Friday, March 12, 2021

TV Quote of the Day (‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,’ on a Major Source of Fancy Sentences)

“That's the fanciest sentence I've ever heard, and I used to watch Frasier."— Kimmy Schmidt (played by Ellie Kemper), in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 1, Episode 2, “Kimmy Gets a Job!,” original air date Mar. 6, 2015, teleplay by Sam Means, directed by Tristram Shapeero     

Guess what? Kimmy’s going to add to her treasure trove of highfalutin language. Seventeen years after signing off on his gig as a Seattle radio psychiatrist, Frasier Crane will be contributing more pearls of wisdom, in a “reboot” of the sitcom that will help anchor ViacomCBS's new streaming service Paramount+.

Kelsey Grammer (pictured here with an actor equally adept with allusion-heavy dialogue, David Hyde Pierce as younger brother Niles) will step into his Emmy-winning role for the 21st season. This will break the tie he set when leaving the show with James Arness (as Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon) for playing the longest-running character in primetime TV (a record since broken by Richard Belzer and Mariska Hargitay on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit).

You have to ask what is leading Grammer to take up his career-defining role again. Is he short of money? Just antsy after so long in COVID-enforced isolation? Over the years, he has tried valiantly to escape typecasting on the tube and onstage, in performances well-received (Boss) and panned (a disastrous 13-performance Broadway revival of Macbeth 21 years ago). After so much time, is he finally saying the heck with the struggle?

The great risk is this: to what extent can he bring together the talents that made his spinoff of Cheers such a success—not just the wonderful supporting cast, but also the directors and writers (you know—the creators of those pretentious, persnickety lines that Kimmy remembers so vividly)?

This last factor is a far greater risk than what one might expect. Even the hugely talented Peter Falk had an extremely difficult time when he returned to Columbo more than a decade after finishing the series in the Seventies. Most fans would agree that the second incarnation of the show was inferior to the original, largely because of often lackluster scripts.

Oh, well. As a worshipper of Shakespeare, Frasier (and Grammar) will undoubtedly say: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Let's just hope he won't follow up, several unsuccessful episodes later, with "You can't go home again."

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