List, Television

FRASIER CHRISTMAS EPISODES – RANKED:

Ranking beloved sitcom Frasier’s (1993-2004) Christmas offerings.

 

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Daily Mail

Despite ending 11 years ago, Cheers spin-off Frasier is still held in high regard as one of the best sitcoms of all time, and certainly one of the greatest spin-offs ever created. Starring Kelsey Grammar in the titular role alongside David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leevis and Peri Gilpin, the show is a hilarious classic that only gets better with repeat viewings. Over 11 seasons the show produced an impressive seven festive episodes which feature everything that made Frasier so great, combined with a dash of festive cheer, ranked here for your pleasure…

7 – THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (SEASON 7)

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Fanpop

Frasier is at his haughty best here, having planned a traditional christmas party with only Roz (Peri Gilpin) allowed to attend from the KACL gang, only to find that rival Cam Winston is also holding a party and has poached his guests. This provides the festive setting to the episode, which revolves around the previous ones revelation to Daphne (Jane Leevis) of Niles’ (David Hyde Pierce) long standing feelings for her. I doubt I am alone in thinking that the Niles/Daphne dynamic was at its best when he was infatuated with her and she was hilariously unaware of it, so I was never a fan of them getting together, as much as Niles deserved them to. Whilst the episode does have some funny use of the crossed wires trope, it ranks last as it it signified the beginning of a period of decline for the show.

6 – WE TWO KINGS (SEASON 10)

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TV Guide

This episode revisits one of the show’s most common occurrences  – Niles and Frasier arguing. This time they are bickering over how to spend christmas, which drives Martin (John Mahoney) to announce he is going to work on the day. This leads the brothers to attempt to mend fences by putting together a surprise for Martin which, low and behold, does not go to plan. Even in its darker days Frasier was bolstered by its phenomenal cast, and this is an example of that situation at work, with laughs throughout. The Frasier-Niles rivalry rarely disappoints, but this episode loses marks for giving Roz a lazy subplot volunteering as an elf at the mall, whilst Martin’s decision to work feeling like a rehash of season one, suggesting the show was running out of steam by its tenth year.

5 – MARY CHRISTMAS (SEASON 8)

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Sarah TV

Frasier is realising a dream of his by hosting the Seattle Christmas Parade, but worries it won’t go to plan when his co-host comes down with food poisoning and is replaced with Mary (Kim Coles), who he had previously clashed with at KACL. As predicted, chaos ensues, with incidents including Frasier hitting Santa with a microphone. Season eight was a tough time for the series, with changes in dynamic and a decline in quality, and it shows in this episode. Whilst funny moments are scattered throughout, it’s nothing like the offerings from the shows hey-dey.

4 – FRASIER GRINCH (SEASON 3)

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The ‘Frasier learns an important lesson’ storyline wasn’t unique to christmas episodes, but plays well here. Frasier is determined that he only get Fredrick (Luke Tarsitano) high-end educational toys as gifts, even though Martin thinks he should just let Fredrick be himself. There is a great balance between the funny and touching here, with the end of the episode holding a sweet message. Eddie features – dressed to the nines in a santa suit and hat – and we get to see the Crane apartment in fully fledged Martin christmas mode, talking Santa and all. The only reason this episode doesn’t rate higher is because it lacks the laugh out loud hilarity of other episodes.

3 – MIRACLE ON THIRD OR FOURTH STREET (SEASON 1)

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Lockerdome

This early episode was when the show was still finding its feet, and features Frasier facing christmas alone after Fredrick receives a chance to spend the festive in Austria and he and Martin argue. The first christmas episode of the series, it sets a trend of the Cranes arguing about decorations, which goes on to be a fun staple of the festive specials. Eddie is hilarious, drinking from Niles’ cup and hiding under a pillow when the argument occurs, whilst the latter half of the episode with Frasier’s depressing christmas callers becomes increasingly hysterical. The episode does lack the shows winning ensemble in the latter half, but it’s still great festive viewing.

