I have a special love for this show. There are certain traits in the character of Frasier Crane that reminds me of myself. The close but competitive relationship between him and his brother Niles is not unlike the one between my brother and myself. Our dad is very much like Martin, the Crane boys’ father. All that’s missing to complete the picture is my acquiring an apartment with a gorgeous Seattle view and my brother marrying the thinnest woman on Earth.
Frasier is the most successful spin-off series ever produced. When Cheers closed the bar in 1993, one of its lesser-known supporting characters was given the chance to create something of his own. Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) quit hanging around the bar in Boston, moved back home to Seattle and started making a living as a radio shrink. His brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), a fellow psychiatrist, was happy to have his brother in the city again, but there was also the issue of what was going to happen to their ailing father. Martin (John Mahoney), a retired cop, was suffering from a bad hip after being shot in the line of duty. He needed someplace to stay and the brothers, while not exactly close to their father, felt an obligation to take care of him; eventually, Frasier decided to let Martin move into his apartment. Neither one of them was happy with the arrangement but they realized that they had no choice but to make it work.
Other characters on the show was Roz (Peri Gilpin), Frasier’s producer at the radio station who dated men as if there was no tomorrow, and Daphne (Jane Leeves), Martin’s psychic physical therapist whom Niles had a not-so-secret crush on. Frasier’s ex-wife Lilith made occasional appearances; Niles’s wife Maris was often the butt of jokes but never actually seen on the show.
Smart and elegant throughout its run
Sophistication was a key word here. Frasier and Niles were well educated and shared a liking for the exquisite. They thought very highly of themselves and their place in society, which gave the writers many possibilities to gently mock them; one way to interpret the character of Martin, who always felt it was necessary to remind his sons of the simple things in life, was as a representative of those writers. When moving in with Frasier, Martin brought his hideous-looking old armchair; it didn’t match anything in the fancy apartment but Frasier discovered that that simple thing was the most comfortable piece of furniture in the place.
Sophistication is a many-splendored thing; perhaps it seemed like the writers were making fun of everything that was better than the ordinary but the show itself was a pillar of sophistication. The writers kept it very smart and elegant throughout its run, although the last seasons did have its lulls. Every episode had intertitle cards that established themes and places or just set the mood for the following sequence, which was a novel idea.
The dialogue was intelligent and hilarious and you were never quite sure of how an episode would end. But the writers were not so sophisticated they wouldn’t turn many stories into door-slamming farces; Frasier’s dinner parties became notorious disasters.
There were plenty of opportunities for Grammer to chew the scenery but he was incredibly enjoyable, even when he was overdoing the good doctor. Hyde Pierce was utterly charming and very funny as his fragile brother. Perhaps there were viewers who found it difficult to understand these guys, but their philosophy of only accepting the very best should be adopted by everyone. Accept no substitute for Frasier.
Frasier 1993-2004:U.S. Made for TV. 264 episodes. Color. Created by David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee. Cast: Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane), David Hyde Pierce (Niles Crane), John Mahoney (Martin Crane), Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin.
Emmys: Outstanding Comedy Series 93-94, 94-95, 95-96, 96-97, 97-98; Directing 93-94, 94-95, 96-97; Writing 93-94, 94-95, 95-96, 98-99; Actor (Grammer) 93-94, 94-95, 97-98, 03-04; Supporting Actor (Hyde Pierce) 94-95, 97-98, 98-99, 03-04; Guest Actress (Jean Smart) 99-00, 00-01, (Laura Linney) 03-04; Guest Actor (Derek Jacobi) 00-01, (Anthony LaPaglia) 01-02. Golden Globes: Best Comedy Series 95; Actor (Grammer) 96, 01.
Quote: “I’d love to stay but I… have my therapy group meeting, and last time I was late the, er, compulsive gamblers were betting the passive aggressives that they couldn’t make the over-eaters cry.” (Hyde Pierce)
Last word: “One [producer] brought in a tape of David Hyde Pierce from his canceled show, ‘The Powers That Be’, and said, Hey, look at this guy. He looks so much like Kelsey Grammer, if you ever decide to have a brother for Frasier, this guy would be perfect.’ There was something about David that just jumped out on the tape. The way he was so understated. His comic timing and his delivery. We were instantly taken with him.” (Casey, US)