Recently, it has come to light that Frasier (1993-2004) star Kelsey Grammar has approached NBC with ideas for a Frasier reboot and, if the rumours are to be believed, the network is very interested and some ideas for episodes, characters and plot arcs have been pitched by both sides. These talks seem obvious given the success of sitcoms from the same era such as Will and Grace (1998-2006, 2017-Present), Rosanne (1988-1997, 2018), and Full House/Fuller House (1987-1995, 2016-Present) As a massive fan of Frasier, I’ve thought long and hard about whether this is a good idea, a disastrous one, or somewhere in-between, and as a madman with a laptop and access to a blog I feel it is my sacred duty to force all of your poor souls to hear me out.
One of these things is not like the others
The very first thing that ought to be established here is that the Frasier reboot is just that, a reboot. It will not take place in Seattle, nor feature any of the same characters as the original Frasier series. Here we hit our first and biggest bump in the road. I love Frasier but let’s be honest here, the real star of that show was David Hyde Pierce’s Niles Crane and his ‘will they won’t they’ love story with Jane Leeves Daphne Moon. Frasier was a funny character but look at any list of the one hundred greatest comedy character, tv characters, or even Frasier characters and I guarantee Niles will be higher than Frasier, if Frasier appears at all. The Frasier reboot will take place in a new city, with new characters, the only thing linking it with the original series is that Grammar will play Frasier and it will be in the same continuity.
It could, and I think should, be argued that this reboot will just add to the character arc of Frasier Crane, a character whose existence stretches back to 1984. This argument sounded fair to me, after all we’ve seen Frasier marry multiple times, have a son, rebuild his relationship with his family, and hunger for stardom. However, there are two major problems with this. Firstly, when given the opportunity to give Frasier some serious character development in the past, the Frasier writers failed to do so. I am mostly referring to a couple of episodes here; the series eight episodes Frasier’s Edge (S8 EP9, 2001) and its follow up, Crane’s Unplugged (S8 EP10, 2001). In the first of these episodes, Frasier spends a fair amount of time analysing himself with the help of his Harvard mentor, Dr William Tewkesbury, concluding that his interest in psychiatry is the result of a defense mechanism against childhood bullies and throwing doubt on his entire career. The next episode starts with Frasier doubting everything and resolving to focus on family but this goes nowhere, the issue is ignored and the status quo resumes. What a wasted opportunity to give a full arc to a character who badly needed it, a statement that brings us nicely onto the next issue.
Frasier Crane appears in two shows, Cheers (1982-1993) and Frasier, and in neither of them does he have the biggest arc. Cheer’s sees him as a minor character, all I really know given that I’ve never seen the show, only the occasional clip on Youtube. Frasier, however, is a much more obvious example. Frasier Crane’s arc is limited to bonding with his family and striving for success. Compare that with Martin, who bonds with his son, loosen up, and cope with the loss of his wife and independence after being shot in the hip, or Niles who escapes his domineering wife and gains independence with Daphne, or Roz (who in my opinion has the best character arc in the show) who goes from being an independent, fun loving woman with a slew of lovers, to a mother who learns responsibility and matures, while unapologetically maintaining her own love life. Of all these characters, the one who is supposed to be the shows focus is the one with the smallest arc. Perhaps then, the argument that this Frasier reboot will be an additional string on the bow of character development falls flat.
We need to talk about Kelsey
Kelsey Grammar IS Frasier Crane and I think he’s finally come to terms with it. Kelsey Grammar has played the same character for 20 odd years, to say he’s typecast is a gross understatement. In America, Grammar is known for two things, Frasier Crane and Sideshow Bob, and mostly the former. It is safe to say that Grammar’s career sort of died after Frasier finished. The actor had a slew of television shows that were cancelled after only a single series and his film career hasn’t exactly taken off. Just put yourself in Grammar’s shoes for a minute-
Imagine you’re an actor who achieved amazing success and became a household name with one single character. Now that’s all over, its 2004 and Frasier has finished, part of you is sad because you enjoyed working with your cast mates, part of you though, is glad. Everywhere you go you’re recognised as Frasier Crane, you have become so synonymous with a single character that you are typecast beyond belief and now you have the chance to break free and try new things. Except, that hasn’t worked, and now you’re looking back on the character who made you through rose tinted spectacles. It must be appealing, I am sure, especially in the light of the slew of other reboots, for Kelsey Grammar, whose career is dead I remind you, to resurrect his most famous role and return to the safety and security of Frasier Crane. Being an actor is a financially risky profession, you can never be sure of when the next pay check will arrive and for someone who no doubt enjoyed a lavish lifestyle after 20 years of success, the lack of work must be damaging. Kelsey Grammar needs this reboot, but do we?
Now is where the second big problem with the reboot comes in, Twitter. Roseanne Barr was fired from her own hit show after posting racist tweets earlier this year and, by all accounts, Grammar himself can be quite controversial. Grammar is a founding member of The Friends of Abe, a group comprised of Hollywood Republicans who feel oppressed by the fact that they are surrounded by a vast sea of liberals. Grammar voiced his support for the Tea Party, Donald Trump, tweeted himself wearing a T-shirt that likened abortion to gun violence and starred in An American Carol (2008), a film which attacks Michael Moore and proclaims that patriotism is that only thing stopping Islamic terrorists from conquering America. He is, in short, an asshole. We have to look at this in the aftermath of the Roseanne incident. Barr was protected for a long time until the wave of outrage became too much for network executives and they kicked her out. Roseanne itself will apparently survive in some form because the supporting characters are already established, viewers know them as well as they know Barr’s character and that gives producers something to work with. The Frasier reboot won’t have that luxury, it’ll feature new characters we don’t know yet and should Grammar do something stupid like compare women wearing the Burka to a postbox-
The outrage may well be sufficient to prompt producers to can the entire series which won’t be nearly as established or beloved as Roseanne was.
Tell us what you really think
So, what do I think, I hear the voices in my head cry. Well, I think a reboot could work, but its in the shadow of something great. It would have to have characters just as beloved as those in Frasier, be just as funnier and be able to tug at the heartstrings just as well (The episode Flour Child (S2 EP4, 1994) isn’t just hilarious it’s also remarkably poignant). On the whole I’m in favour of seeing what they come up with, it’ll likely not be nearly as good as Frasier but who knows, I imagine many people said that about Frasier when it was announced that pompous psychiatrist from Cheers was getting his own show.
I do, however, have a better idea. Instead of rebooting Frasier, NBC should produce four or five hour long specials, where Frasier travels back to Seattle for his father’s funeral. This would accomplish many things. Firstly, it would give Grammar a much needed and substantial pay check, secondly it would give the fans and the actors a chance to say a proper farewell to John Mahoney and Martin Crane, and thirdly, we’d get to see the old characters again and get a good indication of where their lives are 14 years after we last saw them. Just imagine it, Niles and Daphne as parents of a teenager, Roz trying to cope with married life, Frasier coping with the fact he’s no longer as famous as he was given that sufferers on Youtube can now provide much the same insight and help as radio psychiatrists once did.
There are possibilities here for a show actually worth making and that fans will want to see. After all, Only Fools and Horses (1991,2003), The Vicar of Dibley (1994-2007), and numerous other great comedies have bowed out this way, and maybe, just maybe, if the reaction is positive enough, NBC and Grammar can take some of the new characters that might accompany Frasier back to Seattle and make a new show out of it.