Once upon a time, there existed a bar in the vibrant city of Boston, where a group of regular patrons frequented, among them the ostentatious and flamboyant Dr. Frasier Crane, portrayed by Kelsey Grammer. This character brought a distinct, snobbish brand of humor to NBC’s beloved sitcom, “Cheers,” which aired from 1982 to 1993. In a remarkable evolution, Grammer and creator David Angell relocated Dr. Crane to Seattle in his own series, “Frasier.” This spinoff proved to be one of the most commercially and creatively successful endeavors of its kind, running for 11 seasons from 1993 to 2004 and garnering an impressive 37 Emmy awards.
Nineteen years after “Frasier” bid adieu, having once reigned supreme on broadcast television, Dr. Crane makes a return in a semi-revival/spinoff exclusive to Paramount+ (streaming on Thursdays), with Grammer being the sole returning regular cast member. This revival venture, however, is a gamble that ultimately falls short of expectations.
The new “Frasier” is a far cry from the beloved classic. It is as unfunny, awkward, and cringe-inducing as one could possibly imagine.
This reincarnation of “Frasier” is devoid of the charm and wit that characterized the original series, attempting desperately to recreate the clever banter, distinctive character quirks, and interior design humor that made the ’90s show so iconic. Conceived by Chris Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”) and Joe Cristalli (“Life in Pieces”), neither of whom were involved in the original series, and executive produced by Grammer, this incarnation introduces new characters who come off as hollow imitations of the beloved original supporting cast. Without the presence of his brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), sister-in-law Daphne (Jane Leeves), producer Roz (Peri Gilpin), and father Martin (John Mahoney, who passed away in 2018), “Frasier” flounders amidst a sea of feeble jokes and excruciating awkwardness.
Having transitioned from radio psychiatrist to a television psychologist with not-so-subtle parallels to Dr. Phil during the interim between the two series, Frasier returns to Boston after his father’s offscreen demise. He visits to deliver a guest lecture at Harvard and subsequently decides to reconnect with his son, Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott), a firefighter who had abandoned his Ivy League education. In a bid to mend their strained relationship, Frasier opts to relocate to Boston and accept a teaching position at Harvard.
He orchestrates his son’s move by purchasing the entire apartment building, mirroring the premise of the original series, where a mismatched father and son cohabitate. However, this time, the working-class first responder is the young upstart, and the older figure is the irksome dilettante. Their lives are intertwined with Freddy’s friend Eve (Jess Salgueiro), who is raising a baby on her own, the former girlfriend of one of Freddy’s late colleagues; Olivia (Toks Olagundoye), the ambitious head of Harvard’s psychology department; David (Anders Keith), who may be neurodivergent, the son of Niles and Daphne; and Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst), an inept old Oxford acquaintance of Frasier’s. The series appears to check off a list, attempting to recreate the roles of Daphne, a maternal figure, Roz, a sarcastic colleague, Niles, a clone, and a bumbling British character to fill the physical comedy void once occupied by Eddie the dog, albeit with less finesse.
Grammer portrayed Frasier for two decades, but the character has since lost its relevance. In the prosperous and optimistic 1990s, the uber-wealthy and out-of-touch Crane brothers provided a comedic double act that was easy to laugh both with and at, offering a lighthearted and harmless take on the wealthy and snobbish. However, in the challenging and inflation-plagued landscape of 2023, Frasier and his extravagant furnishings and wine collection no longer strike the same chord.
The original “Frasier” was known for its rapid pace, rich humor, and well-developed characters that viewers could root for and adore. Its dialogue was sharp and insightful, yet its physical comedy could escalate into a full-blown farce, distinguishing it as a unique and exceptional show. In stark contrast, the new series is lethargic, uninspiring, and severely lacking in humor. Even after five long, 30-minute episodes available for preview, the characters remain poorly defined and unlikable. Even Frasier himself seems like a stranger in this new incarnation.