Thanksgiving on Frasier

Monday, November 21, 2022

As we discovered in the "Halloween on Frasier" feature, the series didn't focus much on holidays.  That should come as no surprise, as Frasier wasn't your everyday sitcom that featured an "average working-class American family" like Full House or Home Improvement.  


Thanksgiving is a time when most sitcoms highlight family and togetherness.  Where most families celebrate with a large family dinner complete with all of the trimmings, jokes, laughter, and family squabbles, the idea of that is almost the antithesis of Frasier.  As a series, Frasier focused more on the absurdity of life's finer things while still portraying the differences among family members.  While Frasier (the character), living with his father and being best friends with his brother, certainly loved his family, the show Frasier often focused on the affluent urban life of parties, dinners, and private clubs.  Compared to shows like Roseanne that featured the "everyday" aspects of a typical suburban middle-America family, a sitcom show like Frasier is often not considered in the same category.  

This was always sort of funny to me.  While Frasier may have been a bit "elitist," at its heart, the entire family was, deep down, all blue-collar folk attempting to fit in as best they could with the upper class of Seattle.  Martin was as down to earth as you can get, being a retired policeman who would rather spend his time at Duke's, his favorite dive bar.  Pair that with Frasier and Niles trying to weasel their way into elite social circles while still acting like buffoons puts them in everyday familiar sitcom family territory, in my opinion.  

Frasier may not have gone all out for Thanksgiving like Roseanne did every season, but they touched on the holiday twice during eleven seasons.  Like Halloween, Thanksgiving served as more of a backdrop for each episode than the central focus.  It also took the series four years to mention the holiday and another three before mentioning it again. 

Continuing the "Holidays on Frasier" series, we'll look back and see how they briefly touched on the Thanksgiving season.  I must admit that, much like Halloween, one episode stood out to me even before considering Frasier for this year's series.  I strongly remember watching one of the two Thanksgiving episodes with my parents when it first aired.  I'm not exactly sure why; perhaps it was one of the first times I remember seeing Lilith, Frasier's ex-wife, or maybe it was another "travel" episode as the cast left Seattle and headed east for Boston.  I also can remember the roaring laughter from my entire family as Niles attempts to prepare the Thanksgiving meal.  For whatever reason, this episode is so memorable that I can still picture where I was seated in my parent's living room as we watched this episode, and I'm happy to cover it here.  

Get ready for some eloquent, upper-crust, loving family dysfunction as we look back at "Thanksgiving on Frasier!"


"A Lilith Thanksgiving" (S4 E7) Originally Aired November 26, 1996

As I mentioned above, I remember this episode fondly.  I can still picture where everyone was seated in the living room as we watched this episode's initial airing together.  When my wife and I sat down to rewatch this episode for this article, we roared with laughter all over again.  

The episode opens as Niles confirms the family's Thanksgiving reservation at a cabin in the woods so they can "rough it" together.  Before hanging up, he ensures that the place has been stocked with several bottles of Montrose wine, a fully catered Thanksgiving meal and that the woodpile has been "thoroughly inspected for spiders."  

Daphne is headed to San Francisco to spend the holiday with her "Uncle" Jackie, complete with a joke that could not be made in 2022.  She asks when Frasier's ex-wife and son, Lilith, and Frederick, are arriving, and Martin tells her that "her broom touches down around 4."  

Speaking of the devil, the phone rings, and Lilith says their son Frederick has passed his qualifying exam for The Marbury Academy in Boston.  The only appointment for an in-person interview was on Thanksgiving morning, so Frasier decides the whole family must fly to Boston, canceling Niles' glamping trip.

Days later, we see Lilith preparing the Thanksgiving turkey in her kitchen.  I got to wondering when Lilith's first appearance on the show was, and discovered that she, and actress Bebe Neuwirth, go back to ten years earlier when she appeared in a 1986 episode from season four of Cheers, titled "Second Time Around."  I'm not a Cheers fan, so that surprised me.  

