Frasier - The Complete Fourth Season Studio: Paramount Year: 1996 - 1997 Rated: NR Length: 9 Hours, 13 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Closed Captioned Special Features: None Estimated Street Price: $30, USD Release Date: February 1, 2005 Of course, it’s only a matter of opinion, but I think Frasier, especially in its earlier years, was consistently the best written and wittiest sitcom on television in its day. That opinion, though, seems to be widely shared - what with countless Emmys, People’s Choice and Critics awards over the years. The strength of the show is the chemistry between the cast members. Frasier and Niles have obvious chemistry as the snooty brother psychologists, but the chemistry runs through the rest of the characters as well - Martin, Daphne, Roz and Bulldog... and of course, Eddie. It is an entirely believable dysfunctional group. The chemistry is backed by solid and smart writing that doesn’t always go for the obvious joke... and the jokes usually work on multiple levels, appealing to more people. I can only imagine the atmosphere in the writers meetings for this show! Season four opens in fine form with “The Two Mrs. Cranes.” One could say that the episode, like so many, is typical farce - but farce is what Frasier delivers like no other. In this episode, each of the Crane family must play the role of another - Niles is Daphne’s husband, Roz is Maris who is married to Frasier... As usual, the situation is set up in an entirely believable way before it spins wildly out of control. The cast are as much masters of delivery of this farce as the writers are masters of creating it. “Mixed Doubles” finds Niles missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to finally express his feelings for Daphne. Just as he is about to open up, Daphne reveals she has found a new man - but the man is nothing short of a Niles clone. This is one of the many episodes that not only has great humor, but it is bittersweet as well. There isn’t an unfunny episode in the lot. And it’s nice that the show dares to end the season on a bit of a down note, once again bittersweet, as Frasier is lonely - searching for a new love in “Odd Man Out.” Of course, there is a tease... a glimmer of hope at the end. Season four also features a hilarious Thanksgiving themed episode featuring Lilith. Season four shows no loss of steam in the characters or writing. Rest assured, there are several more entertaining seasons of Frasier yet to come on DVD. The Transfer The Video for Frasier season four is quite good, following up the first three seasons with similar qualities. Contrast is high, with good definition in the whites as well as in the shadows. The picture is adequately sharp. Color saturation is very nice. I didn’t notice any compression artifacts in the half dozen random episodes that I screened for this review. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. Frequency response is good. Dialog sounds great - consistently clean, clear and broad in range. Music sounds excellent, with good bass response. Surrounds are used primarily for music reverb and laugh track. This sounds as good as one would expect a TV sitcom to sound. Special Features Paramount has eliminated special features from the Frasier and Cheers season sets. The special features included in earlier seasons were fluff, anyway - so there in no great loss. The set does have previews for other Paramount TV on DVD on disc one. These are available via the menu navigation - but they are also (unfortunately) included as forced previews. Final Thoughts Frasier is an outstanding sitcom, considerably smarter than most others on tv - including its progenitor, Cheers. Great farce. Great laughs. This set is a must for fans - even without extras. The transfers are pretty much identical to previous season releases.