Posted Saturday morning, February 18, 2017.
Doctor Frasier Crane demonstrating that he’s not a good boy.
Broke two of my own Twittering rules this morning. First was: Never get on the Twitter Machine before the second pot of coffee. (Yes. Pot. Those of you who know me well, know I measure my morning caffeine intake by the pot and not by the mug.) Second was: Never respond to a tweet without checking first to see who did the tweeting. I don’t believe I’d have made the second mistake if I hadn’t made the first, but the result was I got fooled by this:
How can Republicans still support Trump after that press conference? This is NOT how a president behaves: pic.twitter.com/DPBlDyFR7E— Pixelated Boat (@pixelatedboat) February 17, 2017
Quickly, in my defense, I didn’t think for a second that Our Mr President Trump, free associating wildly as he was, actually said that at his alternative reality press conference Thursday. But what I did think was that other people were thinking he did. I thought the meme was making the rounds, retweeted and retreated again by well-intentioned liberals gulled by their own urge to think the worst of Our Mr President---as if the worst can be thunk. As bad as you think he is, he’s always worse.---and by malevolent pranksters eager to make fools of those well-meaning liberals. “Look! The libtards fell for another one!” So, in my best, well-meaning liberal New Yorker cartoon come to life fashion--- “Someone’s wrong on the internet!”---I took to my keyboard, intent on putting a stop to its further dissemination and save the day for rationality and cool, collected thought.
“This is a joke, right?” I typed. “It’s not in the transcript” And to be helpful I provided a link to the New York Times which had published the transcript.
The second after I hit the Tweet button it occurred to me to check the profile of the tweeter.
I was tempted to delete my tweet but I decided instead to own up to my goof. This wasn’t simply a matter of principle. As soon as I realized the tweet was meant as a joke and meant to be taken for the joke it was, I realized it was a pretty good joke and worth the RT. But I saw it as something else too.
An opportunity to blog on one of my favorite subjects. Cheers.
The reason the joke strikes me as funny isn’t just that it’s a dead-on impression of Trump. It’s that there’s an element of truth in it. It's also true that Kelsey Grammer did seem to undergo a physical change between his first season on Cheers and his second. And changed just enough that he almost looks like two different people.
But it was due to his losing the last of his boyishness. He was twenty-nine when he was cast as Frasier. As he entered his thirties, his body changed. His chest and shoulders expanded, his face filled out, he lost more hair in front so his forehead looked bigger because it was bigger. In short, he became middle-aged. Happens to the best of us. He just seemed to jump from twenty-nine to thirty-nine in a hurry.
Some people look thirty until they're fifty. Some people look fifty at thirty. Grammer was somewhere in between.
They actually dealt with this on an episode of Frasier. Sam comes to visit Frasier in Seattle where he meets Niles for the first time, and he's taken aback by how much he resembles his older brother.
Sam says to Frasier something along the lines of "My God, he looks just like you did when you first started coming to Cheers!"
Then he adds sadly, "What happened to you, man?"
To which Frasier replies defensively, "That wasn't exactly a health club you were running there, Sam."
Which was a sly way for the writers and Grammer to acknowledge something else along with the the slow burning that is the passage of time. Grammer wasn't exactly a clean-liver. Took a toll.
But it was also the case that Frasier Crane changed as a person, which caused Grammer to change the way he played the part and that resulted in his changing the way he looked and acted to suit.
Frasier started out as a very young doctor, not long out of med school and in his own mind still a student and a son. His mentor appears (and has a fling with Carla and fathers a son by her) and so does his overbearing mother. With both he’s diffident, unsure of himself, and extremely deferential, as you’d expect of a basically modest young man who hasn’t yet gotten his head around the fact that not only is he one of the grownups now, he’s in the process of outstripping them in accomplishment and authority. We don’t know yet that he was married before (to the children’s entertainer Nanny G, played by Emma Thompson) but it’s left him wounded, wary, and shy, so he’s not the most confident or secure of lovers when he’s with Diane. He goes through a year of self-imposed hell after Diane leaves him at the altar, then bounces back as a doctor and a man. He develops his own thriving practice and becomes the lover and then husband of Dr Lilith Sternin, who, weird and crazy-making and outwardly cold as she could be, was still hot stuff (She’s played by Bebe Neuwirth, after all), not to mention brilliant and accomplished and a true intellectual (in contrast to the poser and pseudo-intellectual Diane. You know, it’s still remarkable to me how much the writers seemed to actively dislike Diane). And for the rest of the series’ run, that’s what he was, a husband and father. In short, he matured. Something, by the way, only Carla and Woody also managed.
Something else happened during the Cheers run, however, that changed the way they all looked. The show went from being a screwball comedy to being an outright farce and the whole cast's performances became broader and their characterizations more exaggerated. Grammer's expressions, his bearing, his manner and mannerisms, his gestures, his tone of voice all changed too and that helped make him look like a different person. Which was fitting, because in a way he was playing a different person. The two Frasiers are variations on the same type.
It was sort of like how the subject of a pair of portraits painted by two different artists will resemble each other and be recognizably of the same person while still presenting singular and persuasive alternative visions of reality. So…
If Trump was a fan of Cheers but watched it with the same lack of focus and fleeting attention he gives to everything else, I can see how he might have wondered if the producers had pulled a Dick Sargent for Dick York-esque switch and how he’d want to know who the actor who played the part in Frasier’s first season on Cheers and what happened to him after Kelsey Grammer took over. And given Trump’s penchant for conspiracy theories and his habit of listening to and nutcases like Alex Jones and believing what they tell him...Well, there you go.
The Tweet may be a joke but it’s true to the spirit of the man and that’s what makes satire funny, being true to the spirit of its subject.
Because sometimes you want to go…