in Shocktober

Frasier – “Halloween”

Season 5, Episode 3
Airdate: October 28, 1997

For the most part, during this TV-centric Shocktober, we’ve strayed from watching shows that we’re super familiar with. This is not the case with today’s entry, since I have seen all 11 seasons of Frasier as well as forerunner Cheers. Despite that, I chose this episode since in my memory it was one of the better holiday-themed Frasier episodes (of which there were many) and it was also one of the better examples of Frasier delving into farce. Upon revisiting this show that I haven’t watched a ton in recent years, I was happy to see that these are both still true while it’s also just a lot of fun to watch these characters dress up in goofy outfits.

The episode begins at Frasier’s apartment, where Frasier and Daphne are talking about their matching costumes (they’re dressing up as characters from The Canterbury Tales) for a literary-themed Halloween Party. Niles is overly excited about dressing up as Cyrano de Bergerac while being a little suspicious of Frasier and Daphne’s chumminess. The next day, on Halloween, Frasier is in the middle of his radio show when he notices that his producer Roz is slightly off her game. After a series of on-air blunders that garner Frasier’s ire, Roz admits that she may be pregnant, while swearing Frasier to secrecy before she knows the result of her pregnancy test.

Later that night at Niles’ apartment, the Halloween party is underway and Roz is constantly checking to see if her test results have come back. At one point, Roz talks to Daphne about having “an accident”, which Daphne interprets as a car accident. Daphne then mentions this “accident” to Frasier, which makes him assume that Daphne knows about Roz’s possible pregnancy. A now-drunken Niles overhears Frasier and Daphne talking about this, which leads him to believe that Frasier impregnated Daphne. This of course sets Niles off, considering this is still at the point in the series when Niles’ crush on Daphne was unrequited. Niles gets even more angry when Frasier seems to be flirting with another party guest and brushes off Daphne’s “condition” when Niles confronts him about it. Wacky stuff.

As I mentioned earlier, Frasier would often lean into being a straight-up farce in some of its episodes and I can’t remember a time where I was not all in on these types of episodes. There’s just something endlessly entertaining about watching these very stuffy intellectual-types getting into these over-the-top situations and having it spiral out-of-control. It’s not an episode format that I feel like pops up a lot in American television, or at least it’s hard to think of any show that could pull of farce with the wit and sophistication that Frasier did. Which is kind of a shame, since from watching this episode I was struck by the fact that it’s a good format for a 20-minute sitcom episode since you don’t have to stretch out the farce for that long.

Another thing I was struck by was the fact that this seems to be a fairly pivotal episode (from what I remember from watching Frasier many years ago). It’s so pivotal that it actually ends on a “to be continued…” which left me wanting more obviously, but I doubt the next episode would tie into the Halloween theme. Usually, Halloween episodes are pretty self-contained, inconsequential affairs, but I suppose it speaks to Frasier‘s sensibilities that it would sandwich a major plot point in between a wacky “he said, she said” series of miscommunications.

It’s also pretty on-brand that the first “Halloween episode” of Frasier centers around a Halloween party where everyone is dressed up in costumes are ones that only eggheads would recognize. Something about Niles sporting the giant nose of de Bergerac and Frasier dressed in a goofy hat and fake goatee helps amplify the absurdity, despite the fact that it all revolves around a very serious, adult predicament. It’s a reminder that Frasier was an odd candidate for “Must See TV”, but still one that earned it since it was always willing to mix reliably broad humor with its high-brow cleverness.