Frasier: The Cheers-related Episodes

Frasier was one hell of a show. 

I won't be examining it in any other capacity than what the title of this post describes. But in gathering together all the below I ended up watching a lot more of it than I needed to, simply because it's so enjoyable. A tad too precious at times, but it more than justified each of the dozens of Emmys it accumulated from 1993 to 2004.  

This pic below is perhaps not the most illustrative example, but it had a very easy-on-the-eyes set, as well. (More here.)

After Cheers went off the air, Frasier became the de facto reunion spot for any and all  Cheers characters. Before that, various characters popped up in all sorts of places, the most bizarre perhaps being on St. Elsewhere, when the doctors of St. Eligius pop in for a beer and are admonished by Carla and the other patrons.

The appropriately named "Cheers" from Season 3, 1985.
They also booked (as I learned for the first time only in the comments section of the "After Diane" post) a fairly sizable spot for Mickey Mouse's 60th Birthday Special, as well as a long-believed-lost Super Bowl sketch that aired just before game-time in 1983. And a very improbable infomercial for the US Treasury where "Uncle Sam Malone" encouraged people to buy US bonds.

These appearances are in addition to the ones on Cheers-related properties like:

Short-lived (January to May 1987) but Carla, Cliff, and Norm all guest-starred.
and Wings.

But the best of all the extracurricular appearances occur on Frasier. Naturally, while Cheers was still on the air nothing substantial or arc-altering was going to happen to any of the characters while appearing on another show. As Frasier wasn't bound by this, the powers that be could continue the characters' arcs in ways they couldn't before. 

(Actually, I guess the gang's appearance in "Fear of Flying" on The Simpsons was post-"One for the Road," but it was more of a (gloriously fun) cameo than anything that added to any of the characters' story arcs. Ditto for Norm's appearances on Family Guy.)

The only Cheers character not to appear on Frasier (besides Coach or Al Rosen, obviously) was Kirstie Alley. Something I stubbornly disbelieved despite confirmations of this from no less than the co-creator (David Lee, with David Angell and Peter Casey) of the show, imdb, and a host of other places. Yet my memory persisted in recalling a scene of Rebecca Howe outside Clint Black's hotel room in a random cameo. Turns out - this was a scene from Wings that somehow got transferred to the Frasier file in my head in error. (I've fired the former recordskeeper of my unconscious and taken steps to make sure he (or she) won't be misfiling any further TV memories.) 

As to why Kirstie Alley never appeared on Frasier:

"(Alley) called Lee after the concept of the spinoff was announced and coldly informed (Lee) that since she is a Scientologist and doesn't believe in psychiatry, she would be unable to appear on the program. "My response," Lee said wryly, "was I don't recall asking."

I'm guessing the Church never extended an invite to the cast to tour their LA museum.
Lilith appeared more than any other character, but I'll focus only on a couple of her appearances. They're all good (particularly the episode where she sleeps with Niles) but just trying to keep this post within reasonable parameters. 

Her second appearance, in "Adventures in Paradise" from Season 2, also features a brief cameo-gag from Diane:

Good on Shelley Long for dropping by for a one-word gag; I'm sure other actresses would have balked at such a thing. It's true that her career fizzled after leaving Cheers, so a cynical observer might say something rude. I am often just such an observer, but not me, here. She never really clicked as any other character the way she clicked as Diane, but I'm not a big fan of schadenfreude re: Shelley Long's post-Cheers career.

Before getting to the episodes, let me apologize for not giving equal airtime to the rest of the Frasier cast (and its many memorable recurring characters) in these reviews; everyone is great, just beyond my scope here. 

Let's dig on in.

That should read "The SHOW Where Sam Shows Up," but I screwed up. This is why they don't pay me the big bucks. Season 2, Episode 16. Directed by James Burrows. Written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs.
Plot: Sam Malone shows up in Seattle, ostensibly to interview for a pitching coach position with the Mariners. Turns out he's a runaway groom. Frasier helps reconcile Sam with his bride-to-be, Sheila (Tea Leoni) whereupon he discovers she's a woman he slept with a few months previous. Sam doesn't learn of this, but when it's revealed she slept with Cliff Clavin, the wedding's off for good.

Notes: Daphne's breakdown into nervous giggling and gibberish when Sam flirts with her is well-handled - Jane Leeves is a fantastic actress; I keep meaning to tune into Hot In Cleveland solely on her account - as well as Niles' reactions to it. And the reactions of both Frasier and Sam to Sheila's news about Cliff is well-handled. (Poor Cliff. Ah well. At least he finally got some. I think Cheers may have ended with him still technically a virgin.)

This is also the episode that reconciles what Frasier said about his family on Cheers (his father, a research scientist, was dead, he was an only child, etc.) with the set-up of Frasier.

Season 3, Episode 14. Directed by James Burrows. Written by Christopher Lloyd.
Plot: Diane Chambers shows up at KACL. She came to Seattle to stage her play ("Requiem and Rhapsody") only to discover she's lost her backing. Frasier agrees to back the play himself, thinking this will help heal the lingering wounds from Diane leaving him at the altar, but when he discovers her play is a thinly-veiled representation of her time at Cheers (very flattering to herself, somewhat less so to Frasier) he loses it.

