By Ashley Amon and Andrew Daar
Season One, Episodes 19 & 20, “Give Him the Chair” and “Fortysomething”
Original airdates: Mar. 17 1994 and Mar. 31, 1995
Ashley: My family has a history with the Barcalounger/La-Z-Boy recliner. My father has had three (two are still around one of which acts as napping spot to his two dachshunds) and I’ve owned one myself (now in the loving arms of a friend in Dallas, Texas). It’s an important chair. And it’s important to Martin Crane as well.
As I’ve mentioned in the review of the pilot, the beloved hideous recliner of Martin Crane is its own character in the show, an extension of Martin himself. In “Give Him the Chair!” we get to see Frasier strive to retrieve this important piece of Crane history after a misunderstanding with the building lackey, Leo, a proto-Anthony Kiedis.
Why is this horrible atrocity of duct tape and vomit-colored tweed so important? And why is Frasier so determined to get rid of it?
This episode delves back into the Frasier/Martin relationship and how they still clash. Frasier and Niles try to explain the reasons Martin doesn’t need the chair anymore from a psychiatric standpoint: it’s a security blanket, something to help a transition. At no point do they ask Martin if they can remove the chair, replace it, etc. And naturally it backfires.
What about aging? How does Frasier handle that inevitability?
In “Fortysomething” Frasier struggles with his image as middle-aged when he starts to blank out on simple information (Roz’s name, a piano piece, etc.). Upon visiting a department store for his father, Frasier flirts with an attractive young salesgirl named Carrie, “young enough” to be his daughter as Martin points out.
What do you think about Frasier’s reaction to being asked out by a younger woman? Not often to we get to see a man’s reaction to this situation so I was pleased to see it in Frasier.
Andrew: I feel like we point this out every other week, but for all of Frasier and Niles’ degrees from highly respected institutions of higher learning, they are terrible at understanding human behavior in the field. And by “field,” I mean normal human interaction. You hit it exactly: they try to rationalize Martin’s attachment to the chair in a way that makes sense to them. Because neither of them would ever want to own the chair, they deduce that Martin doesn’t really like the chair, he just clings to it because it’s “safe.” They think they understand Martin better than Martin understands himself, and make a decision that will affect him greatly without consulting him. Beyond that, Niles says that the apartment is Frasier’s home and he should be allowed to decorate as he chooses. They deny Martin’s existence as a separate human, treating him more like a child or a pet who cannot make decisions for himself and has no say in the state of the place he calls home. Frasier’s selfishness and ego drives him to substitute his desire and viewpoint for that of his father. Fortunately, he’s not so full of himself so as to not admit when he’s wrong, and once he understands what he’s done, he goes to great effort to make it right.
It’s nice to see Frasier acting better after his behavior last week. He is vain, selfish, and kind of full of himself, but he’s usually a decent guy. His vain behavior in “Fortysomething” is extremely understandable. Most people in America are terrified of aging and losing their beauty and vitality (especially when we are constantly inundated with ads and pop culture telling us that we need to be young and fit and beautiful if we hope to have even the slightest chance at leading happy lives). And where many going through midlife crises might jump at the chance to bed a hot younger woman, Frasier showed restraint. That’s not to say that he categorically should not be allowed to take a chance with someone young. Niles’ advice about looking within for what he was interested in and ignoring the opinions of others is wise. After all, Carrie was interested in psychiatry and had good taste in clothes. Maybe they would have been a good match, had her feelings been genuine.
Do you think Frasier’s claim that he had been leaning Jungian as of late was for the sole purpose of telling an awful joke? Because his Freudian views are often referenced, and when he was experiencing the chairgasm from the new vibrating recliner, he moaned “mommy.”
Ashley: In a much later season, we get to see Frasier really save the chair for his father. I know now Frasier finds it an eyesore, making attempts to hide it during a party or cover it, but he does let it stay in this apartment for over a decade. Frasier allows Martin to decorate the apartment for holidays as well, much to his chagrin, because it makes him happy. We can see he hates it but he allows it anyway. I think that this episode might be reason for that “annoyed acceptance”.
I love everyone’s reactions to the new chair Frasier brings home. Niles saying he wanted to rent it an apartment and see it on the weekends (like a mistress) and Daphne’s rebuking Frasier for making her get out of the chair before she could enjoy it (like a selfish lover). Frasier loves it, like you mentioned above, and Martin finds it “disgusting”. Martin’s reaction was a bit of surprise considering his chair has a vibrate setting we’ve seen in action in previous episodes.
As for Frasier’s outburst of “mommy” and then the Jung joke, yes I think he used it as a vehicle for a joke. Niles is a Jungian, correct? I know that Frasier and Niles have similar characteristics but different “statistics”:
College: Frasier (Harvard, Oxford) Niles (Yale, Cambridge)
Cars: Frasier (BMW) Niles (Mercedes)
Psychiatric View: Frasier (Freudian) Niles (Jungian?)
It would, however, make sense that Niles is a Jungian as Jung himself was very much influenced by (but often disagreed with) Freud.
Anyway, back to “Fortysomething”. I agree with your viewpoint of Frasier’s cautiousness with dating Carrie. Bulldog even ribs Frasier for not jumping at the chance to date a younger woman simply because she’s younger. Instead, Frasier takes the time to think of other reasons he and Carrie could make a good pair. Having watched the episode a second time, I noticed how very ingenuine Carrie’s actions seemed towards Frasier, almost like she laid it on a little thick. I could see that the relationship wouldn’t proceed past flirtation from her end whereas Frasier talks himself into giving it a try.
Andrew: Yes, Niles is Jungian (as will be confirmed in a couple of weeks). I wanted to get clever here and talk about how Niles is a shadow archetype of Frasier, but Niles is more Frasier to the nth degree than a dark reflection.
I like your point about Carrie’s actions not seeming genuine. Frasier is a farce, so characters will act in exaggerated ways, but they almost always remain believable. It was nice to see that Carrie’s blatant flirtation had a psychological reason for being so over-the-top. The series does a good job of showing how personality tics and neurosis can lead otherwise rational people to do irrational things, and while Frasier and Niles are the main recipients of this treatment, it’s fun to see how it affects others.