Thursday, November 06, 2008

Jane Leeves

Today’s Friday question centers around one of my favorite people in the world. Leave your questions in the comments section.

From Mark Stout:

You haven't talked about Jane Leeves as much as the others. I like the tidbits of character development that the writers tried and seemingly abandoned in the early years. The psychic abilities. And in one episode, I remember Daphne saying she'd be a TV child star until her body went through puberty. And it was never mentioned again.

You’re right, Mark. Jane doesn’t get the full recognition she deserves and in many ways she had the hardest part on the show to play. What made the whole Niles infatuation bit work so well was how hilariously oblivious Daphne was to it. And it’s always tougher to be funny when your character is so “earnest”. I’ve always applauded FRASIER creators Peter Casey/David Lee/David Angell for not making her the stereotypical sassy wise-ass housekeeper. In fact, by making her a physical therapist and not a maid, that alone is worthy of praise.

Jane has fabulous comic timing. Did you know she was originally a regular on THE BENNY HILL SHOW? Later she had a recurring role on MURPHY BROWN and who can ever forget her as Marla the Virgin on “the Contest” episode of SEINFELD? But if you’re a Jane Leeves fan and a guy you owe it to yourself to see the movie TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA. She plays a bisexual in a ménage a trois scene, must fake orgasms and be funny. Any one of those things is worth renting the flick.

Daphne was the hardest character to work into plotlines. Again, if you’re earnest, basically happy, and not ditzy/bitchy/preachy it’s tough. The psychic routine worked as long as it was used sparingly. The obvious trap was that this comic trait would become the sum total of her character. Jane is too good an actress for that. The writers worked hard to give her attitudes and involve her in every story and their diligence paid off in spades. Watch some FRASIER reruns. I’ll bet you say, “Wow, I didn’t realize how good she was.”

One Jane story stands out for me.

It was the first season. There was a scene where Daphne had to play pool. Jane had never played pool in her life so the show hired someone to teach her. The tutor came up to the office after her first session and was somewhat in shock. He said he had never seen anything like it. In one hour she was doing trick shots! But that’s Jane. Anything you asked her to do she could. And given an hour she could do it better than anybody.

Hmmm. I wonder who tutored her on the ménage a trois scene.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic actress, extremely beautiful, loved her as Miles boyfriend on "Murphy Brown", and was glad to see her became the sitcom star she deserved to be on "Frasier". I wonder what she's been up to lately?

Watching Frasier, you just know that was a quintet of actors who loved working together, and it showed.

Anonymous said...

DOH, I mean Miles girlfriend obviously. THAT would have taken some talent :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey look. You were just earnest and not ditzy/bitchy/preachy.

And we liked it. More.

Nat G said...

Jane Leeves lit up "Throb", a two-season non-network sitcom, playing a gal named Blue who worked for a record company. Not an all-time great show, but I have positive memories of it. Would like to see it again; even if it didn't hold up, I'd get to see a young'n'sexy Jane again.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Jane was also cast as Holly in the failed pilot of RED DWARF USA.

Despite the fact that the pilot was the exact same first episode of the UK RED DWARF with a couple of new jokes, it was awful... fucking Craig Bierko sucked the good performances out of everybody else.

That's my take on it, anybody else?

Anonymous said...

By a weird coincidence, I just this minute finished watching the episode in which Daphne was first introduced over on Lifetime; in fact the closing credits are running at this very second. I had just finished posting Tallulah's latest blog entry and clicked over here to see what Ken had put up, and found this. (Now Daphnee's second episode has just started running.)

Jane is superb. I was already nuts about her from MURPHY BROWN when FRASIER began.

She is also a dancer in MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE. On the DVD, she pops up in the making of documentary to point herself out in the big CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN number.

Sephim, I have the first American RED DWARF pilot on tape (They did two.), as well as having the whole British series on DVD, and while the American version is certainly not anywhere near as good as the original, I very much disagree that "fucking Craig Bierko sucked the good performances out of everybody else." (Actually, the idea of "Fucking Craig Bierko" sounds like a very good time to me. I've always found him smoking hot.)

Although extemely different from Craig Charles, I enjoyed him on the show very much. It was the American Rimmer and Cat who sucked the life out of that show. (It was BECKER's Terry Farell who played Cat in the second pilot, which I have not seen.)

As for it being "the exact same first episode of the UK RED DWARF with a couple of new jokes," given that one of the stars is the charater Kryten (Played by Robert Llewellun, the only actor imported from the UK version to repeat his role), who in the original series isn't even introduced until the 7th episode, and didn't become a regular until the 13th, it's actually quite a bit different than the UK pilot, albeit having the same overall story arc. (And Doug Naylor had to fight like crazy to get the script he wrote for it shot, instead of the incredibly bad script the American mob of writers had hashed out.

I will never quite understand the attitude: "We LOVE this English show so much, we want it here, but first we have to 'fix' it by making crap out of the script."

But neither Bierko nor Jane Leeves was what was wrong with it. And be grateful someone sucked the life from it, because if the American RED DWARF had been a success, Jane would not have been available for FRASIER.

Anonymous said...

Jane Leeves is exceptional.
Beautiful. Talented. Intelligent. Funny.

