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Reviewed by Jeff Giles
By the time the penultimate season of “Frasier” kicked off in the fall of 2002, Kelsey Grammer had been playing the neurotic psychiatrist-cum-radio host for a mind-boggling 18 years – and he wasn’t even done yet. You think you’re bored with your job? Try mugging it up as an effeminate, cuckolded shrink for a couple of decades. Of course, it couldn’t have hurt that Grammer was pulling down millions of dollars for his portrayal of Doctor Crane, but still – a person can only bug out his eyes and say the equivalent of “well, I never” so many times.
It’s hard to argue with success, though, and “Frasier” was very, very successful. It never dropped out of the Nielsen Top 40, and its 37 Emmys remain the gold standard. You don’t think Jamie Farr would have given up a testicle or two for that kind of spinoff success?
Anyway, at this point, “Frasier” was clearly showing its age. Though the show enjoyed a mild ratings rebound in its ninth season, everyone involved had to know that (to paraphrase a Lennon/McCartney lyric) their memories were longer than the road ahead. To that end, these 24 episodes begin with the resolution of the show’s longest plot arc: after years of elevating unrequited TV love to an art form, David Hyde Pierce’s Niles and Jane Leeves’ Daphne Moon finally tie the knot. For a show like “Frasier,” the long-awaited wedding is the equivalent of a sitcom money shot, which is why it’s so often saved for show finales. Give “Frasier” credit for managing to squeeze a full season’s worth of marital bliss out of the duo.
Of course, popular as “Frasier” was, its brand of fussy comedy was always anathema to many viewers – and if Grammer didn’t make you laugh during his first 17 years with the character, he certainly won’t do it here. The show wasn’t completely averse to occasionally breaking away from the setup-gag-pause-repeat formula (witness this season’s three-episode “Niles has open heart surgery” arc), but it was always a sitcom, for better or worse. What that means here is that you get a series of slight variations on the themes established during previous seasons. A fine example of this principle in action is “Enemy at the Gate,” an episode that finds Frasier ducking in and out of a parking garage without getting out of his car, refusing to pay the $2 fee, and eventually almost inciting a riot. There are other things going on – a birdcage is involved, and a suitably low-key guest appearance by Luis Guzman – but what it really boils down to is Grammer’s huffy, rigid shtick. Call it a rut or a groove, but the cast and crew had settled in at this point; they knew their jobs and did them well.
There are no extras here, but at $30 for the set, that’s hardly an issue – anyone who buys the 10th season of a show on DVD knows exactly what to expect, and probably isn’t making the investment for bonus features anyway. It’s somewhat hard to believe that there are very many people waiting to complete their “Frasier” collections, but if you’ve been holding a spot for this season open on your shelf, now’s your chance to fill it.