Episode reviews for Episode 4.14 - To Kill A Talking Bird
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Number of Reviews: 10
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A solid farce, Dec 11, 2011
Reviewer: Sammy J
from Melbourne, Australia
The layout of Niles' new apartment seems almost tailor-made for
farce (and will indeed hold some of my upcoming favourites, such
as "Daphne Does Dinner"). "To Kill A Talking Bird" is another great
example, with Niles and Frasier each hoping to gain something
important from the evening, with all their hopes ruined by Niles'
new pet bird.
This episode is full of great moments, as Frasier attempts to keep
the guests entertained (and fails), and Niles struggles around in
the kitchen with a bird on his head. There's a delightful moment
near the end when everyone accepts Niles' apology about the
party thus far that feels so natural and warm, making it all the
more amusing when Niles' bird ruins the whole thing.
It's perhaps not one of the series' all-time greatest comedies:
after all, really the central conceit of "keep Niles' secret" is the
basis for the story, and the stakes are never really increased. Yet,
it's another episode that takes David Hyde Pierce's penchant for
physical comedy, and is good for some belly laughs.
I think Frasier hits farce quite well here, Jul 12, 2010
from Liverpool, UK
I can see why this is regarded by many to be a classic episode, but I am not sure why the readers of this forum tend to disagree. I think some of the lines are classic, especially those recommended by the other reviewers, and I think the farcical storyline is brilliant.
Underlying this, Niles' snobbery towards Frasier, including my favorite line about the doorman living in Frasier's building, is an excellent build up towards the younger brother's climactic humiliation.
To Kill a Talking Bird, May 04, 2010
Reviewer: Norm, Jr.
from Somewhere, CA
Yeah, this ones a bit simplistic and easy, but the Fraze writers are so good at maintaining an ironic touch, that it elevates something as dumb as this episode. The pitch of "Niles gets a bird stuck to his head and hilarity ensues" doesn't encourage one, but for the most part, they make it work. Watching our two favorite snobs try and impress a roomful of bigger snobs draws us in (because it's important to them), and disaster elevates it. Chick-mad Frasier is his usual distracted self, half-concerned with Niles reputation, but all the while trying to bed his neighbor. Then even after Niles reveals his predicament to his guests, the show manages to masterfully pay off some great set-ups from earlier (even with something as worn as a quipping cockatoo). A good energy and busy pace make this one a keeper.
Excellent setup, Apr 06, 2010
from NY USA
This is, quite honestly, one of my favorite Frasier episodes (if not my most favorite). Unlike some of the other episodes we've seen, this one is subtle during the setup. The first act is funny on its own, and therefore we don't know we're being set up. And after the setup is completed, he hilarity never stops.
Good one! , Aug 15, 2009
from A, I
I am astounded that this episode ranks so low in the overall list... there are some truly laugh out loud moments in the show, (take your pick, the reaction to Frasier's Churchill story, or Niles's "oh, all right... but if they make fun of me, let it be on your head!") A farce it might very well be, but it's a classic all the same.
Apparently a cockatoo is no match for a duck, May 10, 2009
from Ontario, Canada
I can't disagree more with "Tid". I have to say I completely fail to grasp the meaning of his/her review.
Apparently, Frasier fails in this episode because it uses farce, rather than soap opera, to create a story, and that it uses too much comedy for a good comedy show. Quite a low blow, given that if there is anything "Frasier" can create brilliantly it is poignancy, which is what elevates it beyond just a comedy show.
Or is that poignancy too un-soap-opera-like to be any good?
Completely mind boggling.
Also, saying that a plot is too unFrasier-like because it is too farcical is contradictory. Farce is done almost perfectly on this show (and it is done often), the "almost" being for those few instances that happen far later in the show's run than season 4.
In this episode, I would say the comedy and farce go hand in hand perfectly. It isn't even that unrealistic, given that these days we are used to dogs talking on TV shows.
It would also be nice to point out exactly where the "out of nature" moments are in this episode, because I didn't notice any, although I have no trouble naming other shows where those types of flaws are quite easily noticeable.
The main reason why I loved this episode is because the plot moves along easily and the jokes come quickly and are really funny. Also, it has some of the best visual gags, and this time not only from the main cast, but from the poor bird, too. Which is incidentally also both trivial and comic.
Funny, but no classic, Nov 27, 2008
from SW England
The main review of this episode has it about spot on.
