Bebe Glazer is The Best TV Villain Ever, I Will Not Be Taking Questions
Bebe Glazer is the greatest TV villain of all time.
Look, I’ve made my love for Frasier known on this blog more times than anyone asked for, but lately, I’ve been re-watching my ultimate comfort show again, and I’ve been struck with the great and serious urge to talk about Bebe Glazer, Frasier’s agent, as played by Harriet Samson Harris, and why she’s, simply and truly and utterly and without a doubt, pretty much my favourite TV villain ever.
There are so many well-observed and gloriously-realized characters in Frasier that sometimes, you have to take a step back to really admire the sheer level of writing and performance that’s going on here. But if there’s one thing that I look forward to in nearly every season of this show, it’s the return of Bebe more than anything else (she appears in about one episode a season, excluding six and eight).
Frasier is a show with so much heart – it’s one of the reasons that it’s so eminently re-watchable, the depth and sweetness and humanity that ties it’s characters together. And it’s that which makes Bebe stand out as much as she does. She’s a full-blown amoral monster, completely willing to do whatever it takes to get her clients a little more cash or a little more notoriety, and the way that Samson Harris imbues those things with such glee just makes her all the more evil by comparison. A lot of Frasier as a show is hand-wringing over moral conundrums, but Bebe? Bebe’s here to make her money and win the publicity game, and she’s going to have a great time doing it. The best villains are the ones that enjoy every second of what they’re doing, and Bebe loves her job. She revels in her evil, has no qualms about her cruelty – she’d do it all again, dammit, just to make you a star, darling.
But more than that, I think that Harriet Samson Harris is one of the actors who brings out the very best in Kelsey Grammer. Grammer has mentioned a few times that he draws on various inspirations for certain aspects of the Frasier character, one of them being Bette Davis; the show’s trademark escalation invites a certain level of melodrama from his performance, and channelling Davis allows Frasier to match the madness that happens around him. Her immorality matched with Frasier’s attempts to do the right thing always take things up to eleven, a constant narrative tension drawing out the most over-the-top and hysterical version of both characters. Samson Harris, and Bebe Glazer as a character, absolutely rise to meet the level of outright drama that Grammer brings to his beloved character in a way no other recurring star does. There’s an old-Hollywood-ness to both her character and the performance that bring out Grammer’s best Bette Davis, and seeing the two of them play off of each other like something between a screwball comedy and a simmering 30s potboiler is truly a damn delight.
Frasier as a show is home to a myriad of magical creations, but Bebe Glazer might just be my favourite. For the pure joy she brings to total evil, for the melodrama she invites in Grammer and company, for that impossibly over-the-top performance from Samson Harris to pull it all together – she’s a villain to contend with. And God, aren’t you glad she’s on your side?
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