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The Most Cringeworthy Moments In Frasier

Premiering in 1993, "Frasier" was one the most beloved sitcoms of the '90s and enjoyed 11 seasons before concluding in 2004. Beginning his fictional life as a romantic rival to Ted Danson's Sam on "Cheers," the snooty psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) begins his spinoff series by moving back to his hometown of Seattle where he doles out advice to callers on the radio. In his lavish apartment, he's joined by his father, Marty — a retired cop played by the late John Mahoney, whose gruff, blue-collar outlook clashes with those of his sons — and his dog, Eddie, along with the self-professed psychic housekeeper Daphne (Jane Leeves). Frasier's closest thing to a best friend and confidant is his brother — David Hyde Pierce's Niles, a tightly-wound germaphobe who's obsessed with Daphne. 

"Frasier" holds up pretty well upon rewatch, but if you binge the sitcom, you may notice every now and then something comes up that makes you cringe. On one hand, Frasier dates quite a lot of women in the series, and some of the things he does on dates and in the bedroom are pretty disturbing. On the other, there's a lot of humor that some might find problematic. "Frasier" sometimes deals with issues that remain relevant today — like racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia — and it's questionable whether or not it always handles those issues in the best way.

To find out what we mean, keep reading for what we see as the most cringeworthy moments in "Frasier."

Bulldog records an ad that's pretty cringey

In Season 1's "Selling Out," Frasier wrestles with the notion of personally endorsing advertisers on his radio show. At first, he's angry at his producer, Roz (Peri Gilpin), for handing him copy for the local restaurant Hunan Palace, but that changes just a little bit when he reads the contract and sees how many zeroes are in it. Eventually, he caves and starts reading ad copy for the big bucks, with the proviso that he'll only endorse businesses or products he genuinely enjoys. 

But Frasier's questions of integrity aren't the cringey part of the episode — what truly makes you wince is a racist joke in an early scene. When Frasier initially refuses to read the copy for Hunan Palace, the job goes instead to Bulldog Briscoe (Dan Butler), the host of the station's sports show and a regular pain for Roz and Frasier. After barking like a dog while staring at Roz's butt, Bulldog does the ad with what Roz calls "his own special touch." 

That "special touch" includes beginning the ad by hitting a tiny gong and then reading the copy in broken English and a mocking Asian accent. What makes it worse is that once he's done, he throws up his hands in victory, and the laugh track goes to a huge round of applause. If that scene were to air today, we're not sure "Frasier" would have made it to Season 2.

Frasier leads Sir Patrick Stewart on

Early in the final season of "Frasier," Sir Patrick Stewart makes a guest appearance as Alistair Burke, a famous opera director and — though the psychiatrist loathe to admit it — Frasier's boyfriend. 

Suspecting Roz's partner is gay, Frasier follows him into a gay bar, where the talk show host is recognized by some of the patrons, and the next day, a caller to Frasier's show "outs" him. In the aftermath, Frasier is unable to convince anyone he isn't gay, and when Alistair Burke takes notice of him and starts pampering him with gifts — including offering to bring him along to Madrid for a concert — Frasier stops trying. 

In spite of blatant signs that Burke sees him as a romantic partner, Frasier claims they're just friends, and his denial is secured only by the fact Burke doesn't make any sexual advances. That changes when, on the night of his latest premiere, Burke mentions in front of Frasier that while rehearsing an opera, he abstains from sex in order to devote himself fully to the endeavor. Turning to Frasier, Burke caresses the doctor's chest and says, "My poor, dear, patient Frasier." Shortly afterward, Frasier disappoints Burke with the truth.

Along with the utter creepiness of Frasier's deception, there's a lot of problematic humor in the episode. For example, early in the story, Frasier and Niles — two highly educated psychiatrists — joke about suspecting Roz's boyfriend is gay based on nothing but homophobic stereotypes. 

Frasier gets caught in a humiliating position with an ex-wife

A little over halfway through the final season of "Frasier," Laurie Metcalf becomes the third actress to play Nanette Guzman — Frasier's ex-wife with whom he shares a potent sexual chemistry. Nanette is best known as the popular children's TV and stage personality Nanny G, and when she shows up in "Caught in the Act," Roz forces a reunion between her and Frasier in hopes of scoring tickets to Nanette's performance for her daughter. 

