In light of planned reboot or continuation of Frasier which is expected soon, I couldn’t help but revisit the original series which had a brilliant 11 year run between 1993 and 2004. The show’s popularity was even more remarkable considering that Frasier was a spinoff, the good doctor one of the characters in the show ‘Cheers’ which ran in the 80’s. It’s safe to say, the spinoff has become a cultural highlight of recent TV history. And deservedly so.
For those unfamiliar with it still, the show is primarily based around Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) and his friends and family (and an adorable pet dog). At the beginning, Frasier has relocated to Seattle to take up a job as a Radio Psychiatrist with KACL radio and also finds that owing to certain circumstances his dad (John Mahoney) needs to live with him. Initially this arrangement seems tiresome to them both, especially when Frasier realizes he needs to have his father’s physical therapist, Daphne (Jane Leeves), as well as his pet pooch, Eddie, also stay with them, thus throwing into havoc his carefully cultured interior decoration tastes. To top it off, his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce), who is married, also starts getting the hots for Daphne, leading to a number of hilarious will-he/wont-he situations throughout the run of the show. Another frequent visitor to Frasier’s place is the feisty Roz (Peri Gilpin), his producer at the radio show.
In the backdrop, we always have the calls which Frasier receives during his assigned spot on the radio and which Roz patches through. A lot of these are voiced by various celebrities of the time, a list which is usually provided after the last episode of the show. But in the forefront is life in all its intricacies and warmth set around mainly these characters and a roll of other supporting people. Frasier, divorced from his fellow psychiatrist wife and father to a boy who lives mostly with her, has a number of misadventures in the dating game, played up for fun but also pointing an inner light into the various quirks and insecurities into his character. Niles too has his romantic interludes, but it is his burgeoning affection and attraction towards Daphne, who becomes more like family as the series goes on, which is a major selling point. Towards the end this question is resolved, but the show manages to hold our interest till the end, especially when it comes to Frasier’s shenanigans. Roz too gets her space to grow and finally mature as the seasons go on.
But I was wondering about how the show would be without John Mahoney who sadly passed away in recent years. One may also remember him as the father in that lovely little John Cusack teen rom-com, Say Anything. He and Eddie infused such warmth and focus to their portrayals that imagining the Frasier landscape without them would be difficult. Martin Crane’s character too had his moments in the show, where long buried attachment issues with his sons and resolving their differences were dealt with. He even got a second shot at love towards the end. He came into Frasier’s life at the beginning as retired from the police force, where he took a bullet to the hip and needed a cane to walk around with and the frustration this caused him is brought out nicely with some delicate humor. It’s a huge loss but I hope they are able to bridge the gap nicely.
The actors are all brilliant of course, one of the reasons why everything appears pitch perfect. There are many popular sitcoms from the 90’s, like Seinfeld and Friends, which are more obviously famous, perhaps because they can appeal to any age group and are easier to get into. With Frasier what I realized was that it helps to be older and have experienced life’s pitfalls and emotional upheavals in order to appreciate and enjoy this show more. For it deals with jokes for sure. But also love, resentment, heartbreak and the enduring warmth of family, both our own and the ones we make as we go along our journey. In the end, it deals with all that makes us human.