2 – MERRY CHRISTMAS, MRS. MOSKOWITZ (SEASON 6)

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Neogaf

The best episodes of Frasier tended to have a very simple premise – events would conspire, building up to a hilarious and absurd finale – a formula that served the series well for 11 years. This festive offering is a perfect example – Frasier is set up on a blind date with the daughter of a woman he meets in a department store. It transpires that Mrs. Moskowitz (Carole Shelley) believes Frasier to be Jewish, leading to a visit to his apartment where he and her daughter Faye (Amy Brenneman) attempt to cover up the fact that he’s not. This is complicated by the delivery of a christmas tree and Niles dressed up as Jesus, leading up to a truly hilarious final act.

1 – PERSPECTIVES ON CHRISTMAS (SEASON 5)

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First Time Mom

This season five episode came out when the show had really hit its stride, utilising the winning formula . Various different plot lines intertwine and culminate in hilarious misunderstandings, providing laugh out loud moments aplenty. The story is told through flashbacks as Martin, Roz, Daphne and Niles get massages as a Christmas gift from Frasier and the episode plays out as a series of interlinking sketches where we get to see each character at their best – the winning sequence has to be when crossed wires leads Daphne to believe that Martin is dying when he is actually appearing as a shepherd in a christmas pageant. Brilliant stuff.

Which festive Frasier is your favourite? Let me know in the comments section below!

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Film, List

5 GREAT FILMS THAT WERE BOX OFFICE FLOPS

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When it comes to mainstream cinema it’s all about the numbers, and the box office performance of a film is often what dictates whether it was successful or not. This can lead to sequels of bad films – Terminator Genysis, for example, is pretty sure to have a sequel in spite of appalling reviews and poor box office turnout in the USA due to the fact that it proved itself to be a money making machine in the gargantuan cinema-going demographic that is China. It can also lead to films that are actually pretty excellent only getting recognition years later due to a poor financial performance. Here are five films which performed poorly at the box office in spite of being great films…

Honourable mention…

Steve Jobs (2015)


Director:
Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

maxresdefault (2)An honourable mention due to the fact that it is still out in cinemas, Steve Jobs significantly underperformed upon it’s initial US release earlier this year. The film, structured like a three act play, stars Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs and goes behind the scenes in the time leading up to three significant product launches. Penned by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) the film has garnered $18 million since its release. On a budget of $30 million, the film still has a way to go before even making its money back.

There are a few contributing factors which may explain why the film has been a financial flop in spite of excellent critical praise. Director Danny Boyle blamed the marketing strategy, believing that the film had to wide of an initial release and did not generate enough word of mouth. There is also the issue of Steve Jobs fatigue – the Apple founder has been the subject of dozens on films and documentaries, and the critical and commercial failure of the Ashton Kutcher starring Jobs (2013) is still fresh in the minds of US audiences. The film was released by Universal, who reportedly still have faith that the film can recover if it stays in cinemas until closer to awards season.

Amy Pascal of Sony passed on the film, seeing it as too big of a risk after the likes of Christian Bale did not agree to star, and rumours suggest that Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell actively tried to stop the films warts and all portrayal. Both Sorkin and Boyle have been very vocal about their belief that the film is not a biopic, but Powell’s sway in the tech community may be another factor as to why the film didn’t perform well.

5 – The Iron Giant (1999)

Director: Brad Bird

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal

iron-giant-hogarthBased on the Ted Hughes novel The Iron Man (1968), this Warner Brothers Animation changes Hugh’s English setting for Cold War America. Set in 1950’s Maine, the film charts nine year old Hogarth Hughs (Eli Marienthal), a young boy who discovers a fifty-foot tall metal eating iron giant. The film was the directorial debut of Brad Bird, who is now best known for his work with Pixar, which includes The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007), and incorporated a mixture of traditional animation and elements of CGI.

The film made around $23 million on a $70 million budget, making it a financial failure in spite of critical adoration. The film had a pre Fast and Furious Vin Diesel in the titular role, as well as roles for America’s sweetheart Jennifer Aniston and Fraiser’s John Mahoney, but selling animations on their star power are more difficult than live action films. The film also used a washed out colour palette and held some pretty strong anti-government themes. Take into account that the film is a non Disney animation and that Bird was yet to make his name, as well as the fact that it came out the same year as Toy Story 2 (1999) and that Pixar were making CGI films popular and it becomes clearer why the film made a loss.

