Seemingly not content to win all those Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series, Frasier
made a convincing bid in its eighth season for Best Drama. Make no mistake, Frasier
still serves up its unique blend of sophisticated wit and farce with the usual panache. But season 8 finds Frasier (Kelsey Grammar) in a contemplative mood and mid-life crisis mode. The episode "Frasier's Edge" resonates throughout the season, as a lifetime achievement award and a suspect (only to Frasier) congratulatory note from a mentor sends him into a characteristic tailspin. "Thank you for honoring my life," a subdued Frasier remarks at the awards ceremony. "I just wish I knew what to do with the rest of it." It is just one of several powerful moments on which many of the season's best episodes fade out. In the season finale, Frasier finds himself torn between a new, "perfect" woman in his life, Claire (Patricia Clarkson), and the tempestuous Lana (Jean Smart reprising her Emmy-winning role, and winning her second consecutive statuette). In an affectionate phone call with Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth), he asks, "Do you think I know how to be happy?" In the cleverly constructed "Sliding Frasiers," which takes its cue from the film Sliding Doors
, parallel Valentines Day storylines illustrate how "the tiniest decision can change your whole destiny." In "Cranes Unplugged," Frasier feels like he and his son Freddy are growing apart, but on a predictably disastrous camping trip, they manage to share "a golden moment." John Mahoney, too, gives an Emmy-worthy performance in "A Day in May," as Martin attends a parole board hearing for the man who shot him.
But it's not all sturm and drang. "The Show Must Go Off" features an Emmy-winning performance by Derek Jacobi as a former Shakespearean actor Frasier rediscovers at a sci-fi convention and mounts a one-man show, only to discover that he is a talentless ham. In "Motor Skills," Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Frasier enroll in an automobile repair class and take on unaccustomed roles as the class bad boys. This season also resolves all the obstacles keeping Niles and Daphne (Jane Leeves) apart, including a lawsuit by jilted groom Donny (Saul Rubinek), the vindictive schemes of Niles's jilted fiancée, Mel (Jane Adams), and Niles and Daphne's own illusions about each other. For longtime viewers with an emotional investment in Frasier and company, this is a richly satisfying season worthy of this gold-standard series. --Donald Liebenson