News Declan Lynch

Monday 24 October 2016

For every Frasier sent to bedevil an unfortunate Marty, along comes a Niles

Published 01/05/2016 | 02:30

‘Europe’s been disgracing itself, then somehow we’re offered a vision that is actually worse'. Cartoon: Jim Cogan
‘Europe’s been disgracing itself, then somehow we’re offered a vision that is actually worse'. Cartoon: Jim Cogan

When Frasier was good, it had at its core, one brilliant creative decision. In Frasier Crane himself, it had the perfect prig, a deeply anal-retentive person who was redeemed by his essential good-heartedness. So the obvious thing would have been to install another main character who could play a regular guy, an Oscar to his Felix, which in a way was accomplished with Marty, the unfortunate father who had been doomed to live with Frasier and to endure all these pomposities.

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But the stroke of brilliance, was Niles. To introduce a brother who was even more priggish than Frasier, even more anal-retentive, a Felix to Frasier's Oscar, was an act of almost reckless bravery. Yet it was the making of the show.

Now poor Marty was up against the two of them, the double-Felix. And when it was good, you'd have Niles speaking wistfully about this little mountain village in Italy in which there is a great and legendary cobbler, whose beautifully made shoes are celebrated by all the townspeople. To which the bullshit-detector Roz responds, "Gee, there's a place that needs a bowling alley."

Yes it was very good, and then they dumbed it down, taking a lot of the madness out of Niles and changing him into a relatively normal human being, with feelings, and after that it was not very good.

Yet the excellence of the original idea is still admirable, and it keeps coming to mind these days as we try to absorb the various monstrosities that are being offered to us by the ruling classes of Europe and the United States.

You think there can be nothing worse than 'Europe', and then they produce Brexit. You think that Hillary Clinton is a bit hard on the nerves, and here comes Donald Trump. For every Frasier there's a Niles.

It's as if the great Western powers have arranged it thus, that they are displaying their dark genius in the service of the only thing that matters to them, which is self-preservation. That they are giving us the old double-Felix.

'Europe', to any reasonable person, has become reprehensible. It has been setting the gold standard in fat-cattery, it is obscenely self-regarding, and in its treatment of Greece it showed that it had finally lost whatever soul it had.

Where once it had been directed by people who had some vision of the world beyond that of simply doing whatever was best for corporations, now it showed that it had abandoned any such vision. That like the political class in general in these times, it sees itself merely as a facilitator, enabling the transfer of power to the financial services sector.

Europe has been disgracing itself again and again, and then, somehow, astoundingly, we are offered a vision of something that is actually worse. Brexit brings together just about all the worst elements in British society, past, present and future. The most civilised of them is Boris Johnson, the sort of fellow who is regarded by political correspondents as a bit of a "character", but by anyone who has got a life as just a tedious upper-class pillock.

There are grotesques such as Nigel Farage, on whom comment is superfluous, and Nigel Lawson, one of Thatcher's chancellors, "speaking from his home in France".

We never saw it coming, but it looks like these are the men who will save 'Europe'. We never imagined that in our time we would see anything more unpleasant than the massed battalions of the Eurocrats, gorging themselves incessantly on the fruits of other peoples' labours, and then the Brexit crowd appeared. And so extreme is the nature of their dysfunction, we are forced to recalibrate.

In Washington too, they were up against it. Getting Hillary Clinton elected was going to be a tough ask. She's been around so long, she is massively target-rich. She's also a woman, and apparently focus groups have found that most voters don't like women.

Naturally, it never occurs to them for a moment that the people might be offered something better, but one thing is for sure - they can be offered something a hell of a lot worse.

Enter Donald Trump, the soul brother of the Brexit lads, the fellow who says what he likes and who doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks about it, which is not even an admirable quality in one's taxi-driver, let alone in the future king of the world.

Yes it's Trump , who immediately becomes the ultimate guarantor of the American status quo for the next four years at least. When Hillary was facing someone better - Obama -she lost. Now that she will be facing someone much, much worse, she can win.

Meanwhile in the high-class eating houses of 'Europe', they are echoing a line favoured by Irish republicans and members of the underworld in general - "if you think we're bad, wait till you see what's coming behind us". Wait till you see what Boris and the various Nigels and the Trumpster are bringing to the party.

Or maybe not. Because when they put it like that, we become like old Marty Crane, who realises that after spending some time in the company of Niles, he is starting to see Frasier as a solid enough citizen after all, regardless of everything that is wrong with him.

Not exactly a stand-up guy, but he'll do.

Sunday Independent

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