Aww B.N, I had a feeling you'd be outnumbered here as S7 seems to be held in high regard by many. I'm undecided whether I prefer this season to S11, it's a close run thing for me. Having re-watched S7 again recently, I have to say (try to contain your amazement!) that it gets better with each watch. I can honesly say that there are only two episodes that I don't like and at least 15 that I think are excellent. I can't agree with your opinion that the Mel/Donny storyline was too contrived/manipulated, they were introduced in S6, so couldn't you say the same about that season? They certainly made their mark during S6 and it was fairly obvious why they had been brought in.
As others have said, I just thought it was a much funnier season, Frasier can do dramedy better than anyone, but not when it overshadows much of the season like it did with S6 and S8. I also don't think that the 'classics' are particularly plentiful during S6 either, I think there are more in S7, but again we will have to agree to disagree[:];-)[/:]
Worst Episode: Only two for consideration here, 'Radio Wars', a childish W&G style effort, only saved by Frasier's "I'm in the mood for love, as long as you're near me" - but the undisputed 'winner' is 'The Dog That Rocks The Cradle', every scene was a let-down, such a shame as Peri was so under-used and deserved another 'Roz and The Schnoz' kind of episode, sadly she didn't get it with this.
Favourite Episode: SBSB was memorable and done well, Morning Becomes Entertainment had me howling with laughter, especially when Frasier started doing his impressions and Leo the chimp started pelting him with eggs[:]:-}[/:], The Apparent Trap was a good 'Lilith' ep, Back Talk was funny and revealing, RDWRER, although Travels With Martin - lite featured a great performance from John "shag me rotten", "behave" Mahoney!, They're Playing Our Song has one of DHP's best ever lines "the trombone scares me", There's Something About Dr Mary - possibly Kelsey's finest hour, To Thine Old Self Be True, "Officer Nasty!!"......in fact I could mention more, but the winner is, 'Out With Dad', wonderful guest appearances, great one liners and the sight of Martin and Niles coming out (pun intended) of the kitchen holding hands was hysterical. Only Joe Keenan could have written this, it had his class stamped all over it.
I've rambled as usual, but I think Joe and Chris wanted to go out on a high with S7, and although I don't think it is quite up to S1-S5 standards, I think it was very consistent and very funny.