When Martin, Niles, and Frasier arrive, she quickly assigns Niles to complete cooking the holiday meal since they are already running late.  Martin asks why Frederick isn't outside playing with the other children.  Lilith proudly states that he has spent many hours observing the other children's play habits and that he's about to watch Pocahontas to write an essay on the historical inaccuracies in the Disney cartoon.  For anyone interested, Pocahontas was released in the summer of 1995.  When this episode aired in 1996 would have just been replaced as the latest Disney film with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is a film I feel like Disney often tries to forget.

Frasier and Lilith arrive at Dr. Campbell's house.  Frasier pulls a thread off his trousers... except it's a thread from the ornate embroidered chair he's sitting in.  When Frasier yelled, "the little bird has no beak!" we cracked up.

Dr. Campbell receives a call from a United States Senator, and he gruffly shuts down any hope of their child attending Marbury, causing Lilith and Frasier to grow even more nervous.  When Campbell hangs up the phone, he politely thanks the Senator for their interest in Marbury.  Frasier's hands begin shaking, and Campbell urges him to be careful with his teacup as the chair he's sitting in has been in his family for several generations.   

Back home, poor Frederick has a black eye and a bloody nose, thanks to Martin and Niles accidentally hitting him.  As Niles frets about what to tell Lilith, she arrives with Frasier glowing about their performance with Professor Campbell.  The two soon begin psychoanalyzing everything and decide they must return to Dr. Campbells to further impress him.  

A very annoyed Campbell answers, and Lilith is immediately flustered, claiming she has lost an earring and wants to look around for it because it's an important gift from Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel.  Lilith "finds" the earring in a chair she hadn't been sitting in, and Dr. Campbell quickly calls her on it.  As he shows them the door, he mentions that he knew Golda personally and asks how Lilith knew her.  Frasier tells a tall tale about how Lilith once dated Golda's grandson, Oscar.  

Oscar... Meir (Mayer). 

Campbell thanks them for their interest in Marbury, and a shocked Frasier says he knows what that phrase means as the door closes in his face.   

At home, Martin is now trying to cut the gum from Frederick's hair.  Trying to distract the child, Niles gives him the sauce spoon to lick.  Suddenly, Frederick breaks out in hives, allergic to the anchovies in the sauce.  

Lilith and Frasier return for a minute before dashing out again, convinced that Campbell only wanted a bribe.  This is ok with them because, as they say, "nothing stands in the way of their son's welfare" as they push passed a hive-covered, bloody, and bruised Frederick.

Dr. Campbell is offended by the bribe and even more so by the small sum of money.  He shuts the door with the fantastic line, mentioning that he must return to his kitchen and partially cooked turkey.  "It's so undercooked that a skilled veterinarian could save it."  

Frasier and Lilith make another brief return home long enough to steal Niles' fully cooked turkey right out of the oven.  The pair return to the Campbell residence as the Professor and his family are about to sit down for a "Thanksgiving Tortellini."  While Campbell is down in the wine cellar, Frasier accidentally causes the guests to start arguing amongst themselves, and the family nearly comes to blows.

Dr. Campbell is appalled to find Frasier and Lilith and assumes they caused his guests to begin fighting.  He says the only way to ensure he never sees the two of them again is to allow Frederick into Marbury on the condition the pair never show their face on campus, including on Graduation Day when they must send an "envoy with a video camera."  

The two happily slam the door in their own face and celebrate achieving their goal of getting their son into the most prestigious preparatory school in the North East.  

During the closing credits, they nicely tie everything together when Dr. Campbell notices the missing beak on the bird and immediately knows it must have been Frasier.  


"The Apparent Trap" (S7 E9) Originally Aired November 25, 1999

I found it somewhat charming that both Thanksgiving episodes feature Frasier's son and ex-wife.  Like many folks Thanksgiving, the extended family all gets together, and it is often the only time during the year they get together.  

Roz (with baby Alice in an adorable turkey costume) is hurrying to the airport to head home for Thanksgiving.  Frasier says that Lilith and Frederick are flying in for the holiday, but Lilith plans to head to a colleague's in Vancouver while Frederick will stay with him for the weekend.  

Back home, Lilith and Frederick arrive a few hours late, having stopped to help a man involved in a car accident.  They continued the "Lilith is a pale-skinned ghoul" gag when Frederick said the paramedics wanted to give HER the blood transfusion when they arrived because she's so pale.  

