There comes a time in every new adult’s life when he or she has to sit down, chill out, and watch a bunch of episodes of Frasier — previously known to them merely as a show their parents watched — and begin to understand that, hey, actually, this show is pretty good! I recently had a delightful conversation with Strand Of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter about rediscovering Frasier, and the comfort found in the familiarity of sitcoms.
KELLY: Why did you want to talk about Frasier?
TIMOTHY: It’s my safe place.
KELLY: I love that about sitcoms. I feel like almost everyone has their sitcom safe place.
TIMOTHY: Yeah, when I just can’t handle shit in my day Frasier is always ready. Easy jokes, easy plot lines, familiarity.
KELLY: Were you always a fan, or did you come around to the show later in its life?
TIMOTHY: It feels like Frasier the character has been in the ether of my life for as long as I can remember. Watching Cheers with my mom and dad, then onto Frasier, but I really rediscovered and appreciated more as a grown up.
KELLY: I feel like that happens to a lot of people, with Frasier specifically. I think it helps that its pacing and humor seem fairly modern.
TIMOTHY: Exactly. And it’s acted so well. It’s more like a play then a sitcom. Especially the interaction between Martin, Niles, and Fraiser is just perfect.
KELLY: Yeah, definitely. It feels more substantial than what you think of when you think multicam sitcom from the, mostly, ’90s.
TIMOTHY: And there is such double, deeper meaning to how the show works. I’m always amazed that Fraiser is such a liberal left-leaning intellectual while in reality Kelsey Grammar is a staunch conservative. It makes the show really complicated, seeing what the plot’s motivation is.
KELLY: Are you thinking of any moments in particular?
TIMOTHY: Well, just the relationship to his father, where most plot lines show Fraiser as a high-maintenance and pretentious tightass while Martin is the counterpoint of down-home American values. And most of the time Martin comes across looking like the better person. It’s almost like Kelsey is playing the character not to celebrate Fraiser but rather mock the culture that he subscribes to.
KELLY: Right, and it’s a delicate thing — it would be easy for the whole thing to become unbearable.
TIMOTHY: I think some of the most poignant episodes are when they flash back to how the dynamic of the three was in the past, right when Fraiser moved to Seattle. There was this deep coldness and distance between the family. It’s actually pretty heartbreaking television. I think the show is bearable simply because I believe in the relationships between the actors. There is genuine affection through differences. Which might actually be very democratic. So maybe I just proved my earlier point invalid?
KELLY: Hahaha, no, I think both points can be valid simultaneously. It is definitely true that a lot of the success is due to the believability and warmth in their relationships.
KELLY: Do you have a favorite episode, or a favorite time period?
TIMOTHY: “Coffee With Niles”…it’s the last episode of the first season. Just incredible television! Really, season one and two are outstanding as a whole. But for the most part it’s just good to have on and zone out to. Granted there are some AWFUL episodes towards the end…
KELLY: There always are.
TIMOTHY: I think it suffers from the same dilemma as The Office. Once the tension of Niles and Daphne/Jim and Pam was resolved it really stole the momentum. You can see that the writers were lost.
KELLY: Yep. I feel like the same thing happened on Friends — even though Monica/Chandler tension wasn’t even really a thing, once they got together the show fell a bit flat.
TIMOTHY: Exactly. I’m always amazed and actually impressed that Fraiser never really had a serious love interest. At the core it was still him and Lilith, which mirrors Mad Men also — how Betty and Don, even when apart, are still the most foundational relationship. The last conversation Lilith and Fraiser have is really touching.
KELLY: I never thought about that, but I think that’s definitely true. The relationships are never settled, but they’re still a constant.
TIMOTHY: But again, I think there is value in not digging too deep into something — just appreciating a brief moment of respite from the crazy world.
Strand Of Oaks’ HEAL is out now on Dead Oceans.