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Frasier Fans All Agree That This Episode Was Way Over-The-Top

For as intelligent as its humor could be, "Frasier" relied on deceptively simple plot structures. Most often, they involved Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), a man who put untold amounts of effort into building his life into something fastidiously refined, flummoxed by the coarse reality of the outside world. At its core, "Frasier" is a comedy of manners, a witty satirization of the affectations adopted by the well-heeled and well-to-do, normally building toward a farcical climax (via Britannica).

This is particularly interesting given that, as Kate and Joseph Darowski write in "Frasier: A Cultural History," creators David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee had to tinker with the more broadly written Frasier of "Cheers" to get the relatively grounded Frasier of "Frasier." The characters around him – from Niles (David Hyde Pierce) to Daphne (Jane Leeves), from Martin (John Mahoney) to Roz (Peri Gilpin) — were more deliberately designed to unleash hijinx, which Frasier would react to.

There are plenty of exceptions, of course. No show can cling too hard to its formula if it is going to stay fresh. Still, one of the risks of farce is that it walks a fine line of believability. When the balance isn't right, fans are bound to take notice. Evidently, one episode of "Frasier" crosses this line.

Fans think Wheels of Fortune jumps the shark

"Wheels of Fortune always bugged me, from a storytelling perspective," wrote u/optimusHerb on the r/Frasier subreddit. 

Released as Season 9, Episode 16, "Wheels of Fortune" came toward the end of the show's run on NBC. The episode sees the Crane clan visited by Blaine Sternin (Michael Keaton). Blaine, as his last name denotes, is the half-brother of Frasier's ex-wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth). He is also a con man who has bilked many people, including Frasier, out of large sums of money and an 18th-century salt-shaker. In this particular episode, however, Blaine shows up in a wheelchair, saying that an accident has made him a man of God, and that he would like the Cranes to come to one of his sermons in Seattle.

Frasier bluntly doesn't buy Blaine's apparent change of heart. However, everyone else accepts Blaine's story as scripture, driving Frasier to make a fool of himself at Blaine's sermon. Frasier makes sincere and humble amends in the form of a large cash donation to Blaine's ministry, only to discover in the episode's final seconds that, once again, Blaine was conning him the whole time. He even manages to abscond with Frasier's antique salt-shaker a second time.

So, what exactly bugs "Frasier" fans about this entry in the series?

Wheels of Fortune contains several inconsistencies

Although "Wheels of Fortune" isn't the one episode that "Frasier" fans always skip over on a rewatch, it also has its fair share of critics.

The original Reddit post from u/optimusHerb asked how it was that Blaine was able to convince so many followers to come to his Seattle sermon in the first place, implying that he was playing a very long con. Other commenters pointed to some bigger inconsistencies regarding character. Whereas the typical formula of "Frasier" is that of a grounded protagonist swimming in a sea of zany, "Wheels of Fortune" seems to reverse it. This seemed a bit incredible to some fans.

"That whole episode went a little bit off the rails in my opinion," wrote u/asotranq. "Everybody else around Frasier was gullible to the point that you can tell that it was for the sake of the plot, and not really true to the characters." Other comments, like one from u/lolabarks, argued that, at the very least, Frasier's former police detective father Martin should not have fallen for it. Additionally, others pointed out that, up until "Wheels of Fortune," nobody in the Crane family had shown any interest in going to church.

Notably, looking back, even one of the episode's writers didn't think it worked. In a post on his blog, writer Ken Levine (who co-wrote "Wheels of Fortune" with David Isaacs) wrote that he was less than satisfied with the final result. Interestingly, the writer noted that he disagreed with Michael Keaton's portrayal of Blaine. Meanwhile, the post is filled with comments who love Keaton as huckster Blaine. Go figure.