When Frasier began in 1994, no-one could have predicted its success. Would the same audience that loved the raucous cast of colorful characters on Cheers follow stuffy psychiatrist Frasier Crane when he moved to Seattle? Would they tune into his domestic woes involving his curmudgeonly ex-cop father living in his apartment? As it turned out, they would tune in for eleven years and help Frasier collect a staggering 37 Emmy nominations.
The first season laid the groundwork for the dynamic wit and complex storytelling that would become the gold standard of the show. However, some of the more highbrow humor for which Frasier has become known went right over viewers' heads. Here are 10 jokes from Season 1 you may have missed!
10 THAT FREUDIAN SLIP
Frasier and Niles try to bond with their father by going out to dinner to the sort of establishment that caters to a salt-of-the-Earth guy like him; The Timbermill. Formerly an old sawmill now converted into a restaurant, it serves steaks "with all the fixin's," which you pick from a trolley cart that parades raw beef around like walk-in freezers hadn't yet been invented.
During dinner, Niles tells a joke about a man meaning to ask his wife to pass the salt, but instead saying, "you've ruined my life you blood-sucking shrew." Frasier and his brother cackle incessantly, but you would have to know that it referred to the interference of unconscious thought that causes an error in speech: a Freudian Slip.
9 WHAT'S A LALIQUE?
Frasier and Roz don't hit it off at first; Roz's abrasive, gruff nature clashes with Frasier's more refined poise. When he asks her how the show is being received, he presses her for her honest, unfiltered opinion.
"I am not a piece of Lalique, I can handle criticism," he presses her. Lalique refers to the French glassmaker, originally started in 1888 by famous jeweler Rene Lalique. It's known for its vases, glass sculptures, and perfume bottles. Early automobiles even had some Lalique pieces as hood ornaments!
8 WHAT'S MENCKEN YOU SO UPSET?
Frasier may feign indifference to the criticism of others, but when he gets a pointed critique of his show from a local celebrity journalist, he feels a need to retaliate. All it simply read was, "I hate Frasier Crane," and Frasier simply had to know what he meant by those scathing words.
In his own rebuttal, which he delivers on his radio show, he refers to the man's monosyllabic defamation and sarcastically says, "Look out Voltaire, move aside H.L. Mencken," because his prose was so cutting. This refers to two cultural critics of two different centuries, historian Voltaire from the 18th century, and essayist and pundit H.L. Mencken from the 20th, both known for their eloquent satire.
7 ANYONE PLAY THE HARMONICA?
Frasier considers himself an excellent judge of character, and his father Marty puts this to the test over a friendly wager. Marty has three friends coming over for a poker night at the apartment, and one of them is an ex-con. Frasier's task is to correctly guess which one of them spent time in jail, without asking any direct questions about it.
While the players Frank, Linda, and Jimmy are all making themselves comfortable for a night of card playing, Frasier doggedly stalks their behavior, looking for any telltale signs of being incarcerated. At one point he randomly asks if they'd like to hear some music, or if one of them "plays the harmonica." That particular instrument was the most associated with jailbirds.
6 A REGULAR GEORGE S. KAUFMAN
One of the hallmarks of Frasier and Niles, other than their fussy mannerisms and expensive taste in culture, is their incessant name dropping. Scarcely an episode goes by when they don't reference a famous literary figure, composer, or thespian. One, in particular, is referenced in the middle of Season 1 and is responsible for many of the episode titles throughout the series.
When Daphne goes on a date with a con artist, Niles insists that he go to the bar where the couple are playing pool to watch after her. He and his brother get into a fray with a surly pool shark, who explains, "the meters don't run at night, and neither do you." Niles laughs nervously and says his play on words makes him "a regular George S. Kaufman," a 20th-century satirical playwright known for his acerbic wit.
5 I'M SORRY, I WAS SOMEPLACE ELSE...
Season 1 established many of the long-standing jokes around each character, often around mannerisms that they would continue to exhibit for many seasons. One of these is Niles' continued use of innuendo whenever he's around Daphne. In Season 1, we clearly see it's love at first sight for him and the "English Rose" in Episode 3, despite the fact that he's married to Maris at this point.
When Daphne makes a casual reference to one thing you never say to a woman, "was it as good for you as it was for me?" Niles grows quiet. After a few moments, he says, "I'm sorry, I was someplace else. It was a warm and friendly place." This implies he was imagining Daphne in an intimate way, which comes up frequently over the years at different inopportune moments.
4 DOUBTING NABOBS
When Frasier is worried that he's going through a mid-life crisis towards the end of Season 1, he goes to his brother Niles for counsel. He's met a young woman at a clothing shop that he finds amiable enough to date, but he's worried their age gap will get in the way of them finding romantic happiness.
Niles explains that it doesn't really matter what he or anyone else thinks, the only opinion that Frasier should be concerned with is his own. Niles thrusts a fist to the air and declares, "Let the tongues of the doubting nabobs wag! If it feels right, make yourself happy!" A "nabob" refers to an obscenely wealthy man that made his fortune in India during the 18th century with the East India Company.
3 WHAT MEAL, ARIA AND WINE WOULD YOU HAVE ON A DESERTED ISLAND?
Unless you're one of the most cultured sophisticates, you may not have a reference for all of the many musical compositions, fancy foods, and wines that Frasier and Niles constantly mention. Viewers get a first taste of what's to come with Season 1, when Niles asks Frasier if he were stuck on a deserted island, what meal, aria, and wine could he not live without?
Frasier makes Niles answer first. He hastily replies, "The Coulibiac of Salmon from Guy Savoy, Vissa D'arte from Tosca, and the Cote du Rhone Chateauneuf de Pape '47." Frasier simply rolls his eyes and groans that Niles is "so predictable." That particular bottle of wine can fetch upwards of 800 dollars today.
2 SPRING MUSICAL
When a publishing agent approaches Niles about writing a book, he thinks that collaboration with Frasier would mean big bucks. After all, psychiatrist siblings writing about the conflicts between siblings... what could go wrong?
In an effort to appeal to Frasier's vanity, Niles reminds him of the Spring Musical they wrote in prep school that was very well received. The chorus went, "Some boys go to college, but we think they're all wussies, 'cause they get all the knowledge, and we get all the -----." It wasn't exactly the sort of message viewers associated with the pair, but the innuendo was amusing.
1 WE'RE PSYCHIATRISTS, NOT PUGILISTS!
Frasier and Niles aren't the most robust of specimens, but occasionally they can turn to blows. While locked in a room trying to collaborate on the book ironically about sibling conflict, they end up in a knock-down fight complete with body-slamming and fisticuffs.
It's a rare occasion when Frasier and Niles get down to their t-shirts and suspenders, but there they are, with flying elbows and hay-makers all over their hotel suite. Finally, Frasier yells, "we're psychiatrists, not pugilists!" A pugilist is another name for a professional boxer, though rarely used any more.