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Frasier—The Complete Seventh Season

(1993) *** 1/2 Unrated
525 min. NBC.

Miraculously fresh after seven seasons on the air, Frasier continued to spin complicated farcical situations and witty dialogue. Season seven also distinguished itself by its deft handling of the characters' various romances and pointed non-romances, especially the series-long romantic complications of Niles and Daphne.

In his ninth year of playing Frasier Crane (a character originated on Cheers), Kelsey Grammer remains endlessly funny. The fusty radio shrink—sensitive, and prone to annoyance and even full-blown hysteria—could be matched for neuroses only by his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce). Naturally, Frasier's KACL producer Roz (Peri Gilpin) is around to serve up snarky commentary on every foible.

Appropriately for a series concerned with psychology, Frasier acknowledged the emotional growth of its characters, such as the truce between the brothers and Frasier's live-in dad Martin (John Mahoney) and the depression over the pending loss of Daphne (Jane Leeves) as a daily presence in their lives. "The Late Dr. Crane" exemplifies the series' skill at balancing humor and emotion, as the characters learn a Carpe diem lesson when Frasier is mistakenly given an obituary.

The writers expertly brought the Daphne-Niles relationship to a boil over a long period, beginning with divorcé Niles' long-held secret crush on Daphne. Daphne became engaged to Donny Douglas (Saul Rubinek) in the sixth season, and Niles subsequently became smitten with plastic surgeon Dr. Mel Karnofksy (Jane Adams). When Daphne accidentally learns the truth about Niles' love for her, she incrementally develops a desire for his affection and a jealousy of Mel, a situation that comes to a head in the one-hour wedding episode, and season closer, "Something Borrowed, Someone Blue."

Despite the long arc of the Niles-Daphne story, Frasier continued to deliver clever stories and high-caliber laughs on a weekly basis. Season opener "Momma Mia" gave Frasier a Freudian nightmare: a girlfriend (Rita Wilson) who's a dead-ringer for his late mother. The uproarious "Rdwrer" sends the Crane clan on a New Year's Eve road trip in Martin's Winnebago—the trip goes haywire when Niles wanders into the wrong vehicle at a road stop. "Out With Dad" finds Martin getting more than he bargains for when he plays gay to avoid a woman's romantic overtures.

"Everyone's a Critic" and "Whine Club" stirred up hilarious competition between the brothers for positions as art critic and "Corkmaster," respectively; "Rivals" developed gleefully preposterous confusion that led the brothers to mistakenly believe that each was after the same woman, as two different women bemusedly cooled their heels. Despite the ego-driven battles, Season Seven also shows the depth of love the brothers share.

Anthony Zerbe ("Rdwrer"), Robert Loggia ("The Three Faces of Frasier"), S. Epatha Merkerson ("Dark Side of the Moon"), and Jean Smart (Emmy winner for "Big Crane on Campus") are among the guest stars. The writers also introduced Daphne's ne'er-do-well brother Simon (Anthony LaPaglia) and developed return spots for favorite past characters: Dan Butler's Bulldog ("The Dog That Rocks the Cradle"), Harriet Samsom Harris' Bebe ("Morning Becomes Entertainment"), and Bebe Neuwirth as Frasier's ex-wife Lilith and Trevor Einhorn as son Frederick ("The Apparent Trap").

Perhaps the single funniest episode of the season is "They're Playing Our Song." Frasier's fatuousness and crazed perfectionism reach new heights when he's called upon to come up with a new theme song for his show. Despite his labors—and those of the union orchestra he hires—Martin noodles a catchy ditty that completely undermines his son's overblown efforts. With the series crafting plenty of gems like this one, the cast and crew of Frasier proved the aging series still had plenty of life in it.

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Aspect ratios: 1.33:1

Number of discs: 4

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Street date: 11/15/2005

Distributor: Paramount Home Video

No extras are provided on Paramount's four-disc set of Frasier—The Complete Seventh Season, but we get handsome transfers and a much-welcome "Play All" feature for ease of viewing. Previews lead off Disc One, advertising upcoming Paramount releases: The Oprah Winfrey Show: 20th Anniversary Collection, The Brady Bunch: The Complete Fourth Season, Charmed: The Complete Third Season, MacGyver: The Complete Fourth Season, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Bueller...Bueller...Edition. Previews can be skipped, or later accessed from the Disc One menu.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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