Whisper of cinnamon wrote:Resolving the Niles/Daphne situation of the past seven years seems to be the most popular explanation for Season 8's nosedive in quality, but I think it actually played only a small part in the problem. Even storylines and individual scenes that don't include Niles or Daphne nor even refer to them are more often than not of a far inferior quality in terms of writing. Character, plot, dialogue - they all take a crippling hit. What I don't understand is how Creative Consultants of such demonstrable talent as David Lloyd and David Isaacs seemed to have had no positive influence. Then there's Bob Daily, Dan O'Shannon, Mark Reisman, Rob Hanning, Lori Kirkland, Jon Sherman, Sam Johnson & Chris Marcil - all writers with good work to their credit in S7 and yet the next year they can't cobble more than three above average episodes between them.I've now reached Season 11 which is like stepping out into sun shine after years crawling through the Underworld. Suddenly the dialogue zings, the plots are smooth and well paced, characters stay in character and all is right with the world.I just got a little wound up trying to figure out how the show could take such a drastic turn for the worse.Let it go, Murphy! Let. It. Go. I'll never find out what exactly happened to Frasier in Seasons 8-10 and I must learn to accept that.
Hi Murphy! Here's my take on the issues which you raise above. I think the sudden decline at season 8 can be explained by the combination of three factors:
1. The show was running out of steam. Seasons 6 and 7, though brilliant, were not quite as good as seasons 4 and 5. The Niles-Daphne arc in season 7 gave it a lift and helped to disguise the fact that the show was, essentially, losing some momentum. Most of the great stories had been done, and there wasn't that much more to say about the 5 main characters.
2. The bringing together of Niles and Daphne. This had a huge impact on the show in general, in many obvious and less obvious ways. It had a major negative effect on the two characters (2/5ths of the show), the show's emotional truth, and the overall ensemble dynamic.
3. The change in showrunners. Lloyd had been executive producer on the show from season 2 (after being co-executive producer on season 1), and Keenan had been rising through the ranks to executive producer ever since he joined the staff in season 2. I think it's very clear what these two bring to the table from their individual credited episodes. Apart from a solid understanding of the characters, they are both brilliant at plotting and dialogue. As you've mentioned, both plotting and dialogue are noticeably less good in seasons 8-10. Based on my understanding of the role of showrunners, Lloyd and Keenan would not only have been penning their own episodes, they would have had creative control over season-long arcs, they would have been overseeing the pitching of story ideas, breaking the stories, and also contributing dialogue and jokes even to episodes where they are not the credited writers.
This explains how the show could decline even with many of the same writers as the previous season, as the writers who remained had not been the showrunners with creative control. The show lost two highly talented and experienced leaders at its helm. A change of showrunner/s often occasions a major change in tone/style/quality on a show - see The Simpsons and Seinfeld for two other obvious examples.
Thus when Lloyd and Keenan return to run season 11 - what improves? Overall understanding of character, slicker plotting, and wittier dialogue. What doesn't improve? The two other problems - Niles and Daphne, as a couple and as individual characters, are still not right, harming the overall ensemble. The show also feels more tired and stretching for storylines than in its golden years. Thus season 11 is better than seasons 8-10, but not as good as seasons 1-7, IMO.
So, these three factors combine together. At season 8, suddenly a show that was already losing momentum lost its strongest purveyors of consistently adept plotting and dialogue, and the bringing together of Niles and Daphne significantly depleted the charm and comedic potential of two of the main characters, individually and together, thus affecting the overall ensemble, and lost the show its emotional/character truth/believability. Quite a triple whammy.
Great post, thanks. I have to agree with your very well reasoned assessment. You're also right about Niles/Daphne in Season 11. Although they are far funnier than in the previous three seasons, there is something fundamentally wrong about the characters compared to how they were in Seasons 1-7. I've tried telling myself it was just bad writing, but Season 11 has excellent writers and there is a noticeable improvement but ... I suppose I'm just going to have to admit that Niles and Daphne should not have got together. At least not until the end. Their relationship removes so much of their comic potential and also creates an unavoidable repetitiveness in their interaction - either they are lovey dovey or Daphne's cross with Niles. That's all we get from Season 8 onwards from these two characters. In fact Daphne Gets Cross With Niles is far more prominent recurring storyline than the Mistaken For Gay episodes or Disastrous Dinner Party farces. However, I do think this limitation is played much better in Season 11; episodes like "Maris Returns/Murder Most Maris" present a more well thought out and funnier approach to the Daphne Gets Cross With Niles sub-genre the show had become lumbered with.