The film received a limited rerelease in cinemas this year ahead of the release of the Blu-Ray edition, which contained two minutes of new footage, and the film is considered one of the best non-Disney animations. Bird’s work at Pixar also went on to be some of the most financially successful for the studio, so it’s not all bad.

4 – Heathers (1988)

Director: Michael Lehmann

Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannon Doherty

Heathers2Heathers is an excellent black comedy/satire from Michael Lehmann. The film stars a young Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannon Doherty, and is pretty fearless in its approach to tackling issues such as bullying and teen suicide. The film was made on a very low budget of $2 million but still only managed to make back around half, meaning it was still a financial flop.

The film was very well received by critics, but a couple of noted individuals such as Roger Ebert took issue with the films extremities. The film came out in the late 80’s – making it a great showcase of the fashion of the era – which means it came out in the midst of the John Hughes era. Seeing as the film was a total subversion of everything a Hughes teen film stood for, this is probably a significant reason as to why the film did not fare well commercially.

The films stars Ryder and Slater were also yet to make their names – Ryder was only 16 upon filming and had appeared in Beetlejuice (1988) the same year, but only really became better known in the 1990’s with roles in the likes of Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Mermaids (1990). Similarly, Slater was 19 when the film came out with only a few credits to his name. Notoriously difficult Shannon Doherty also hadn’t had a chance to prove how notoriously difficult she was, with her roles in Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed coming in 1990 and 1998 respectively. This lack of percieved star power is another reason the film failed to gain any financial traction.

3 – It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Director: Frank Capra

Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Henry Travers

tumblr_inline_nmh0a4Ufom1r4j8j1_500Frank Capra’s holiday classic, based on 1939 short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, is one of those rare films that it is very difficult to find anyone who dislikes it. However, whilst it may be hard to believe, the film was a letdown at the Box Office, debuting in 26th place. Made on a $3 million budget, the film only made $3.3 million in its initial run despite starring the hugely popular Jimmy Stewart in the central role of George Bailey, a man who is contemplating suicide and is visited by an angel, Clarence (Henry Travers) who shows him what life would have been like had he never been born.

The story doesn’t end there however – it was due to a copyright issue that the film went on to become a festive favourite. The film originally had a 28 year copyright claim, and when it expired the rights were not put up for renewal. This meant that in 1975 the film entered the public domain, leading to it having heavy circulation on television during the holiday season. This led to the film being reevaluated as a classic, and it has since garnered over $60 million in DVD and home video sales. NBC now own the rights and there is a good chance they won’t be giving them up anytime soon.

An interesting side note is that the FBI actually pinpointed the film as communist propaganda. A 1947 memo entitled ‘Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry’ argued it was propaganda due to its populist theme and negative portrayal of rich bankers. The film was not blacklisted in the infamous McCarthy era, but it is interesting to think that the FBI were concerned about the feel-good classic.

2 – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Director: Frank Darabont

Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

shawshank-musicThe seven times Oscar nominated film written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is one of the more surprising entries on this list. The film is currently at the top of the IMDb Top 250 Films list. The film was made on a $25 million budget, but debuted in ninth place on its opening weekend with only $2.5 million.

The film is regularly quoted amongst favourite films/top films of all time lists, so why did it fail to gain any traction? Producer Liz Glotzer has argued that the film didn’t achieve any word of mouth promotion due to people being unsure how to pronounce the title. It could also be argued that the title gives too much away, though it’s not as though it gives away the main details of the plot (we are looking at you The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), the winner of the most spoilerific title of all time).

Things become even more confusing when we see what The Shawshank Redemption was up against at the Box Office. Opening on 23rd September 1994, other films that opened that day included It Runs in the Family, Shadows of Desire and Terminal Velocity. Not exactly bonafide classics. However, it is also worth noting that NBC’s beloved sitcom Friends debuted on the same date, drawing in some 22 million viewers for its pilot episode. Did this stop people going out to see the film on its opening night?

