- Kelsey Grammer, Jack Cutmore-Scott, Toks Oagundoye, Anders Keith
- Joe Cristalli and Chris Harris
- Comedy, Sitcom
- Where to watch
From the islands to Frasier and beyond, Kelsey Grammer, born on February 21, 1955, had an unconventional start on the path to Hollywood stardom. Originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, he faced tragedy at an early age when his father was murdered. This traumatic event set the stage for a challenging upbringing marked by familial struggles and personal hardships. Despite these early obstacles, Grammer’s resilience and talent eventually led him to become one of the most recognized and accomplished actors in the television industry.
Frasier (Episodes 1-6)
Frasier (2023) picks up as Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) begins a new chapter in his life. After spending 14 years amassing fame and fortune as the host of a successful talk show in Chicago, Frasier has decided to move back to Boston, where he begins teaching at Harvard and reconnecting with his son, Freddy.
Tied with The Jeffersons for the longest-running spin-off series in American TV history, the original Frasier was a delightful mix of self-depreciation and jocular sniping. That it was competitive at a time when the ratings juggernaut Friends was busy teaching men to be bumbling betas and jovial idiots driven by their hormones and women to reject personal responsibility and modesty is a testament to Frasier’s quality writing and well-defined and likable characters.
That the star of the program was the odd man out in most of his interpersonal interactions, not because he was a fool (e.g., Gomer Pyle) but due to his refined taste and esoteric knowledge made for a fun bit of schadenfreude for the everyman viewer. However, the heartfelt family dynamics were at the core of Frasier’s longevity and success. The strained relationship of the average Joe father and his classically educated and culturally refined son(s) provided a relatable emotional doorway for audiences to enter.
Much like the apocryphal Yankee Doodle, the Frasier revival has a number of feathers in its cap. Finely aged like Château Margaux, Kelsey Grammer slips into Dr. Crane like a pair of vintage Italian Ferragamo Oxfords. Further, his relationship with his old school friend/current professor of psychology at Harvard, Alan Cornwall, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst, is immediately comfortable and pleasant, and the two veteran actors effortlessly breathe life into their faux fellowship.
Unfortunately, not much else in the program exceeds average. Each set looks like a set, the laugh track is obnoxious (though it does get better as the series continues), and the secondary characters are very secondary. However, the show’s greatest weakness is its lack of identity.
The original knew what it was and what it was trying to accomplish, but the revival seems to flit around trying to figure itself out from one episode to the next. This wouldn’t be as notable a weakness were it not for the ill-defined Freddy Crane. Played well by Jack Cutmore-Scott (Oppenheimer), Freddy has been written as a retread of Frasier’s father, Marty. Unfortunately, just like actual retreads, Freddy is a poor substitute.
Fans of the original series will remember young Freddy as the uncoordinated nerd who struggled in everyday social situations. In the years between shows, he’s traded in his awkward intellectualism for a weight bench and a career as a Firefighter, not to mention being Mr. July in the NYPD beefcake calendar. While the show’s writers constantly tell us that Freddy is brilliant, with the exception of a brief pub quiz scene in one episode, he is portrayed as an average potato chip-munching Schmo.
While there’s nothing wrong with that type of character (obviously, it worked in the original), it’s not only a lazy attempt to recapture the original’s magic, but it is poorly done. Martin was what Martin was, but Freddy is pure vanilla. In the pilot episode, he’s shown vulnerable and crying, and in a later one, he spends much of his time whining about wanting his father’s acceptance. So, he’s neither the emotionally closed-off curmudgeon/foil to Frasier nor is he his father’s comrade (think Niles). The result is that he’s not much of anything.
In that vein, the dynamic that made for so many wonderful moments in the original is further watered down in the revival by the fact that Frasier immediately recognizes that he is treating his son the same way his father treated him, and he quickly adjusts his behavior. While this makes Frasier a sympathetic character, it also neuters the potential conflict between the two, which was part of the original’s secret sauce.
That said, little of the show actually revolves around the father-son relationship and is more about Frasier acclimating to his new career and life in Boston. As each episode bounces from one possible recurring set piece to another in its attempt to find its voice, the audience is left with rather mundane jokes and a show that lacks much personality.
While Frasier (2023) isn’t the strongest series, neither is it the worst. Each episode is stronger than the last, and the potential is evident as both the actors and writers begin to find their way. It is not evident, however, that they will find it in time to propel this series out from beneath the rather large shadow cast by its progenitor.
- There are some diversity hires whose performances and characters are a bit underwhelming.
- However, like the rest of the show, they improve over time – though they remain the weaker links.
- There’s a single scene in one of the first six episodes in which the writers insert the prerequisite amount of Queerness to get patted on the back at cocktail parties for their progressiveness.
- There’s a tertiary character (an overweight female firefighter) who makes sure to mention that her “wife” loved Frasier’s talk show.
- A central recurring character is a single mother whose boyfriend died before the pilot episode. Having them as boyfriend and girlfriend instead of husband and wife adds nothing to the show and only serves to render her character to be seemingly immature.
James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.