Back in the 1990s, few television shows were as popular as NBC’s FRASIER. Starring Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves, and Perri Gilpin, the critically-acclaimed sitcom — itself a spin-off of the wildly popular sitcom CHEERS — ran for an impressive 11 seasons, garnering a whopping 37 Emmy awards, and was the first show to win Outstanding Comedy Series five years running. FRASIER’s episodes have stood the test of time, and still remain a rerun favorite — especially the Season 5 show titled “The Ski Lodge,” guest-starring GENERAL HOSPITAL’s James Patrick Stuart (Valentine).
The classic 1998 episode — ranked the series’ funniest by IMDb — is set not at Frasier’s radio show or swanky Seattle apartment, but rather at a rustic mountain cabin where Frasier, his brother Niles, dad Martin and his caregiver Daphne, and her friend Annie, escape for a weekend getaway. GH‘s Stuart was hired to play snooty gay French ski instructor Guy for the episode, which ended in one of the series’ most classic farces thanks to multiple romantic misunderstandings. In a bed-hopping masterpiece, Frasier chased Annie, Annie chased Niles, Niles chased not-so-secret-crush Daphne, Daphne chased Guy, and Guy chased Niles.
In a roundtable discussion with Yahoo! TV, Stuart joined Pierce (who played Niles), Leeves (who played Daphne), writer Joe Keenan, and director/co-creator David Lee to break down the filming of “The Ski Lodge” and discuss the behind-the-scenes antics behind that particular episode. “I remember being backstage as the show started,” Stuart recalled. “I was waiting to make my entrance. I’m hearing Kelsey and Jane just killing it. The laughs were so huge. I remember looking down at my feet and thinking, ‘I’m gonna remember this moment for the rest of my life,’ because I can tell what is about to happen.”
The audience laughs during “The Ski Lodge” were so grand, that they had to be trimmed down to fit within the episode’s time constraint. What made the episode so funny for the live studio audience was that while they were aware that Niles who was in the midst of a divorce, was in love with Daphne, Guy had no clue.
“I insinuate that Daphne is interested in Annie, but [Niles is] not picking up on that — he thinks I’m talking about Daphne’s interest in him,” explained Stuart. “The audience understands that I am misunderstanding what he is saying, and the laugh was so big, there’s no way you could have possibly used that in a TV show.”
It was because of his FRASIER guest spot that Stuart went on to get roles on Nathan Lane’s ENCORE! ENCORE!, Grammer’s sitcom BACK TO YOU, and playing Leeves’ beau on HOT IN CLEVELAND. “I’ve been in that soundstage many times since, actually,” he shared, “and when I go in there and it’s completely empty and there’s not even any bleachers, I always find my way over to that spot where I was standing waiting for my entrance and have a quiet moment of gratitude.”
You can read the cast’s full recollection about the classic episode here.