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Episode reviews for Episode 8.20 - Semi-Decent Proposal / A Passing Fancy

Avg. Viewer Review: 80.0%
Number of Reviews: 4

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Mind them? I prefer it!, May 19, 2013

Reviewer: Sammy J from Melbourne, Australia


Like other reviewers here, I struggle to make up my mind on the merits of this two-parter. There's a much more sombre tone to the episodes overall, with less reliance on one-liners and more interest in developing the atmosphere of a scene, like little dramatic set-pieces. I don't inherently have a problem with this (and indeed, one could really say this is the start of a six-part episode that extends through to the end of "Don Juan in Hell") but it makes for an unusual viewing experience after eight seasons of "Frasier" as it exists.

First to the subplots. The secret-sharing scenes are rather sleepy and lightweight, although it is fun to see a moment of the characters just hanging around. Daphne's serious concern at her childhood secret is nicely played, as is the look on Martin's face when he learns of Roz's secret. (Peri Gilpin perhaps has the best line reading of the episode with her dismissive "I'd put that story on my resume!") Still, it's a clear example of end-of-season fatigue. The same could be said for the second episode's subplot of Daphne and Niles having sleep issues. There's actually nothing wrong with that, as we've all experienced some variation on the notion, and both Leeves and Hyde Pierce get some fun physical humour out of it. But more than any other season, I feel as if the writers had exhausted their possibilities, and were looking further afield for the drama and comedy to close out the season.

This comes in the form of the return of Lana (Jean Smart), and the introduction of her dopey son Kirby (Brian Klugman) and her fascinating good friend Claire (Patricia Clarkson). At first I was surprised by the return of Lana. Smart is a great actress but the world wasn't really crying out for a sequel to her last appearance. Still, I was impressed that Lana isn't really treated (in these episodes) as another love interest but as a genuine friend for our lead character. Her car ride with Frasier, and particularly her one-upping him in the second episode, showcases a type of friendship that Frasier has rarely experienced over the course of the series. If nothing else, the end of this season shows a real desire to open up the world of the show a little bit.

Unfortunately, the rest of "Semi-Decent Proposal" feels so calm and gentle. It's just nothing like the humour I'm used to from this show and in fact, it feels a bit like the characters of "Frasier" have been transplanted into another sitcom. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose - I mean, people evolve (these characters sure have come a long way from the pilot) and audiences age and grow with them. But the vibrancy of previous seasons has given way to a little series of dramas which occasionally have jokes.

Still, the supporting cast are good fun. Clarkson is particularly funny being the servant of two masters, when she has to feign equal enthusiasm during her wine tasting scene. Claire is almost laughably perfect for Frasier, but she also exposes the genuine side of his character. Sometimes, Frasier Crane gets caught up in the pretensions of his interest. The opera box seems more important than the opera. But he truly does love all of these interests, and it's so nice to see that come out. Meanwhile, Klugman's blank stare and earnest, puppy-dog line deliveries are really sweet, and when used sparingly, Kirby - like Simon Moon before him - allows the series to make jokes and contrasts with our characters that it usually can't do.

"A Passing Fancy" is, like "Semi-Decent Proposal", quite languorous but it reaches a decent climax with the confrontation at the restaurant. The "you promised him sex?" round is very funny, and I appreciate how everyone in the circle has a legitimate reason to be yelling. And the last gag with the Bruce Springsteen tickets is great comeuppance. Ultimately, I don't love the style of these episodes, particularly as they prefigure two even calmer, less funny episodes to end the season. But I'm glad to see the show opening up its world a little more, even if the ambition deserves more praise than the result.


Rating: 74%

 

A Perfect Lorna, Nov 16, 2011

Reviewer: Troy from Atlanta,GA


Jean Smart was in my opinion the perfect foil for Frasier Crane,although beautiful and alluring with the disposition of a caged tiger,still a need of
an old friend Frasier in her life...BRAVO to Jean Smart,played to perfection
as did Kelsey Grammers Frasier never to forget the high school hormones that drove his thoughts of a teenaged Lorna and of the high pedestal Dr Niles Crane saw in the very popular high school queen Lorna
now all grown up,which also adds to the rivalry of the brothers Crane
and might I add some of the best TV EVER !!!!