Why must we be force fed the likes of Brooke Shields in Lipstick Jungle? And the obnoxious redhead on Private Practice.

Seriously. Who the f-ck makes these lost-cause casting decisions.

More Jane Leeves, please.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Are we "force fed the likes of Brooke Shields in Lipstick Jungle? And the obnoxious redhead on Private Practice."?

I'm not, via the simple tactic of never watching either show. No one yet has broken into my apartment and forced me at gun point to watch either of those shows. In fact, I don't know who you mean by "the obnoxious redhead on Private Practice" because I haven't seen it. And given how enormously appealing I find Taye Diggs (Taye, call me. I'll show you what being "Wicked" really is.), never switching PP on wasn't easy, but I was so sick of Grey's Anatomy, that I stopped watching it altogether last season, so the last thing I would watch would be a spin-off.

But my point is, no one forces you to watch any of that crap, unless you're a TV critic.

On the other hand, it's been a long time since I've gone a whole week without seeing Jane Leeves in something, albeit, usually FRASIER repeats.

Cheers darling.

Anonymous said...

I agree with almost everything you say about the terrific Jane Leeves -- Daphne is a wonderful character, perfectly played. [And I'm definitely going to take another look at TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. tonight.] I am curious about something, however. Jane receives second-billing on the show from the very beginning. This is not undeserved, but was she really that much more prominent in the business than David Hyde-Pierce and Peri Gilpin at that time? [I understand why John Mahoney receives the "and" billing.]

Anonymous said...


Thank you for answering my question. The timing was good. I too saw the first episode last night on Lifetime.

Anonymous said...

I always thought the whole psychic thing was a set up for that one great bit during Lilith's first appearance. Daphne had a severe headache, and when she met Lilith she was perfectly gracious, shook hands and walked away saying "I touched that woman's hand and lost all feeling in me right arm". Then the closing shot cut between Daphne on the couch with an icepack and a plane taking off, and Daphne slowly recovering as Lilith left Seattle air-space. I thought it was hilarious.

The Last Ephor said...

Why on earth did they do the "Fat Daphne" story arc?

Unknown said...

@Duffy: because Jane Leeves had a baby in real life.

@Ken: there's another accent in "ménage à trois" on the "a".

Sorry about this but I really wanted to be able to say that I taught you something about the ménage à trois *snicker*

Anonymous said...

Nat G, I too came here to mention Throb, a show my sister and I loved way back when. (It also had an a cappella theme song by The Nylons, which may be my first introduction to the genre.) When Leeves showed up on Murphy Brown, my sister and I were thrilled to see Blue again. Not the world's greatest show, but Leeves was the reason to watch it.

Anonymous said...

she's soon to appear in The Starter Wife. Yeah.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Live and Die in LA, I was in that flick too. I was an actor for twenty years before I transitioned into writing. The Suicide bomber on the roof in the beginning of the move who gets yanked off the roof, that's me. I have some William Friedkin stories and they're not pleasent. I hope Jane had a better time on that movie than I did.

Tim W. said...

" I had just finished posting Tallulah's latest blog entry..."

And D.McEwan pulls back the curtain to reveal...

By the way, my verification word was `ression'. You know it's bad when they have to leave out the c and e due to budgetary restraints.

Anonymous said...

"Hmmm. I wonder who tutored her on the ménage a trois scene."

"Folks are dumb,
Where I cum from,
They ain't had any larnin',
Still we're happy as can be,
Doin' what cums natch'erlly."
- Irving Berlin, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN

"'I had just finished posting Tallulah's latest blog entry...'

And D.McEwan pulls back the curtain to reveal..."

Given my name on the cover and title page of her autobiography, and in the copyright notice on her blog, that curtain is pretty transluscent. You'd see Mrs. Bates (or Betsy Palmer) coming with her butcher knife.

But pay no attention to the man behind that curtain. And get this little mutt outta here.

Anonymous said...

was she one of the fast-motion, underwear wearing chasers on Benny Hill? One of the many unsung heroes...

Anonymous said...

Wait, was she naked in "To Live and Die in LA"? I don't want to rent it and find out the director found creative ways to get around it.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Why on earth did they do the "Fat Daphne" story arc?

Leeves was pregnant, hence the weight gain. While the arc got a bit slapstick toward the end, I thought the episode where she returns was really insightful in addressing that Niles's fantasy-Daphne was still overwhelming the real-Daphne. That's one of my favorite episodes of the entire run.

(It also has one of the best toss-off lines, when Frasier decides to take Martin to "the steakhouse" for dinner: "Ah, what the hell. Blood's just been flying through my arteries lately."

lorna said...

i love daphne moon and it's just overwhelming. i can't put her into words so i watch frasier over and over and over....sometimes, i no longer watch because i know all the dialogues and scenes--but i turn on my player to hear her voice and i look up to see her face.

her speaking voice sounds to me as sarah's voice when she is not singing. i also love sarah brightman but if i want a 'real,' 'ref-freshing' version of sarah brightman i turn to jane leeves--i think jane leeves is the natural, unwigged, unmade-up sarah brightman. which means that jane leeves could be transformed into sarah brightman--only jane has smaller breasts.

thanks for this blog--this is the first time i have put daphne into words.