The film is similar to It’s A Wonderful Life in that it became more popular after its original cinematic run, and TV circulation and word of mouth in recent years has seen the film become the classic we know it as today, but exactly why The Shawshank Redemption underperformed on its initial run will always be a point of cinematic speculation.

1 – Fight Club (1999)

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bohem Carter

the_coolest_inside_facts_about_22David Fincher’s cult classic Fight Club, based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name, made only $37 million on a $63 million budget. The film came out four years after his critically acclaimed and financially successful Se7en (1994), which also starred Brad Pitt in a main role. However, Fincher followed up the film with The Game (1997) starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, which was again critically successful but saw significantly less box office returns compared to Se7en.

Fight Club has gone on to achieve cult status due to the fact that it was hugely successful when released on DVD, selling over 6 million copies and making its money back in that way. Whilst the film is now regarded as a modern classic, it was extremely divisive amongst critics upon its initial release. The films depiction of violence and counterculture led to criticisms from some critics, including Roger Ebert who said years later that it was “beloved by many, not by me.”

Another issue came in the marketing. Fincher reportedly had very specific ideas about how he wanted to market the film, but executives at 20th Century Fox didn’t like the film when they viewed it. The company were unsure of how to sell a film that is so openly critical of consumerism. The films release was delayed several times, and the film eventually came out after the Columbine High School Massacre, meaning that audiences were arguably much less open to a film with such graphic violence at its core. Brad Pitt was undoubtedly the most bankable star in the film, but Fincher refused to have him as the focus of the marketing campaign for fear of misrepresentation, and the lacklustre campaign is arguably the biggest factor in Fight Club’s poor box office performance.

The film was without a doubt one of the most talked about the of the year, and the controversy that surrounded its violent nature is arguably what made it successful in DVD sales, meaning it was not a total failure.

Which films do you think are great in spite of a less than stellar box office performance? Let me know in the comments section!

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List, Television

TOP 5 NILES CRANE MOMENTS:

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60bb8d709c385b0a90376be146f1e2c6Frasier is one of the best sitcoms ever made – originally airing from 1993-2004 as a spin-off of the much loved Cheers, the show ran for 11 seasons and is still in syndication across the world. Starring Kelsey Grammar as Dr Frasier Crane, a character he had already played for years in Cheers, the series follows the psychiatrist as he moves back to his home town of Seattle and embarks on a career as a radio psychiatrist. Whilst Grammar was the titular star, what made the show so excellent was its ensemble cast, which was made up of Frasier’s father Martin (John Mahoney), Martin’s physical therapist Daphne Moon (Jane Leevis) and dog Eddie, as well as radio producer Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin). Rounding off the ensemble was Frasier’s younger brother, Niles Crane, played so wonderfully by David Hyde Pierce.

Niles very quickly became the shows breakout character, and remains one of the best remembered aspects of the show some 11 years on. He represented a more extreme version of Frasier – a sophisticated, pompous psychiatrist who married into money but finds himself lusting after Daphne from the moment he meets her. The success of Niles – and the fact that he is not only funny but likeable in spite of numerous less than flattering characteristics – is totally in the hands of Hyde Pierce, who did a phenomenal job across the show’s entire run. With impeccable comic timing and a gift for physical comedy that perfectly suited the show’s penchant for slapstick, here are five of the best Niles Crane moments (this list is by no ways definitive – it is extremely hard to choose)…

ARE YOU BEING SERVED (SEASON 4)

hqdefaultThe saga that was Niles and Maris was one that was played for laughs many times, but this is one of the most unexpected and most hilarious laugh out loud moments in the series. Maris has served Niles with divorce papers, sending him into turmoil which culminates with Martin’s Hot & Foamy gadget (a running gag throughout the episode in a side-plot between Martin and Daphne) exploding whilst Niles is in the bathroom.

It’s the perfect, unexpected culmination of the seemingly unconnected plot strands, and the exchange that takes place between the characters immediately following the incident shows how perfectly the cast bounce off each other:

DAPHNE: “Dr Crane! Are you alright?”

