Before it went off the air Frasier was a mainstay on television and a throwback to the glory days of Cheers. With eleven seasons, 265 episodes, and 39 Emmy Awards under its belt it's safe to say that Fraiser was a comedic juggernaut. Probably the most amazing tidbit of information, however, is that the character of Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) was around for twenty years thanks to appearances on Cheers, Wings, and Frasier. Needless to say, if you don't know who Frasier is, you probably don't watch much TV.
After Boston, Dr. Crane decided to make the move to his home turf of Seattle. He divorces Lilith and takes a job with a radio station to be an on-air shrink. After settling into a swank new apartment his father, Martin (John Mahoney), moves in with him and brings his dog Eddie. Frasier's brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), Martin's physical therapist Daphne (Jane Leeves), and Frasier's producer Roz (Peri Gilpin) make up the rest of the main cast.
I'll spare you the details of what has transpired throughout the course of the past eight seasons but let's just say that many things have chanced since the start of the show and a few things have remained the same. One unfortunate thing that changed as time went on for Frasier was the quality of writing. In this ninth season you can see that some episodes just lacked the punch we had come to expect from Crane and company. Gone were the days where Emmy nominees quivered at the name "Frasier" because around this point in time the comedic giant began to slip a bit.
Now before you rush to conclusions please understand something. Even at its worst Frasier was still better than most sitcoms on the air, and this season was by no means the worst. There are many episodes here that, while lacking, still elicit laughter thanks to the performances of the cast. The actors in the show had become so comfortable with their rolls at this point that they could take an otherwise droll dialogue and turn it into something sidesplitting.
On the weaker side of things there are episodes like "Love Stinks" where Roz hooks up with a garbage man, "Junior Agent" where Frasier finds a new agent (which gains points thanks to a charming Kristen Chenoweth), and "Bully for Martin" which features Marty's new boss bullying him around. The funny thing is, even these episodes have their good moments. The quality was still very high with this ninth season but like I mentioned previously most of them just didn't hit the pinnacle of success we came to expect.
Take "War of the Words" for example. In this otherwise silly episode that features Frederick in a spelling bee there are many scenes that make it worth watching. From Niles reminiscing about his glory days as a master speller to the alley spell-off between Freddy and a rival, there are plenty of laughs.
Once you look past some of the soft points there are many good episodes and storylines that move along throughout the season. Frasier and Roz do the nasty, Niles and Daphne get engaged, Martin finds a job as a security guard, and Daphne's mother spends quite a bit of time in Seattle. In between episodes you can expect to see Michael Keaton appear as Lilith's half brother in "Wheels of Fortune" and even a mini-Cheers reunion involving Cliff's retirement party.
Despite a few shortcomings, this season of Frasier is still high quality television that simply can't be ignored. It stands the test of time and is a perfect example of why this was such a great show. The fact that it carried on successfully as a spin-off is a testament to the fantastic writing and cast. Sure it ended on a relatively quiet note but the ride was great while it lasted and fans definitely need to add this release to their collection.
Don Juan in Hell
Like the prior releases, Frasier's ninth season looks decent on DVD but far from spectacular. The 1.33:1 image received a transfer where it appears little was done to improve things but ultimately you can't say this looks any worse than it did on TV. Truth be told, the picture is fine for what it is and though a little compression can be found throughout it's on par with what we've come to expect from the show. It's a shame that the series wasn't re-mastered though I don't feel that it was completely necessary.
As far as the sound quality is concerned this release offers a 2.0 English track. For a stereo selection there is actually a slight amount of channel separation on the front soundstage. This helps elevate the audio from the flatness normally associated with the show but the difference is truly negligible in the end. Otherwise I encountered no flaw with the presentation and found the sound to be quite clean and well controlled.
Unfortunately, like other Frasier seasons, there are no special features to be found on this release.
Frasier's ninth season may not have been as strong as the first eight but it is still highly recommended. Few sitcoms have been this successful and in every regard Frasier was a hit. If you are a fan and have the other seasons then you owe it to yourself to add this to your collection. It's a solid batch of episodes with a few small bumps in between but in the end it's still very entertaining.