Lilith calls her colleague to let him know she's running hours behind, and he informs her that he's fallen ill, likely from one of his lab rats, and that Lilith should stay away.

Martin enters the apartment quietly and asks if the witch has left yet, but when he notices Lilith, he asks her about his "twitch" in a humorous joke.  Eddie doesn't want to come through the front door after his walk, and Daphne said it's like he's seen the "vortex of evil" before noticing Lilith.  It seems that nobody is happy that Lilith will join them for the holiday dinner except Frasier.

Niles arrives, and it's all sickeningly-sweet phony niceness between himself and Lilith following their one alcohol-induced night together ("Room Service" Season 5 Episode 15) following years of bickering and insults.  Frasier insists the two stop the awkward niceness and return to the insults.  Niles gets in a great joke about kissing her gives him an ice cream headache.  Get it?  She's a cold witch.  

Lilith explains to Frasier and everyone that she and her colleague were set to finish an article about how divorced parents could raise a healthy child.  Frederick asks for a mini-motor bike, and Lilith says he must wait until he's 15.  Frasier sides with his ex-wife, and Frederick storms off to his room to sulk.  

Later on, Frederick finds his Dad and tells him that Lilith had hoped Frasier would offer to work with her on the article on the plane ride over.  While Frasier ponders the situation, Frederick finds his mother and tells her that Frasier had mentioned he really wanted to work with her on the article but was afraid to ask her.  Hmmm, seems like Frederick is up to something.  While seated at the Thanksgiving table, Lilith and Frasier agree to write the article, and he suggests Lilith stay the entire weekend and not just the night.  

Later, the two are up late, working on the article and getting along quite well.  As they laugh and joke together, Frederick is playing video games in his bedroom, and Niles walks in.  Niles takes over playing the game and becomes so obsessed he doesn't notice when Frederick walks out.  

Frederick runs into his father in the kitchen and tells him that Lilith had asked for a glass of wine (she didn't) and that back home in Boston, she frequently says she misses him and how nice of a man and good husband Frasier was.  A shocked Frasier is suddenly uncomfortable when he returns to the living room, especially when Lilith takes off her sweater and lets her hair down because she feels warm from the fireplace.  Frasier is happy to follow Martin out into the hallway to get away from Lilith's assumed "advances," and Frederick takes the opportunity to lie to his mother.  He tells Lilith that he's never seen Frasier so happy and that it was because of how smart and pretty she is and how much she misses her when they're apart.  

Frasier confides in Martin that he thinks Lilith is coming on to him while Lilith goes into the bedroom to talk to Niles.  She is convinced that Frasier is in love with her, but Niles says it's just Frasier taking a professional interest in her work and offering her wine on Thanksgiving.  She accepts this, but unbeknownst to her, Fredrick is lighting candles, lowering the lighting, and playing soft music in the living room to set the mood.  Frasier and Lilith walk into the room simultaneously, and both panic thinking the other has established the warm ambiance.

Frasier mentions that they are writing an article on children of divorce, and their own son is nursing a hopeless fantasy that his parents would get back together.  Those feelings don't last long as the two quickly realize their son has set them up and told them different stories.  Lilith determines that he never had an interest in getting them together; instead, he was interested in them telling him they wouldn't be getting back together so that he could act upset and get the mini-motorbike he so desperately wanted.  

Lilith calls their son into the living room and tells him that she and Frasier are getting remarried.  He calls their bluff and runs off excitedly, stunning his parents.  Now upset that he'll be further damaged when they tell him they are lying, they pick up the telephone and hear Frederick talking to his friends back home.  He doesn't know they are listening and mentions that his plan worked better than expected and he'd be getting the bike in no time.  

With one word, Lilith lets him know they are listening, and Fred quickly hangs up.  Rather than go in and talk with him, Frasier and Lilith decide to share another glass of wine as he waits in the bedroom for the "axe to fall."  The two beam with pride over their brilliantly sly son.  

In the closing credits, Frederick gets to pull another scam as he convinces Daphne he can't figure out how to play his video game.  She wraps her arms around him to "teach" him the controls, and he nuzzles up against her with the sly smile of a teenage boy.   

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