Notes: Pure delight, this "Requiem and Rhapsody" business.

(Stan) "I pour beer down people's throats." (Ned) "I drink it."
"Our lives are empty. So what draws our feet here night after night?"
(in unison) "Mary-Ann..."

Someone in the comments at Ken Levine's blog asked where Frasier got all the dough he was constantly flashing around on the show. Radio personalities don't normally make a lot of money, after all, yet he's backing plays, taking impromptu trips, buying expensive wines and paintings, etc. Ken pointed out there's a certain amount of suspension of disbelief hard-wired into the sitcom format, which is answer enough, but I liked Peter Casey's: "He made a killing when he sold his house in Boston."

(Sam's finances across 11 seasons of Cheers are a lot more muddled. I assume this was what was behind the joke in "Do Not Forsake Me O'My Postman" where Cliff, going through Sam's drawers in his office and finding his checkbook, says "For a guy who's always crying poverty, Sam Malone's doing pretty well for himself.")

Shelley Long has lost none of her flair for physical comedy.

And there's genuine, earned pathos and redemption in the ending for this one. Very touching to see. I wish I could properly convey how familial all of these characters are to me, moreso than just about any other show that isn't set in outer space.

We see Diane again on Frasier, but this is the real goodbye/ reconciliation between the two characters.

Season 6, Episode 13. Directed by Pamela Fryman, Written by Rob Greenberg.
Plot: Woody and Frasier re-unite when he travels to Seattle for his cousin's wedding. (I guess that should read to his cousins's wedding, plural) They exhaust what they have in common the first night but continue making plans until both invent excuses to avoid one another.

Notes: I like the inter-titles the show uses. This one is slightly confusing to me, as I'm not sure what exactly it refers to for this story:

but I appreciate the reference just the same.

This is a light little episode. Straining for conversation with a friend with whom you used to have lots in common is something we can all relate to, but part of me wanted a little more from Woody's only appearance on the show. It does, however, give us a great last line / moment between the characters.


Season 9, Episodes 1 and 2. Directed by Kelsey Grammer.
Written by Sam Johnson, Chris Marcil, and Lori Kirkland.
Plot: Frasier is torn between his happiness with Claire (Patricia Clarkson) and lingering feelings for Lana (Jean Smart.) While pondering his father's observation that he can never make it work with women, he takes a long drive and reflects on the major relationships of his life.

Nanette, Frasier's first wife, is played by Dina Waters in this episode. Later in the series, ("Caught in the Act") she's played by Laurie Metcalf.

She was first portrayed (in the Cheers ep "One Hugs, The Other Doesn't") by Emma Thompson.
Incidentally, when you see a children's performer or programming show up on a show, you can bet someone on staff just had kids. (This was driven home to me after the "Woggles" episode of Thirty Rock.)
Also incidentally, this episode totally, totally, totally should have made my list of After Diane episodes. A++.
Dina Waters is pretty entertaining in this episode.
In addition to seeing how she appears in Frasier's memory, we learn she made a lot of distracting noises when they made love. (Dina Waters delivers this line a lot better than I recount it, here.)
Notes: This is a very theatrical episode. Like "Diane's Nightmare," it's fun to see these characters as filtered through Frasier's ego/ sub-conscious. Ergo:

Loosely based (or so the internet tells me) on the play by George Bernard Shaw, this episode is a success on every level. Creative guest-turns, strong performances from all around, and a dynamite script that manages to provide new (and credible - well, at least credible-sounding to non-psychologist me) insight into a character almost 20 years old at the time of its airing. No small feat.

All of his exes, waiting outside the door. Reminds me a little of Fellini's , which I'm sure was intentional.
Good turn by Rita Wilson as "the reigning champ" (as Lilith describes Frasier's Mom.) Another character first played by someone else: Nancy Marchand, aka the late Mrs. Soprano.
"I have just as much right to be here as you."
"'Here' doesn't mean the front seat."
The whole Roz and Kirby subplot always worked whenever it appeared. Handled particularly well here.
Great Line: "Neediness was the very reason it didn't work with Diane. Specifically: her need for another man."

Season 9, Episode 21. Directed by Sheldon Epps. Written by Heide Perlman
Plot: Frasier, Niles, Daphne, and Martin run into Cliff at the airport in Boston, and Cliff invites them to his retirement party.

Notes: Oh, what a treat this episode is. I've had kind of an up-and-down relationship with it over the years. Loved it when I first saw it, felt a little underwhelmed on second viewing, back to loving it on the third. I think the "loving it" is here to stay now. A great deal of the enjoyment comes from the appearance of three key background personnel of the Cheers saga:

Paul (not technically invited to the party, but he lives at the hotel where it happens, and he just happened to come down for some ice and crashed it.)
Twitchell (incidentally, his uniform is the fake uniform he and his buddy whipped up to prank Clavin in "A Diminished Rebecca and a Suspended Cliff." Nice touch.)
And Phil, who provides the line that cracks me up the most. After his toast, Cliff says "Thanks, Al."

