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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 Frasier's final season, 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 Frasier's final season, 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

Frasier's 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 Frasier'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!"

He messes up a relationship by acting like a creeper

In Frasier's 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.

In season 8, 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. 

The way Frasier handles the Dr. Mary situation is pretty cringey

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 Frasier's final season, 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.

In one episode, Frasier takes his 'I'm listening' slogan to cringeworthy levels

Frasier uses the line "I'm listening" when he takes calls on his radio show, and this episode from season 11 uses the line for its title when the good doctor winds up eavesdropping 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.