Nanette is desperate for a tryst with Frasier, but we soon learn she's remarried. On the night of her Nanny G performance, Frasier goes backstage to tell her nothing can happen between them. Nanette manages to seduce Frasier regardless, and they throw each other on a bed and begin to take things too far ... when the bed begins lifting off the ground. It turns out this is the opening of Nanny G's show, when she's supposed to emerge from the bed to sing the first number. At first Frasier — buck naked at this point — hides under the covers while Nanette sings. Desperately, she shoves a costume under the blankets that includes a baby bonnet and a diaper. Frasier emerges from the bed, wearing the ridiculous and disturbing outfit, and Nanny G announces in surprise that she has a new baby brother. Frasier tries to dance his way off the stage, only to find Nanette's angry husband waiting for him in the wings.

The psychiatrist gets a girlfriend who's the spitting image of his mother

The Season 7 premiere, "Momma Mia," introduces us to a new love interest, and at first, Frasier is blind to the reason for her allure. While waiting for a blind date at Cafe Nervosa, Frasier is smitten with the woman we soon learn is children's author Mia Preston, played by Rita Wilson. In spite of an awkward and funny mix-up at the coffeeshop, Frasier and Mia hit it off. There's no immediately apparent reason to feel at all strange about the pairing, until Mia meets Niles, who reveals to Daphne that Frasier's new girlfriend is the spitting image of their dead mother. 

When Mia joins the family for a weekend in a cottage, Marty agrees with Niles' observation, and it makes things even weirder when Mia acts motherly toward Frasier, like offering to cut up his food for him. Marty and Niles argue about whether or not to say something to Frasier, but when they watch a home movie that includes Frasier's actual mom and he sees the resemblance for himself, they don't need to. 

Unfortunately, once Frasier sees the similarities, it ends things between him and Mia. But it isn't the end of Rita Wilson's time on "Frasier." Wilson reprises the role of Frasier's actual mother as part of a dream sequence in Season 9's "Don Juan in Hell: Part 2."

Frasier has a difficult time breaking ties

In Season 3's "The Friend," Frasier is disappointed to realize he's spent a few years back in his hometown without forging any new friendships. Against Roz's advice, he uses his radio show to look for new buddies, and as his producer predicts, most of the people who respond are cringier than the show's cringiest episodes. But amid all the refuse, there appears to be a possible gem — Bob Reynolds, who sends Frasier a very sane, friendly fax. 

Frasier meets Bob for coffee, and at first, things are going well. Frasier and Bob — played by Griffin Dunne — share a love of literature. But that's about as far as their similarities go. Along with revealing an annoying tendency to use air quotes often and without any rhyme or reason, Bob spends the rest of the meetup boring Frasier by talking about his obsession with barbecue. Frasier is about to tell Bob he'd rather not share dinner with him, when Bob backs up from the table, revealing he's in a wheelchair. 

Frasier eventually breaks things off, at first telling Bob the truth. But when Bob says he wishes it was the wheelchair that turned Frasier off — because that would make Frasier the "jerk" instead of Bob — the psychiatrist lies and says the chair is the problem, which Bob uses to turn all the employees and patrons of Cafe Nervosa against him.

Frasier overstays his welcome

Frasier isn't known for an affinity for physical labor, and in Season 10's "Some Assembly Required," we discover an interesting and disturbing reason why he should probably stay away from such endeavors.

Frasier's co-workers at the station sign him up for a program that builds houses for low-income families. When the house is complete, Frasier makes a speech as if he were singularly responsible for the house's construction while his anecdotes reveal he was only allowed to perform the most limited of tasks, such as stirring paint. Regardless, Frasier develops a strange attachment to the house and its new family. He visits them just after they move in and offers some free decorating tips. 

The family is grateful at first, but their gratitude grows sour as Frasier not only won't stop dropping in uninvited but continues to criticize their decorating choices. He gives them tons of unasked for accessories and acts betrayed when he discovers they've put up a cow-shaped mailbox rather than the one he bought them as a gift. The new homeowners are forced to eventually shove him out of their front door so that he'll get the message. He does eventually come to his senses and apologize, and they reward him with a tour of their fully decorated home. Frasier is barely able to contain shrieks of horror when he discovers the new black-and-white cow theme of the interior, along with a freshly painted bathroom that Frasier describes with, "Wow, that's purple!"