"I'm Phil. Al's been dead for 14 years, you dumb son of a bitch."
Of all the tributes to Al Rosen, that has to be the best. (Later, Phil gets to call Cliff a dumb son of a bitch again. I crack up equally, both times, even knowing they're coming.) Phil is of course Mr. Perlman, father to both Rhea and Heide Perlman, veteran Cheers scribe and author of this episode.

Martin and Norm instantly take to one another, while Niles is horrified by everyone. This feels pretty accurate.

Season 11, Episode 9. Directed by Scott Ellis. Written by Jon Sherman.
Plot: Lilith is in town for a psychiatric conference, and Frasier reluctantly assumes his obligation to meet with her. Before he does so, he meets a woman at the coffee shop, not knowing that she is a colleague of Lilith's. From talking with him, she thinks he'd hit it off with "a friend of hers" and sets Lilith and Frasier up on a blind date for later in the evening. They each separately cancel said date, never knowing it was with the other person, and instead help the couple next door out of a loud argument. Unified however momentarily as a good team, they fall asleep while watching a movie and then say their goodbyes.

Notes: The title is great fun to any (like myself) who were around when Guns 'n' Roses were the biggest band going and not just another casualty of the Hair Metal Era. It actually works, too (Martin's pistol accidentally discharges inside the apartment, creating a trail of destruction that he, Daphne and Niles try to hide from Frasier) so extra points.

On that specific plot point, if I have a criticism of Frasier beyond its occasional too-precious-ness, it's that they did this sort of gag a little too much:

I don't mean they had characters trying to hide damage from a bullet, I mean every other episode seems to have a sequence where the comedy is derived from characters in one room hiding something from characters in another room. Or, like here, where the audience/ certain characters are in on something, and the comedy is derived from another character's not finding out about it. It's certainly not a trope exclusive to Frasier, but it always jumps out at me when I watch a lot of the show close together.

They always do it very well, so play to your strengths, I guess.

Great Lines: "We tried talking when we were married. We're better at games." And (Lilith to Frasier) "You always were one for droll hypotheticals."

Frasier and Lilith's swan song is a very understated but still touching affair. Their relationship certainly played farcically at times - always done well, just saying it went through many sitcom-sort of trials (attempted suicide, jealous ex-lovers with guns, sleeping with Niles, etc.) Here, the characters fall asleep while talking like the old friends they obviously are, and there's a real-world-weight to the goodbye at episode's end.

The end-credits sequence is Martin teaching Niles how to catch a banana, a reference to a line earlier in the story. ("You should know how to catch a banana!" "I am not having this argument again...")


So what did we learn about the characters from Cheers from their appearances on Frasier?

Sam: Almost got married. Again. Still proprietor of the bar/ luckiest-son-of-a-bitch-in-the-world.
Diane: After the events of "One for the Road," returned to California and worked on Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman until accidentally setting Jane Seymour's hair on fire. Working on plays, living in California.
Rebecca: Don struck it rich after he patented some kind of plumbing process/ gizmo, and he dumped Rebecca. She's hanging around the bar, apparently in limbo.
Norm: Still loves his beer. No word of how his job working for Woody went.
Woody: Had a baby with Kelly. (Leading to this exchange between Frasier and Sam: "Is he...?" "No, he's smart, he's smart!") No word on how the whole city council thing went.
Cliff: Read an article on flesh-eating bacteria and was a shut-in for a few months. ("The Show Where Sam Shows Up.") Had a mail order bride from Bosnia that he lived with for a couple of days before she returned to Eastern Europe. ("The Show Where Woody Shows Up.") Retired from the USPS and almost moved to Florida but changed his mind at the last minute. ("Cheerful Goodbyes.")
Carla: Outside of Rebecca's, definitely the saddest of all the post-Cheers fates: still waitressing, the bank foreclosed on her home, and 2 of her kids (not identified) are in jail.

Last Frasier taping, 2004.
That's a wrap on the episode-analysis-and-blathering portion of the program. Still one more post to go of Cheers accoutrements, as previously threatened promised.

One last link to Ken Levine's blog, detailing the 30th reunion of the cast. Great reading/ pics.


  1. I only watched "Frasier" for a few seasons, so the Sam and Diane episodes were the only ones with regular cast that I saw. I remember being a little underwhelmed by the Sam episode, but based on your write-up here, I don't know why that would have been.

    The Diane episode, on the other hand, is one that I recall loving.

    I had no idea "The Tortellis" was even a thing. Weird.

    1. I haven't seen the Tortellis since it aired - I should look around for it. Probably not to blog/ screencap, but just for fun.

      The Sam one IS a little underwhelming, I agree. If I ranked my Cheers-related Frasier eps in order of least-enjoyed to most, let's see... they'd go like this:

      6) The Show Where Woody Shows Up
      5) The Show Where Sam Shows Up
      4) Guns and Neuroses (kind of a cheat, as Lilith was in so many different ones)
      3) Cheerful Goodbyes
      2) The Show Where Diane Shows Up
      1) Don Juan in Jell