‘Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce Reflects on the Time Niles Broke Bad for the Holidays
Fussbudget, snow and occasional ditherer, yes, but rebel? Fans of the NBC classic Frasier (1993–2004) know that descriptor does not apply to Dr. Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce), brother of Seattle radio psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). But in “High Holidays,” which aired December 9, 2003, during the sitcom’s final season, the younger Crane is itching to act out at Christmastime.
“There is the most extreme physical comedy and absurdity all packed in a single episode,” says Pierce, who won four Emmys for his role. “I think that’s a hallmark of our show — that both in the writing and in the acting, nothing was too big and nothing was too small.”
The reason for the ridiculousness in the December 21st episode: Niles is dismayed to learn from dad Martin (the late John Mahoney) that he was “one of those good kids.” And since he and wife Daphne (Jane Leeves) are expecting a baby, “Niles feels this is part of the preparation of being a dad — to understand this period of rebellion,” Pierce says. “He’s determined to rebel before it’s too late.”
He solicits a pot brownie from Frasier’s coworker Roz (Peri Gilpin) and plans for “one act of utter devil-may-care, crotch-grabbing brazenness.” In a great bit, he’s still holding the baked good in Café Nervosa when two cops enter — and he slinks to the exit. “He’s simultaneously having a panic attack and trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible in the most conspicuous way possible,” Pierce recalls, chuckling. “It took me completely by surprise [while rewatching the episode]. I don’t usually laugh at my own stuff, but that really made me laugh hard.”
An unknowing Martin ends up eating the brownie, then replaces it with a noncannabis one — so while Niles thinks he’s “as high as the Himalayas,” Martin is the one with the munchies. Pretending to be stoned was easy, Pierce says, because “acting with John Mahoney was always a trip!” In fact, the actor’s 11-season trip on Frasier brings nothing but fond memories. “Over the years, we’ve heard from people about what a tonic the show is. I just knew how happy I was and how happy we all were to be working together.” And now his gift is our gift!
Frasier, Monday, December 21, 8:30/7:30c, Cozi TV; also streams on Hulu