Frasier messes up a relationship by acting like a creeper

In the Season 5 premiere, "Frasier's Imaginary Friend," the titular lead hits it off with supermodel Kelly Easterbrook (Sela Ward) on a plane trip to Mexico. During their romantic weekend, Kelly tells him she's in the middle of a break-up with a professional football player and asks him to be discreet. 

Back home, Frasier unintentionally convinces his family and co-workers that he's gone from being lonely to delusional. When he confides in his father, brother, and Daphne who he's dating, they think he's lying to avoid humiliation. It gets to the point where his family pays a surprise visit to him in a restaurant where he says he's meeting Kelly, and because (of course) she has to leave dinner early for an emergency, Niles and Marty find Frasier eating alone and are more convinced than ever that Kelly is as real as Santa Claus.

Rather than simply telling Kelly about the situation and asking if he could take a picture of them to offer as proof — or, better yet, just let the whole thing go — Frasier goes down a disturbingly creepy path. One night, Frasier waits until Kelly is sound asleep, pulls the sheets down to reveal her shoulder, and tries to take a selfie years before anyone used the word. Predictably, Kelly wakes up and once she realizes what Frasier's trying to do, she tells him exactly what she thinks of what he's done. Considering his behavior, it's tough to blame her for dumping him hard.

Everyone is a little mean about Daphne's weight gain

Different TV series have chosen different ways to deal with the pregnancies of their stars. In the case of "Frasier," the show's writers opted to explain Jane Leeves' weight gain by saying her character had developed a food addiction. The idea itself is cringey enough, but it gets really disturbing in season 8's "Hungry Heart," when everyone becomes concerned with Daphne's uncontrolled eating — except Niles, who seems utterly oblivious to any changes. 

The episode is merciless with her eating and weight gain. At one point, Daphne trips and falls on the floor and isn't able to get back up on her own because of her new weight. When Marty finds out, his first reaction is to panic and search for Eddie, worrying Daphne has crushed him. And in a wild comedy of errors involving Frasier's date — who he doesn't know is his co-worker's wife — we discover Daphne's hidden pastries and candy all over the apartment, including inside books and decorations.

The cringe doesn't end with "Hungry Heart." Daphne goes to a recovery spa where she loses her excess weight, and in "Daphne's Return," one of the "gifts" the Cranes give her to celebrate her weight loss is a plastic pig that snorts loudly every time Daphne opens the fridge. 

Frasier bungles the Dr. Mary situation

When Roz goes on vacation in Season 7's "Something about Dr. Mary," it opens the doors for a premise that's one of the cringiest of the cringiest. Roz is replaced by the temporary hire Mary (Kim Coles). Fresh from training and in a brand new career, Mary is timid about speaking on the air at first. When Frasier tells her to feel free to chime in, the proverbial Pandora's Box is opened. Mary soon dominates the show. She interrupts Frasier all the time, always to give the type of advice that Frasier would never dole out himself.

It soon becomes clear that, as loathe as he is to admit it, Frasier doesn't want to confront Mary about what she's doing because she's Black. When Niles talks to him about it and attempts to role-play such a confrontation — with Niles playing Frasier and Frasier playing Mary — Frasier goes into a mock Black voice. Among other things, he yells, "So you want me to stay in my place, massah?" It's pretty painful to watch, and it doesn't really get any better. 

Things work out in the end, of course. Frasier eventually does confront Mary, who doesn't appear to harbor an ounce of anger toward Frasier, mainly because she's been offered her own show. Interestingly, while the episode revolves around Frasier's frustration with his show being changed, he never seems to deal with the reality that, while Mary was on board, it became more successful.

Frasier isn't very nice to Julia Sweeney

In the final season of "Frasier," Julia Sweeney guest stars as Ann, an insurance claims adjustor that Roz sets up with Frasier. In "The Placeholder," Roz knows things won't work out between Ann and Frasier, but she acts as matchmaker anyway to keep Frasier's dating skills from wasting away. Frasier wants no part of it at first, but after an awkward night of being the fifth wheel at a couples' dinner and another night of cat-sitting that makes him feel like an old maid, he's willing to take the plunge. 