There are many great moments in this : Niles' snobbery ("everyone here has
People, I don't have People - Frasier, will you get the door and be my People?"),
and of course the inimitable sight of the cockatoo on his head.
And yet, and yet ... I found it too farcical, too unrealistic, too un-Frasier-like
to be a real classic. When characters in this wonderful series act slightly out of
their true nature in service to the plot, it does a great disservice to what was
so well established in the first few episodes.
Shows like Friends seem to be able to negotiate the difficulty of constantly
requiring fresh situations, by introducing trivial yet comic elements into the
mix (Joey and Chandler's chairs, the duck and the chick, table football), or by
not fearing to run soap-like storylines that contain pathos and poignancy
rather than 100% comedy all the time. Frasier at its best (Frasier Loves Roz,
Roz's Krantz and Gouldenstein Are Dead) manages to chart these waters with
great success, but falls down where farce is allowed to dominate.
So... a good episode certainly, but no, not a classic.
Another Frasier gem!, Apr 13, 2006
Reviewer: David Sim
from Skelmersdale, Lancashire
I would have loved to have sat in on the meeting when this idea was pitched by the writers. Niles moves in to an exclusive new apartment. He throws a housewarming party for the officious snobs who live there, but his pet bird perches herself to his head, and chaos ensues.
That could have made the producers very uneasy, probably because they would ask questions like how do you get the bird to stay on his head? In another sitcom, this could have become a very tedious experience, but since this is Frasier, it becomes a comedy classic. I'm surprised not more fans have written reviews for this episode, since it's very popular.
The episode begins on a very high note with the final appearance of Niles' canine version of Maris. A pale, scraggly pile of bones, but Niles doesn't see the connection. It's a wonderful moment when Frasier proves his point by placing a pillbox hat on the dog. And Niles finally gets the message. David Hyde Pierce shows his talent for physical comedy here. Niles' body language speaks volumes.
Then the scene changes to the Montana, and we see Niles' posh new apartment. I love the part when Niles introduces Frasier, Martin and Daphne to his cockatoo, Baby:
Niles: You're going to love her. She's very exotic, eats only every other day, and she's so white, she's blue.
Martin: I'm getting worried. That's what he said right before he introduced us to Maris.
Baby is certainly more affectionate than Maris MK2. But she has a disturbing habit of repeating things that people say. I suppose there are times when you can see the plot contrivances clicking into place. You can see some of the plot developments coming a mile off, but because they're so funny, it doesn't really matter.
To Kill a Talking Bird also includes a subplot about Frasier's recent bad luck with women. That all changes when he meets Stephanie, an attractive woman who lives at the Montana. Using Niles' party as an excuse to get to know her, Frasier thinks there might be a future here.
Then comes the inspired second half, when Baby perches on Niles' head, and refuses to budge. It's hilarious the way whenever someone rings the doorbell, and Baby sinks her claws in. Ouch!
It's marvellous fun with Niles having to stay in the kitchen trying to find a variety of different ways to shift Baby. Such as putting a towel over Baby, or even pulling her off. Of course nothing works. The two Crane boys of course are thoughtless with the way they keep saying unflattering things about the guests. Something Baby keeps locked away in her memory!
It doesn't help that one of the guests happens to be a friend of Maris. (It's the bad Elaine) Finally, Niles decides to just come clean. Amazingly, the guests are very understanding. Which quickly takes a nosedive when Baby chooses this moment to make conversation:
Baby: Carol's a lush! Peter's a letch! Stephanie's horny! Cute but stupid!
That final scene is especially funny. I don't know if the bird was actually talking or if it was dubbed by somebody else. But I like to think it was the former. Baby is a real star, and should make other appearances more often. Wouldn't you love to get her and Eddie in a room together?
Another example of well written farce played brilliantly by everyone. It's a pity that Martin, Daphne and Roz get shortchanged in this episode. It would have been interesting to see them get in on the act. But maybe the writers thought there were too many people as it is.
Love Frasier's line at the end too:
Niles: There's no way I could embarrass myself any further.
Frasier: Oh I don't know. Wearing a white bird after Labour Day.
Not to mention the final scene on the end credits.
A true delight from start to finish.
