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Prime example of "Trapped in the Premise"
ttapola5 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
There is a syndrome I just at the time of writing decided to call "Trapped in the Premise", so unless someone has beat me to it, I claim the credit for coining it. "An Affair to Dismember" is a prime example. The episode presents us with a Game Changer possibility: that Nigel could actually break the relationship between Fran and Maxwell, but even the title reveals the only possible outcome: It just CANNOT happen, because applying a Game Changer to this series would break its Premise which is, as with almost all romantic sitcoms: "When will they get each other?" At the time of writing, using a Game Changer (prime example: the final episode of season three of "The Wire", which briefly made me question had I only imagined what I had just witnessed) is still pretty effing bold move that only ambitious drama series like Battlestar Galactica and Lost can be expected to pull of, but in 1996 it was probably unheard of.

So, the only question regarding the outcome of this episode is not "What will happen?" but "How will Nigel be on his way without Fran?" And frankly, that's not really something to be excited about. We already knew in 1996, while "The Nanny" was still on, that eventually Fran and Maxwell would end up together, just as surely as Rachel and Ross would end up together. Or any rom-sitcom couple.

While "Friends" dared to play with plot *arcs* such as Ross's and Rachel's various relationships with other people, notably Ross's marriage to that English lady whose name I suddenly forgot, "The Nanny" keeps pressing the Reset Button at the end of almost every episode. In this season, the series has redeemed itself with the repeated mention of "that thing" in the plane at the end of season 3, which constitutes some kind of arc, weak as it might be. At the time of writing, it is easy to say in hindsight that the writers and/or producers actually mustered the courage to wed Fran and Maxwell a full year before the end of the series, which ironically proved that they could have done it sooner without fear of ruining the Premise instead of giving us no-brainers like this episode.

Well, at least it has the usual enjoyable dialog and the ever-changing costumes of Fran.
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