Review by Dan Skip Allen
When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was Cheers, about a Boston watering hole where everybody knew your name. One of those people who drank there regularly was Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). He wasn't like the other more mundane patrons, though. He was a little classier. He drank wine and had much more intellectual things to say. Like all shows, Cheers would eventually be canceled, but to capitalize on its popularity, the network spun off Grammer’s popular character into his own series, where we were able to see more of his family life and more of his psychiatry practice. Fast forward thirty years, and Frasier is back in his old stomping grounds of Boston, Massachusetts, beginning a new era in his life.
In the reboot, Frasier comes back into town to attend the funeral of a family member and decides to visit an old college friend who is a professor at Harvard University on a whim. While they were talking, he got the idea to visit his son, who lives in town as well. They don't hit it off that well, and that doesn't sit well with Frasier. He decides to stay longer than he anticipated to try and make up for lost time with his son. Frasier also meets his nephew, who becomes his liaison at Harvard, helping him reacclimate to the community he left behind so many years ago, while also serving as a nice bit of comedic relief.
Although Frasier is an iconic character, it would have been easy for the creators of the reboot to fall back on his old ways, causing viewers to get sick of him and his shtick. I didn't, though. His new story is funny and enjoyable. This show creates a new group of supporting characters and locations that make this man's life different than before. Sure, he has fame from his talk show, and that brings a certain notoriety wherever he goes, but it also brings a different dynamic we haven't seen with this character before. Once he gets more involved with his son, his friend, and brother's nephew at Harvard, it's like we've been watching these people for years. The sense of nostalgia it creates will take fans of the original show back to their childhood, even though most of them are new characters. Frasier is just that familiar to me, and I'm sure it will be to many others when they see the show.
What I love about sitcoms is they make me laugh, whereas dramas don't. Watching Frasier and the character’s specific kind of straight-man humor was delightful. He is like a fish out of water in many situations. In one instance, he was trying to get a spot in a prestigious group at Harvard, but was a bit over-ambitious and didn't see all the scenarios involving himself acting superior to others around him. He has a lot to learn regarding social cues, even though he is a world-renowned doctor who has had a radio show and television talk show for fifteen years, and this creates some excellent fish-out-of-water scenarios.
Kelsey Grammer made a huge career for himself in the sitcom realm with Cheers and Frasier. He tried to parley that fame and notoriety into a career in movies, but it didn't work out so well for him. He got the occasional role in the X-Men franchise as Hank McCoy/Beast, or guest spots in other shows or cameos in movies, but his film career didn't take off that well. So when I heard Frasier was coming back, and he was going back to Boston, I was ecstatic. That was my favorite iteration of the character when he was an intellectual at a bar in Boston full of normal people. Grammer has used this character and brought a whole new angle to him, which makes this show all the more interesting.
The writers of Frasier play off on many of the tropes of this character, which is why the series is so funny. His various interactions with his son, neighbors, colleagues, and others he comes in contact with are why this is such an enjoyable iteration of this beloved television character. Frasier has been on television for 20 years between the two hit shows he was on, and the twenty-first year will be another milestone for this character. I, for one, would watch this character for many more years to come — especially if he continues to be in Boston for a while longer.
Frasier streams on Paramount+ beginning October 12 with two episodes, with new episodes streaming subsequent Thursdays. Five out of ten episodes reviewed.