story at the last minute. I get that it was done for humourous reasons, to double down on Roz’s bad luck and to show the absolute contrast between the charmless, though admirably self-possessed Noel and the glimmeringly hunky potential of MacNamara. But it’s not as fun seeing Roz on the back foot. I must say though, Peri Gilpin’s early-90s hair looks so good – in later seasons it would have a more sleek, post-Rachel-Friends shape but here it’s so knockabout and artless and coltish and paired with her strident eyebrows, I just adore it.
I also feel that here is as good as any a place to celebrate Peri Gilpin’s gorgeous voice and what that brings to the character of Roz. Much is made of Frasier’s booming theatrical tones and Niles’ minced enunciation and even Daphne’s approximation of a Manchester accent, but Roz’s vocals give so much to the texture of this show. Like this clip here, (where she’s giving dating advice) she says “if you ask me it’s divorced people you have to watch out for. Someone who’s never been married, it might just mean they’re a careful shopper.” Even though she’s speaking quickly there’s a drawl to her voice which makes everything sound so rich and warm; listen to the way her R’s are swollen like recently-inflated balloons – divAWRced, fawR, cayReful, shopperRR. There’s also a disarming frankness to her voice which is an ideal foil for Frasier’s exaggerated flouncing – where her sense of authority is calm and natural, his is far more easily pierced.
The recipe to go with this episode is a Pink Lady cocktail, since that is what Roz, having not won the award, ends up drinking in commiseration with Fletcher Gray’s mother, who has just seen her son lose for the eleventh time in the same category. (The joke was: the other two nominees who we don’t actually meet win the award as a tie, leaving both sides of Frasier and Fletcher’s brief rivalry unrequited.)
The first recorded instance of the Pink Lady was around the early 1900s and like all classics from that era and before, there are many different ideas about what should go into the drink, including egg white, applejack brandy, cream – I’m just going for ease of execution: to all intents and purposes it’s literally just a gin sour with grenadine instead of sugar syrup. If you don’t have grenadine, and why should you, you could try subbing in jam, fresh raspberries mixed with sugar, consider leaving out the grenadine and just making a classic gin sour, or indeed don’t even try, and instead go to your nearest cocktail bar and ask for one there. (I love a rinse of yellow Chartreuse in my gin sours, if that is useful information.)
- 50ml gin
- 30ml lemon juice
- 20ml grenadine
(Many people make this with an egg white added which gives more body to it and doesn’t affect the taste, you are absolutely welcome to.)
Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with some ice – if you don’t have a shaker, a jam jar will do the trick. Shake thoroughly and strain through a sieve into a coupe glass. Drink immediately.
Note: 30ml = 1oz = 1 shot.
Em-Maris-ment of Riches: As I said, the teasing mention of Maris’ pending ridiculousness is swiftly shut down by Frasier – we hear that she caught sight of herself in the hallway mirror and can only but fill in the blanks ourselves and assume that she had some kind of subsequent meltdown.
My Usual, Please: Bebe orders a double-double-decaf, a drink with precisely the sinister energy that Bebe herself emanates.
Favoured Quote: for all my petulance about the somewhat stiltedness of this episode, there are so many good lines effortlessly tucked in – Frasier saying his Existentialism Club in prep school voted him “Most Likely To Be”; Daphne parroting back what she heard Frasier say about the Champagne – “apparently it’s French and unprepossessing“; Bebe telling Frasier and Niles “I bet you two had wicked little hair-pulling fights when you were tots”, to which Frasier and Niles self-consciously pat their receding hairlines.