Along with just the cringey notion of dating someone as a placeholder, Frasier's treatment of Ann doesn't make him appear to be much of a gentleman. He's clearly annoyed by Ann right away and isn't looking forward to the rest of the evening. When Ann heads to the restroom, Frasier's co-worker, Kenny (Tom McGowan), shows up with his lovely cousin, Liz Wright (Krista Allen) — making her, literally, "Miss Right." Frasier lies to them, saying his dinner with Ann is just business, and he spends the rest of the date trying to ditch Ann so he can take his shot with Liz. 

Of course, both Ann and Liz eventually figure out what Frasier's up to, and he gets the public shaming he deserves, though absurdly, Ann still wants to meet him for coffee the next morning.

Frasier does a little too much listening

Frasier uses the line "I'm listening" when he takes calls on his radio show. This episode from Season 11 uses the line for its title, and sees the good doctor eavesdrop at all the wrong times. Early in the episode, he accidentally overhears Wendie Malick's Ronee — Marty's new love interest — making a date with another man on the phone. Later, he winds up hiding in the kitchen when Marty confronts Ronee about the date.

But without a doubt, the most cringey snooping comes at the end of the episode. Frasier is searching Ronee's car for a lost money clip when she and Marty show up, appearing to be on the brink of breaking up. Frasier hides in the back seat and listens to them make up and, eventually, agree to date each other exclusively. For a second, it looks like Frasier will get a chance to escape when the couple starts to head upstairs, but then Ronee has a "better idea" about driving to a secluded beach so she and Marty can "steam up the windows." Frasier throws himself down on the back seat before either of them can spot him and, we can only assume, unwillingly goes along for the ride where he's likely forced to know much more about his father's love life than he ever wanted to.

Frasier steals a trinket from an elderly neighbor

As a show reaches its final season, it's only natural for ideas to run dry. Such is the case with "Frasier" Season 11. In Episode 17, "Coots and Ladders," Frasier recounts his bad day in a series of flashbacks while Niles anticipates a crime Frasier has admitted to committing. Although it's not exactly the most entertaining plotline of the series, one moment in particular will make you cringe. 

After a kleptomaniac calls into his radio show and a beautiful woman turns down his advances, Frasier finds himself helping his elderly neighbor change her lightbulb. When he learns the 83-year-old woman is still successfully dating, Frasier's bitterness comes to a boiling point, and he pockets one of the woman's trinkets. Frasier's over-the-top reaction is played for laughs as he and Niles try to return the item. But it's not as funny when you remember he's a grown, educated man taking advantage of a trusting elder. The cringiest part of all arrives when Frasier and Niles stumble into the woman's surprise birthday party and have to talk their way out of Frasier's theft. They go through many hoops trying to return the item without anyone noticing. Thankfully, they succeed — but we're left cringing at the two foolish Crane brothers.

Roz's cousin makes everyone uncomfortable

A young Zooey Deschanel guest stars as Roz's wild and opinionated cousin Jen in Season 10's "Kissing Cousin." She embodies the cynical 20-something with just the right amount of cringe and attitude. Jen isn't afraid to speak her mind, even when it comes to disagreeing with Frasier about his beloved Freud. Listening to her go off on tangents about how everyone and everything is inferior to her unique tastes is intensely cringey. Even Roz gets sick of her constant partying and tendency to put her down for getting old. 

Everyone feels alienated by Jen's behavior — except for a certain station manager. Kenny feels inspired by Jen's spontaneous and carefree view of the world. It's sweet to see Kenny gain confidence from Jen's words, but watching them partake in a make-out session is significantly less so. Clearly, this is where the episode gets its title from. Overall, it probably would be better off without the creepy gag.

Frasier and Madeline's pillow talk

Frasier has a chaotic dating life. The snooty, middle-aged psychiatrist can't seem to hold down a woman for the life of him. Although he doesn't have much luck with the ladies, he still hasn't given up hope. But sometimes, that doesn't feel like a virtue: Many of Frasier's most cringe-worthy moments are the result of him trying to impress women. We'll give him an A for his mostly respectful effort, but we will not forgive the cringey dirty talk between him and his new girlfriend, Madeline (JoBeth Williams). 

