"Irritating, but endearing." That's Frasier Crane in a nutshell, as diagnosed by Julia Wilcox (an Emmy-worthy Felicity Huffman), KCAL's abrasive and condescending new financial analyst. That's a delicate balance, but Kelsey Grammer still manages it with the usual aplomb in Frasier
's penultimate season. Grammer is at his best when his character is at his stubborn, high dudgeon worst, as in "Enemy at the Gate" when he causes a parking garage backup while protesting a $2 parking fee, trying to find a suitable new coffee shop after Café Nervosa hires a folk singer (Elvis Costello) in "Farewell, Nervosa," or, after scamming his way into becoming a silver level member at an exclusive health spa, "chasing the eternal carrot" of the gold level ("'Please remain in the relaxation grotto.' Have crueler words ever been spoken?") in "Door Jam." But he wins us over anew as he does the hard-hearted Julia with his insistence on doing the right thing and faith in the good in people.
Frasier's tenth season takes a dramatic turn early on with a three-episode arc in which Niles (David Hyde Pierce) undergoes heart surgery, but, much like Niles, the show rebounds quickly with more characteristic episodes such as the Emmy-nominated farce "Daphne Does Dinner," in which another Crane party hurtles toward disaster. In addition to Huffman, other memorable star turns this season include Millicent Martin as Daphne's impossible mother, Jeanne Tripplehorn as a coach whose berating of her students causes Frasier to conjure up hallucinations of his own former gym teacher, portrayed by Bob Hoskins. Bebe Neuwirth returns as Lilith, as does the magnificent Harriet Sansom Harris as Bebe Glazer, who shows up as Dr. Phil's agent (or is it just another Bebe scheme?) in "The Devil and Dr. Phil." There are throughout this season some wonderful play-it-again moments, such as the unwitting Frasier speaking Klingon at his son's bar mitzvah and invoking Sam Malone's classic, "Are you as turned on as I am" to bring a shouting match with Julia to an hilarious anti-climax ("No!" she screams disgustedly). A showdown between Roz (Peri Gilpin) and Julia doesn't make for the most compelling season finale, but because season 11 was previously released on DVD to coincide with the broadcast of the series finale, at least we don't have to wait to see how that turns out. --Donald Liebenson
Kelsey Grammer ("Cheers") stars as Dr. Frasier Crane, a successful Boston psychiatrist who moved to Seattle to get a fresh start on life. He has his own radio talk show which he uses to relay his wit and wisdom for others. At times, he struggles with his own neuroses from his family and friends, though often he does not take his own advice. This half-hour comedy showcases the humourous ways Frasier deals with life and how his family and friends follow suit.