Frasier: Analyzing the Laughter and Series Finale After 11 years and 31 Emmys, the beloved Cheers spinoff bids adieu on the night it originally called home before being bounced in favor of much less deserving Must-See TV fare. The farewell kicks off with an hourlong (55 minutes, actually, to steal from Survivor's audience, perhaps, but why quibble) clip show of the series' most memorable moments. (My favorite episode was the frantic installment in which the Crane boys bought and tried to run their favorite restaurant, with hilariously disastrous results. Daphne whacking that eel is priceless.) Clip shows are always fun, especially when they remind us of how characters have evolved over the years, emotionally and physically (forget Jennifer Aniston's hair; Kelsey Grammer's could be the topic of someone's thesis it changed so many times). But why did the usually brilliant writers resort to the contrived device of having Fraiser participating in a therapy session to introduce the various segments when all they really needed were the series' patented black screen, white text transitions? Grammer's stilted banter with a shrink played by the wonderfully droll Fred Willard seemed forced and inorganic, two things Frasier has hardly ever seemed to me, despite the Drs. Cranes' superior intellects and ostentatious command of the English language.
But this is forgiven after watching the mostly satisfying yet not overly sentimental series bow, which ushered in new beginnings for everyone:
Niles and Daphne's son is born; Martin and Ronee get hitched; Roz is named station manager; and Frasier accepts a new job in San Francisco and takes a chance on love with Charlotte. I'm a sucker for happy endings and they're even more satisfying when they happen to characters who have earned and deserve them (think Carrie and Big, not Ross and Rachel).
That's not to say that this finale didn't have its shortcomings as well:
• The comic talents of Without a Trace's Anthony LaPaglia, who plays Daphne's brother Simon, are woefully underused (he shows up for the impending birth with his two other brothers who should have been named Alvin and Theodore in tow).
• In the frantic moments leading up to the wedding, Eddie eats one of the rings, setting the stage for Daphne to give birth at the vet's office with the "assistance" of a bumbling doc played by Jason Biggs (the next logical career step after bombing in a Woody Allen movie).
• Not only is Freddy not present for his grandfather's wedding or his cousin's birth, Lilith is barely a footnote, with Frasier simply calling her one lonely night after Martin has moved out of the apartment.
• Everyone thinks that Frasier's big announcement is that he's desperately ill and/or dying after overhearing a message from a doctor apologizing for his disappointing "results" (agent from hell Bebe sent Frasier to have his eyes done to prepare him for a new career on TV and they won't stop tearing up).
That said, the final moments won me over, as I watched the characters and the actors say heartfelt goodbyes to each other. I found the quietly emotional exchange between Martin and Frasier particularly touching. And don't even get me started about Niles telling his big brother that he'll "miss the coffees." I don't have any more tissues. I know others might take the show to task for having Frasier sign off by reciting a Tennyson poem about regretting the chances never taken, but I found it a fitting speech for a character who took a chance moving across the country to start a new life only to find that that was when his life actually started.
Survivor: America's Tribal Council Finally, America rewards a deserving contestant by voting Rupert as the winner of the second million-dollar prize. (Where were these brilliant folks Wednesday night, when La Toya London was booted from American Idol?) After snarkmeister Jeff Probst gave the gang the option of leaving or putting up and shutting up ("I don't want to hear it anymore," he pissily chided them), the producers dragged things out by taking 55 minutes to announce the final four contenders, Rupert, Colby, Big Tom and Boston Rob. In between finalists were fan-voted lists like "Hottest Male Survivor" (Colby) and "Hottest Female Survivor" (All-Stars winner Ambuh). All in all the lists were just silly filler (and a thinly veiled opportunity to tantalize male viewers with footage of the gals in various stages of undress), but calling the moment when Michael burned his hands in the fire one of the series' "greatest" moments is going too far. Memorable maybe but certainly not great. Unless you consider seared flesh enjoyable, in which case the nurses need to up your meds and revoke your phone privileges indefinitely.
CSI When is Sara going to lighten the hell up? Did she ever stop to consider that her tunnel-vision disposition is what's keeping her from getting promoted and not Grissom playing favorites? And stop giving Nick a hard time. That boy has worked his tail off this season (remember how he found evidence in the rings of a tree trunk?). Not everything is about you, Princess Sourpuss. In an odd instance of serendipity, Jason Biggs' American Pie co-star Eddie Kaye Thomas pops up in this episode centering on two murders possibly linked to Catherine's father, Sam Braun. Needless to say he beats the rap (again), but not before the investigation leads Grissom and Sara to check out his car for evidence. His 20-foot-long car. My apartment's only 12 feet wide.
ER As usual, the medical drama's season finale is overstuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey (not a good thing if it doesn't heat all the way through). Here's the Cliff's Notes version:
Kovac helps a woman with a broken-down car who subsequently gets crushed between her vehicle and a speeding speed freak's ride and loses her legs. (Gross.) Despite her feelings for Luka, Sam high-tails it out of Chicago to keep Alex away from his ne'er do well pop. (Ugh.) Kerry passionately pleads her case for custody of Henry in court. (Sob.) Abby passes the boards. (Duh.) Neela declines her internship in Michigan. (Hmm.) Pratt and Chen are shot at during a joyride. (Enough!) Does anyone else's head hurt?
Without a Trace I don't know why we even have to pretend that Jack's moving to Chicago, but I'll play along if I must. At least the plot development opened the door for Sam and Jack to finally get some closure on their affair. "What we had, it was good," says Sam. "It was what we both needed at the time." And by the look of the sparks flying between Sam and Martin, not a moment too soon. Says Martin to Sam about fading feelings for an old flame, "If they didn't fade, there wouldn't be room for new ones." Hmmm. I wonder if he has anyone in mind? But aside from that, this episode about an adopted teen who Googles herself and discovers that she was kidnapped when she was a child should also serve as a cautionary tale about the validity of info found on the Internet. I Googled myself and learned that I'm a water-polo player and a history professor.
Late Show with David Letterman Double-breasted suits aside, I've always considered Dave a natty dresser. Until tonight, when he went into the audience and I got a head-to-toe look at him in white socks and loafers. Now I know why the camera usually shoots him from the waist up...