TO KILL A TALKING BIRD, Jun 12, 2005
Reviewer: Cake for Brains
from Manchester, UK
‘To Kill a Talking Bird’ marks the debut writing performance of Jeffrey Richman who would continue to write some terrific ‘Frasier’ episodes. However this episode, although many fans will disagree with me just doesn’t seem to work for me. I think its because it’s a bit unrealistic, farfetched, and the Cockatoo gets all the best lines! David Lee won an Emmy for directing this episode, and I know its regarded as one of the greatest pieces of ‘Frasier’ farce in the whole eleven seasons, but this episode for me is still just about a classic, but by no means the best offering we got in the superb Season 4
The opening scenes are entertaining enough, with the final hilarious appearance of Niles’ canine substitute for Maris. I loved it when he is trying to get Martin to keep her because the Montana (his newly acquired exclusive residence) doesn’t allow cats or dogs.
MARTIN: Then you’re in luck, because I don’t know what the hell this thing is!
Meanwhile Frasier is sick of depressingly unsuccessful dates and takes himself off the market:
FRASIER: Frasier Crane has thumped his last melon
The episode becomes livelier when Niles introduces us to his new building and the new lady in his life, Baby who is a Cockatoo bird. I loved it when Martin was talking to the bird and Frasier quipped ‘I can sense a real battle of wits shaping up here’. The stage is set for subsequent events in the episode here with Martin commenting that the bird was ‘cute but stupid’, etc. Subsequently Niles invites all the new residents of the Montana to a welcoming dinner party, except there’s one problem his bird has firmly secured herself on to her owner’s head. This sight is hilarious: and I particularly liked it every time the doorbell went when Baby screeched madly causing Niles great pain! Frasier also makes a breakthrough on the dating front, and falls for the attractive Montana resident Stephanie.
The dinner party gets underway with Frasier having to entertain on Niles’ behalf because his brother is still confined to the kitchen with a tea towel over his head (!) and the bird is still refusing to move. Things go from bad to worse for Niles as he realises Maris’ best friend has come over (It’s the bad Elaine!) and Frasier wants some time alone with Stephanie (You’re just hoping Stephanie’s as horny as you…)
Of course in the end everything backfires when Niles decides to conquer his embarrassment and face the Montana residents with the bird adamantly situated on his head. This is very funny! However everything goes horribly astray, just as the evening is shaping up to go right for Niles when the bird begins repeating phrases its heard about the guests. ‘Peter’s a letch! Carol’s a lush!’ This promptly forces all the guests to leave, including Stephanie.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: (As Stephanie prepares to go!)
FRASIER: You’ll stay won’t you Stephanie?
BABY: Stephanie’s horny!
STEPHANIE: Is that what you’ve been saying?
FRASIER: No, I’m the horny one – I merely said you were very cute
BABY: Cute but stupid!
In conclusion therefore this episode perfectly demonstrates how excellently ‘Frasier’ does farce, and it was genius how they manages to keep the bird on David Hyde Pierce’ head for so long. However the trouble with this episode is that it’s a bit like ‘The Innkeepers’ – it doesn’t have enough snappy, witty dialogue to balance the equation to establish it as an absolute classic. Nevertheless it is still a highly entertaining superior episode that will keep you laughing from beginning to end.
'To Kill A Talking Bird' review, Jun 12, 2005
from London, UK
One of the great farces of the series, Jeffrey Richman's first script for the show marks the most impressive writing debut since Joe Keenan. This episode is pretty much hilarious from the outset at we see the final appearance of Niles' pathetic canine substitute for Maris, whom he's forced to give up when he moves into his new home at the exclusive Montana building, prompting him to acquire a more suitable companion - a talkative cockatiel called Baby. To celebrate his new home, he throws a dinner party for his new neighbours and all seems to be going to plan until his new pet bird permanently attaches itself to his head causing him to spend most of the evening hidden away in the kitchen leaving Frasier, who would sooner be entertaining his date, to play host. Laugh out loud moments abound here as Niles does everything he can to persuade Baby to remove itself from his head only for things to become even more painful with the bird's reaction to the doorbell. There are also some brilliant lines here; in particular I love one of the guests' reaction to Frasier's poorly received 'Churchill' anecdote. But it's the climax that makes this episode such a classic as no sooner has Niles become brave enough to confront his surprisingly understanding guests with the truth of the situation, the bird begins to repeat some of the more unflattering things which Frasier and Niles have been saying about them. It's cries of 'Peter's a letch', 'Carol's a lush', 'Stephanie's horny' and best of all 'Cute but stupid' are simply hysterical and bring the episode to a gloriously funny close. Brilliant.