Rating: 100%

 

SEMI-DECENT PROPOSAL/A PASSING FANCY, Jul 20, 2006

Reviewer: Cake for Brains from Manchester, UK


The second two-parter in Season 8 is really rather a curious double episode, and I can’t really make my mind up as to what I think of it. On the one hand, it seemed that the humour was often sacrificed to develop the narrative plot (especially in Semi-Decent Proposal), but on the other hand the episode did conclude with a very funny, rewarding climatic scene bringing all the various strands of blackmail and deceit together nicely. To be honest though, I actually think this episode could have been much funnier if the padding and subplots had been disposed with, and instead the two-parter was compacted down to fit one standard episode, because ‘Semi-Decent Proposal/A Passing Fancy’ move along at a rather sluggish pace, although I do understand that there were quite a lot of storylines to cram in. This episode also reacquaints Frasier with Lorna Gardener (formerly Lynley in Season 7), and Jean Smart gives a good performance, although the constant shouting and screaming does begin to annoy after a time. We are also introduced to a new character, who will continue to make appearances in the show until the end of Season 9, in the form of Kirby, a character who has his moments but is ultimately rather bland – and one has to wonder if the young character was introduced in order to make the show appeal to a younger target audience, because it was at this point that ‘Frasier’ was slipping in the ratings on NBC. Finally, we meet Claire, a woman who (at first) seems perfect for Frasier as the pair have a great deal in common, but her character came across as really ordinary and one-dimensional, thanks largely to a dull and stilted performance from the actress who portrayed her.

Of the two episode, I think ‘Semi-Decent Proposal’ was the weaker, and the laughs are few throughout. I just felt that the writer (Lori Kirkland) dragged each scene out far too long, such as the scene in the electronics store, Lorna and Frasier’s car journey to the ‘surprise’ party and the actual party itself. This episode is successful is that it introduces (or in Lorna’s case re-introduces) all the important secondary characters in an effective way and at a leisurely rate. ‘A Passing Fancy’ manages to speed events up a bit, but the same plot device seemed to repeat itself throughout. It’s quite hard to keep up with who is blackmailing/manipulating who, what with Lorna using Frasier to tutor Kirby in US history so that he can get a date with Claire, and Frasier using Roz in order to encourage Kirby to work harder and Roz wanting Frasier to get her tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert. All the various forms of blackmails and deceit do come together nice though, in a final climaxing scene that witnesses all the involved parties in the same restaurant (by coincidence), which leads to a fun argument in which everyone’s secrets are revealed. The episode also ends on a rewarding visual gag with Frasier camping out for tickets for Roz. The three subplots used for the episodes didn’t really work for me though, with the secret telling session probably being the funniest, although Martin feeling left out because he wasn’t invited to a ‘dog party’ felt really stale and uninteresting. In conclusion, this two episodes are perfectly watchable and for the most part rather entertaining, but I feel they suffer from far too much padding. Good fun all the same though.


Rating: 76%

 

'Semi-Decent Proposal/A Passing Fancy' review, Sep 03, 2005

Reviewer: Jocelyn from London, UK


A double-length episode which features not one, but two examples of the many production problems which seem to have dogged this season. Firstly, as the title(s) gives away, it was originally filmed as two seperate episodes which were then stuck together for the original NBC broadcast. Secondly, following the return of Mary Thomas in 'Mary Christams', the episodes see another return visit from a Season 7 character, in this case Lorna Lynley from 'Big Crane On Campus', here played by the same actress (Jean Smart) but with the character's name changed to Lana Gardner due to legal problems. The result of all this retooling is a rather flabby and lacklustre two-parter that is far stronger on plot than it is on laughs, with Frasier and Lana making a deal that he will teach the basics of American history to Lana's dim son Kirby in return for her fixing Frasier up with her friend Claire. Of the two episodes, the second proves the stronger with the first half largely devoid of laughs. I found the scenes with Frasier attending Lana's 'surprise' party rather boring, with Lana's screaming act becoming increasingly tiresome and Claire perhaps the least charismatic of any of Frasier's love interests in the series, while the subplot with Martin, Roz, Niles and Daphne having a DVD party only really raises a smile with the concluding sequence with Roz whispering her most shameful secret to a horrified looking Martin. Frasier's tutoring of Kirby only really becomes interesting when Frasier agrees to convince Roz to act as Kirby's prom date in return for Bruce Springsteen tickets, leading to a nice exchange between Kirby and Frasier where the latter appears unaware of Springsteen's 'The Boss' alias. The episode reaches it's belated highpoint with the excellent scene at the restaurant where Lana enters to find her son dating Roz, leading to some snappy exchanges between Frasier, Lana, Kirby and Roz which prove very funny, even if it seems like the episodes have been taking a lifetime to build up to this one moment. With the nice closing joke with Frasier camping out for Springsteen tickets and a series of amusing visuals with Niles trying to avoid Daphne's violent sleeping habits, this is a two-parter which does have it's moments but overall is too slow and overstretched to fully sustain interest.


Rating: 70%