Kelsey Grammer, John Mahoney, David Hyde Pierce. Includes The First Temptation of Daphne" (10/2/01), Bla-Z-Boy" (11/6/01), Three Blind Dates" (3/5/02) and 20 more for a total of 23 episodes on 4 DVDs. 2001-02/color/8 hrs., 47 min/NR/fullscreen.
After a distinguished run of Emmy-winning seasons, Frasier
is, by its ninth season, in something of "a tiny lull" (as Frasier describes the state of his radio talk show career in the episode "Junior Agent") when its guest stars took home more Emmys than the much-decorated ensemble (Anthony LaPlaglia, reprising his role as Daphne's besotted brother, Simon, in the two-parter, "Mother Load"). But Frasier
still shows signs of its usual brilliance in balancing farce and sparkling wit. After the hour-long season-opener, in which Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) explores his unhappy love life with the help of subconscious incarnations of Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth), Diane (Shelley Long), and a hippy to whom Frasier was briefly married (who knew?; and where's Nanny G?), the series shakes off the melancholia of the previous season. The world still gets the best of Frasier and assaults his dignity, be it the driver of a Humvee who hems him in his parking space; his neighbor nemesis, Cam Winston (Brian Stokes Mitchell); or Lilith's con-artist brother (Michael Keaton), who, in "Wheel of Fortune," arouses Frasier's worst suspicions when he shows up at his doorstep in a wheelchair. But Frasier at long last emerges triumphant in "Juvenilia," in which he gets the best of three smarmy teen radio hosts subjecting him to a fierce on-air grilling.
Character developments this season include Roz (Peri Gilpin) falling in love with a garbage man (Tony Goldwyn), Niles (David Hyde Pierce) at last proposing to Daphne (Jane Leeves), Martin (John Mahoney) taking a job as a security guard, and Frasier and Roz sharing a one night stand. A series milestone, Frasier's 200th episode, features Adam Arkin as Frasier's most devoted (read "obsessive") fan. "Cheerful Goodbyes" reunites Grammer with Rhea Perlman, George Wendt, John Ratzenberger, and Paul Wilson from Cheers on the occasion of Cliff Claven's retirement. Other memorable guest star appearances include Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth as "The Junior Agent," the inexperienced, but tenacious former assistant to Frasier's pit bull of an agent, Bebe (the always exquisite Harriet Sansom Harris), and Brian Cox as Daphne's father, whom Niles is determined to reunite with his estranged wife. Frasier's ninth, unlike Beethoven's, hits some off-key notes (happily, the character of Kirby, the slacker with the Sideshow Bob hair, is gone after this season), but when everything is in harmony (as in "Bla-Z-Boy," in which Martin's beloved chair is accidentally (?) destroyed), it's still capable of a classic or two. --Donald Liebenson