On November 8th, 1994, NBC aired an episode of Frasier called “The Candidate.”
Unlike the actor who played him, Frasier Crane was a committed liberal. Of course, he was the type of liberal who lived in an impossibly large apartment and who had little interest in spending any time with anyone who didn’t have an Ivy League degree. As a popular radio psychiatrist, Frasier Crane usually refused to endorse politicians or even give his opinion on the issues of the day. The one time he made an exception was when he endorsed Phil Patterson, the earnest progressive who was running to defeat right-wing Congressman Holden Thorpe. (Rewatching the episode earlier this week, it was impossible not to hear the voice of Donald Trump when Thorpe called into Frasier’s show to taunt him.)
Fraiser’s father, Martin (John Mahoney, how we miss you!) had already filmed a commercial for Thorpe, one in which he said that his career as as a cop was ended by the type of criminals that would be released on the streets if a bleeding heart like Phil Patterson was elected. Hoping to counter their father’s endorsement, Frasier and his brother, Niles, arranged to film a commercial for Phil Patterson right in Frasier’s apartment.
In the commercial, Frasier was scripted to endorse Phil Patterson because he “cares about the little people” and “I like the way his mind works.” After shaking Patterson’s hand, Frasier was to proclaim him to be “the sane choice.” The rehearsal went well. Before shooting the actual commercial, Phil and Frasier stepped out on the balcony. Phil admitted that he needed someone to talk to. Frasier assured Phil that anything Phil said would fall under patient-doctor confidentiality. Relieved, Phil explained that he had recently been abducted by aliens and that he hoped that, once in Congress, he hoped he could serve as a sort of intergalactic ambassador.
Frasier and Phil before they stepped out on the balcony:
Frasier and Phil, after the conversation on the balcony:
Fortunately, with the help of his brother, Frasier was able to eventually shoot the commercial. Of course, the next day, Frasier heard that it was all over the news about “Patterson and the aliens” so he went on his radio show and announced that it didn’t matter that Phil Patterson believed in aliens. Every leader had his eccentricities. “Even J. Edgar Hoover let his slip show occasionally!” Of course, the aliens that were all over the news were a group of Guatamelan exchange students whom Patterson was giving free room and board.
In the end, Holden Thorpe was reelected to Congress but Phil Patterson at least got 8% of the vote and was making plans to relaunch his political career in California.
Along with being one of the funniest episodes of one of television’s best sitcoms (Kesley Grammer’s response to the story about the aliens is absolutely brilliant), “The Candidate“ is an episode that still feels relevant today, nearly 16 years after it first aired. Of course, in 1994, it was a given that a candidate thinking he had met with aliens would be viewed as a political disqualifier. I’m not so sure if that would be the case in 2020. Would you vote for the candidate who believed he had been beamed aboard a space ship? Maybe you already have.
If you need a salve to help deal with the burn of 2020 politics, this episode is currently available to be viewed on Hulu.
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