In Season 2's "Adventures in Paradise: Part 1," Frasier and Madeline take a romantic trip to Bora Bora. He soon finds out they've booked a room next to his ex-wife and her new lover, which is awful enough on its own. But surprisingly, it doesn't come close to the moment the couple hops in bed together and indulges in the worst kind of foreplay. Frasier exclaims, "I'm sweating like the pig that knows he's dinner." When Madeline leaves to freshen up, Frasier makes everything worse with a seductive "oink." Madeline might be into the strange pig reference, but for everyone else, it's become a suppressed nightmare.

Daphne looks through a patient's confidential file

Oh, Daphne. It was only a matter of time before you made "Frasier" fans cringe. Throughout the show, Niles and Daphne experience a will-they-won't-they relationship, with Daphne oblivious to Niles' true feelings. They finally make things official at the end of Season 8, which leads to Season 9's "The First Temptation of Daphne." Still new in their relationship, Daphne feels a tinge of jealousy and uncertainty when Niles' new patient is revealed to have a crush on him. Instead of trusting Niles to treat this patient, she goes behind his back and looks through the patient's confidential medical file. 

Not only is it cringe-inducing to witness her insecurities and lack of boundaries, it's genuinely shocking: What Daphne does is a crime. We can't even say that she learns her lesson, because after coming clean, she faces no consequences for her actions. Instead, she and Niles make up, and the patient is left exploited.

Frasier and Niles refuse to accept tickets in the cancellation line

We love the Crane brothers for their intellectual interests and expensive tastes (when they're not putting others down because of them, anyway). But when the two get tickets to see the hottest play in town, their excitement quickly fades after they realize the tickets don't work, forcing them to scrounge at the last minute. They'll do whatever it takes to maintain their high-class social standing — except wait in the cancellation line like a couple of peasants. 

Their superiority complexes are often charming, but in this case, they lean towards cringe. It's uncomfortable to watch Frasier and Niles desperately try to conceal their lack of prestige. Everyone wants to impress their friends every once in a while, but it's in the Crane brothers' nature to take things too far. In reality, it's likely their friends and the rest of high society couldn't care less about Frasier and Niles' ticket status.

Frasier and Niles insult their father at his favorite diner

Frasier and Niles don't have the best relationship with their father, Martin. Their combative dynamic is first introduced in the pilot episode, when Frasier agrees to let his injured father move in with him. Although they learn to make it work, their distinctly oppositional personalities constantly clash. This remains true in Season 1's "Dinner at Eight." 

After taking Martin to a fancy restaurant that's obviously out of his comfort zone, Martin treats his boys to his own favorite restaurant. Frasier and Niles can't help but rag on the place for its lower-class status. They're outright offended by the casual waitstaff and steak-and-potato offerings. Despite Martin's attempts to humble his sons, they don't let up on their not-so-subtle insults. Martin is forced to leave the situation. Instead of apologizing, Frasier and Niles make it their mission to finish their food in their father's honor. They even go as far as staying after closing, forcing the waitstaff to wait for them to finish the food they clearly despise. The entire affair is enough to make anyone cringe.

Frasier harasses someone for giving his show a bad review

Frasier's AM radio show is one of his greatest successes. He feels good about himself when he helps the people of Seattle with their problems, and is constantly recognized for his stardom. He's put up on such a high pedestal, in fact, that when a stranger from the radio station's focus group gives his show negative feedback in Season 3's "The Focus Group," Frasier goes out of his way to harass the innocent man. 

Manu is a newsstand owner who does nothing more than express his opinion when asked for it. He simply states, "I don't like it." It's a fair assessment, but Frasier gets fixated on it. He goes out of his way to track down Manu to better understand why he said what he said. Manu is a good guy, and he feels betrayed by the radio station for lying to him about the hosts listening in. The last thing he wants to do is talk poorly about someone else. In his search for answers, Frasier ends up burning down Manu's newsstand and livelihood. This lack of empathy and narcissistic behavior makes for a seriously cringe-worthy scene.