In Classic Gay TV, Louis Peitzman looks at classic and new-classic gay-themed episodes of television. Was this a major step forward in LGBT representation or a cringeworthy relic of the past?
Episode: “The Matchmaker” (Season 2, episode 3)
Original Air Date: October 4, 1994
Plot Points: When Daphne reveals that she’s lonely, Frasier decides to play matchmaker and embarks on a manhunt (yes, really) on her behalf. His target ends up being Tom Duran, the new station manager. What Frasier doesn’t realize is that Tom’s gay, so while Frasier thinks he’s inviting Tom over to set him up with Daphne, Tom thinks Frasier’s inviting him over for a date.
Once Tom shows up, Frasier says all the wrong things, making inadvertently flirty comments about showing Tom his bedroom and getting some alone time. Meanwhile, Daphne is smitten, but she has no idea her date couldn’t possibly be interested. It’s only when Tom confronts Niles with, “Do you have some problem with me dating your brother?” that the truth begins to come out.
Eventually Niles tells Frasier the truth. At first, he’s shocked: how could Tom think he was gay. Then he remembers that he’s Frasier. Daphne overhears and runs off upset, but Frasier is able to let Tom down easy. Frasier explains that he never even considered that Tom might be gay — to which Tom counters, he never even considered that Frasier could be straight.
What Makes It Gay: In many ways, Frasier had a queer sensibility from the start. Frasier and Niles are undoubtedly the most effeminate straight characters TV has given us, but before “The Matchmaker” that was always just sort of ignored. This episode brings the subtext out into the forefront, and we’re able to see why anyone unfamiliar with the character of Frasier would instantly assume that he was playing for our team.
How Does It Hold Up: The truly amazing thing about “The Matchmaker” is how casually everyone handles the confusion. OK, Frasier’s not thrilled about coming across gay, but he’s not horrified either. And while Tom’s advances are played for laughs, he’s not the butt of the jokes. Instead, Frasier’s the idiot for ignoring the obvious and leading his guest on. “The Matchmaker” earned a GLAAD Media Award for its lighthearted, inoffensive tone.
Tom: “It’s a hell of a view.”
Frasier: “It’s even better from the bedroom.”
“What on earth could have made him think that I was interested in him? All I did was ask him if he was attached, and then we talked about the theater and men’s fashions and oh, my God.” (Frasier)
Frasier: “Don’t take this wrong, but it never even occurred to me that you might be gay.”
Tom: “Well, it never even occurred to me that you might be straight.”
Tom: “Does this mean your dad’s not gay either?”
Frasier: “No, no, Dad’s not gay.”
Tom: “But Niles. Come on.”
Louis Peitzman is a freelance writer in Los Angeles, spending most of his time writing jokes for WitStream, TV recaps for Vulture, and melodramatic essays for your attention. He’s a little bit Dorothy, a little bit Blanche. You can follow him on Twitter.