NILES: “I’m fine. Just a little hot. And foamy.”

MARTIN: “You know what must have happened? My hot and foamy must have exploded!”

DAPHNE: “He was a detective, you know.” 

Whilst it’s easy to give Niles all the love, it is really all of the characters bouncing off one another that makes Frasier so funny, and the hot and foamy scene is a perfect example of that in action.

DIAL M FOR MARTIN (SEASON 6)

MartinCraneA lot of people would argue that Niles’ unrequited love for Daphne was the core of his character and the lifeblood of the series, and right now I am a lot of people, because that is exactly it was. Whilst the later seasons with Daphne and Niles as a couple still had their moments, the true golden age was in the days before Niles told her how he felt and he had to suffice himself with puppy dog style yearning and the occasional sniff of her hair.

A great example of just how deep Niles’ desire for Daphne ran came in season 6 with Dial M For Martin. Niles is trying to get closer to Daphne by inviting Martin to live with him, but his plan is scuppered when she announces that she is leaving her role as Martin’s physical therapist due to the fact that he no longer requires her aid. A series of incidents then leads Frasier to worry that Niles is subconsciously trying to harm Martin in an attempt to get Daphne to stay.

This episode is classic Frasier and Niles is at his best here, lusting after Daphne to the point that he is potentially willingly hurting his father. There are some real laugh out loud moments, including the balcony one liner, and it is one of the best examples of the true depth of Niles’ feelings for Daphne.

AN AFFAIR TO FORGET (SEASON 2)

FencingAnother example of Niles and Maris’ marriage woes acting as a catalyst for a hilarious final act. An Affair to Forget see’s Frasier discover via his radio show that Maris is having an affair with her German fencing instructor. Niles eventually finds out and his suitably devastated, but after being bolstered by Martin he takes on his love rival in a fencing match which is blighted by the language barrier, with Frasier attempting to translate and the maid struggling with her pronouns.

Frasier is at its best when culminating in a totally ridiculous situation that still manages to be totally relevant to the plot, and this is one such example of this being pulled off excellently. The slapstick elements of the fencing match blend perfectly with the dialogue, with it turning out that Frasier’s mistranslations leads the instructor to believe he is fighting Niles over a pair of stolen shoes.

This episode also features some more dramatic moments from Niles – his devastation over Maris’ affair makes for a surprisingly sombre moment, and when he collapses into tears at Frasier’s apartment is both funny and heartbreaking. The fact that you can feel sorry for a character who so routinely acts in a snobbish manner again shows just how talented Hyde Pierce is.

THREE VALENTINES (SEASON 6)

download (6)Three Valentines is an episode that features six minutes of some of the best physical comedy Hyde Pierce ever portrayed in his time playing Niles. The scene features no dialogue and instead shows Niles get himself into an escalation of blunders which include an iron, fire and blood amongst other things.

The scene strikes reminiscent to something you would see in Mr Bean, and also pays loving homage to slapstick comedy of the silent era. It is a perfect showcase of Hyde Pierce’s talents in terms of communicating comedy without his hilarious one liners, showing just how adept he was at portraying the character by the sixth season.

FLOUR CHILD (SEASON 2)

Ep28This could quite possibly take the crown for best Niles episode ever. It was in the second season that Niles really began to come into his own, and this episode is a prime example of this. After their taxi driver goes into labour, Niles finds himself wondering if he is ready for parenthood. Frasier then suggests that he could embark on an experiment, using a bag of flour as a ‘practice’ baby. Thus the stage is set for classic Niles’ one liners about the perils of his new status as a ‘parent’:

“Last night, I dreamt my flour sack was abducted…and the kidnappers started sending me muffins in the mail” 

More hilarity ensures when it becomes clear that Niles may not be ready to become a father, with his bag of flour going through various wars including bursting into flames, getting knocked on the coffee table and ultimately getting ripped apart by Eddie. A life cut too short, it would seem.

The episode also acts as significant character development for the character, explaining why he and Maris do not have children in spite of being in their late 30’s and having been married for a number of years.

What are your favourite Niles Crane moments? Let me know in the comments section!

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