A ‘Frasier’ Three-Peat? 6 Challenges for Kelsey Grammer’s Quest to Score an Elusive Third Hit Sitcom


Kelsey Grammer, 68, has portrayed the character of Dr. Frasier Crane for a combined 20 years on two hit sitcoms. The success of the new 'Frasier' reboot would give the actor a third hit series — a rare feat in Hollywood. Photo: Paramount+

Back when Frasier ended its 11-season run in May of 2014, many had assumed that the eponymous Seattle radio shrink had, as they used to say on his series, ”left the building” for good.

After all, Kelsey Grammer, 68, who began playing Dr. Frasier Crane in 1984 on the third season première of Cheers, was never supposed to be a regular. Cast on that series as a fleeting, six-episode love-interest for Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), Grammer stood out and was rewarded with a regular stool at the Boston bar.

Over the course of the two NBC series, Grammer enjoyed a 20-year run as the same character. That had only happened once before in American television, when James Arness played Marshall Matt Dillon on the western Gunsmoke (1955-75).

Over the last few years, there were many rumours of a Frasier reboot. Long running shows from TV’s “Must See” era, such as Roseanne, Murphy Brown and Will & Grace, had returned with mixed results. There was evidence, moreover, that audiences, especially during the pandemic, craved the comfort of their classic TV faves and might even go so far as to – gasp – subscribe to a streaming service to see them again.

Which brings us to Frasier, premiering October 12 on Paramount+, in which Grammer’s now-retired psychiatrist returns to Boston to reconnect with his son Freddy and take on a new position teaching psychology at Harvard.  A new season of 10 episodes (down from the 24-a-year Grammer and company used to crank out on NBC) provides the actor with a shot at a rare TV triple – a feat made ever more rare by the fact that he’d accomplish it by playing the same character in all three shows.

Can it be done? Older viewers will look back fondly on comedian Bob Newhart’s great sitcom hits of the ‘70s and ‘80s, The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart. Those shows each had different casts and premises, with Newhart the only common denominator. Viewers, it seemed, just couldn’t get enough of Bob.

Except they rejected his next series, Bob (1992-93) as well as the one after that where he was teamed with Judd Hirsh, George & Leo (1997-98). (Newhart did, however, enjoy a final taste of TV success as a recurring character on The Big Bang Theory).

Patricia Heaton enjoyed 20-plus years of sitcom success playing wives on Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005) and The Middle (2009-2018). Does anybody remember, however, Carol’s Second Act (2019-2020) where she played a middle-aged medical student? I mean, besides her Canadian co-star, Sabrina Jalees?

A couple of women have cracked the three-hit code, including the great Lucille Ball. TV’s  favourite redhead enjoyed an almost uninterrupted 24-year run on hit comedies I Love Lucy /The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1951-60), The Lucy Show (1962-68) and Here’s Lucy (1968-1974). In recent years, Julia Louis-Dreyfus found success on Seinfeld (1989-98), The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006-2010) and Veep (2012-2019), although she also did a show in between called Watching Ellie (2002-03) that, ironically, nobody watched.

Rebooting Frasier may be Kelsey Grammer’s best shot at success. He has, in fact, struggled to land a hit when not playing his most famous character. 

With Frasier living in Boston for the first time since his Cheers days, he finds himself in a new bar with a different set of friends. Through his new professor of psychology gig at Harvard, Frasier meets psychology department head Olivia (Toks Olagundoye, 48) and reconnects with old pal Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst, 62), who also teaches psychology at the university. Photo: Chris Haston/Paramount+


He teamed with Heaton on the newscaster comedy Back to You (2007-08). His next attempt, Hank, lasted five episodes in 2009. He did win a Best Dramatic Actor Golden Globe for playing a corrupt mayor on the Starz series Boss (2010-12), but that only lasted two seasons.

And, as noted, other classic shows that have attempted recent reboots have met with mixed results. The Conners, which rose from the ashes of Roseanne in 2017 and managed to move on without its original star, has survived five seasons without her.

The reboot of Murphy Brown (2018), however, was a dud, despite the returns of Candice Bergen and showrunner Diane English. Will & Grace had a three-season run in its second incarnation, but seemed to get squeezed in the political divisions erupting during the Trump administration. Going much further back, the less said about rebounded sitcoms AfterMASH and The New WKRP in Cincinnati, the better.

Can Frasier return strong like The Conners or will it flop like Murphy Brown? I’ve seen the first three episodes and, while I was sceptical, by the second episode I was hooked. Will the series get sampled, however, nearly two decades after the original ended? Here are the main challenges ahead:

The old multi-camera, live in front of a studio audience format seems played out.

Frasier was a network sitcom, with commercial breaks every six or seven minutes and live audience reactions. Viewers under 30 sitting through that today will think something is wrong with their iPad, iPhone or 5K flatscreen. The reboot sticks to the old studio ways, bringing back the clever black-and-white intertitles between scenes, along with Grammer singing a new version of the “Tossed Salad” theme song at the end. The audience, however, sounds more like the ones who sat through tapings of the last successful three-camera sitcom: The Big Bang Theory. The ping-pong line-and-response rhythms seem more overheated than earned – until you get to episode two …

It usually takes at least 10 episodes – the entire first season order for new Frasier – for a sitcom to find its feet.

Pilots or first episodes are always tricky, but especially so when you have to re-establish a familiar character in a whole new setting. Here, the main character flees Seattle and returns to his roots in Boston. Much of the pilot explains what happened to characters left behind so, when you also have to introduce the new characters, things can get a little awkward. The good news is that, by the second episode, it is Frasier. While there will likely be bumps along the way, considering the next point, that is remarkable.

None of the original showrunners or writers are involved with the new Frasier.

The old series boasted contributions from the same creative folks behind Cheers, including the writing-producing team of Ken Levine and David Issacs. The new showrunners are Chris Harris (How I Met Your Mother) and Joe Cristalli (Life in Pieces). Sometimes, however, an actor can stick too long with their original writers. When Lucille Ball tried to make it four-in-a-row, she wheeled out her old I Love Lucy scribes. The result was Life with Lucy, which was lifeless and gone in months. Adding continuity, however, is the great Jim Burrows (Cheers, Friends, Frasier, Will & Grace), who returns to direct the first two episodes.

While Kelsey Grammer remains the sole Frasier cast member to star in the reboot, certain characters from the old series return – played by new actors. Jack Cutmore-Scott (left) plays Freddy Crane, Frasier’s son, and Anders Keith co-stars as David, Frasier’s nephew and son of Niles and Daphne. Photo: Chris Haston/Paramount+ TM & © 2023 CBS Studios Inc.


There’s no Niles!

Rebooting Frasier with Grammer but without David Hyde Pierce as younger brother Niles is a little like re-teaming Laurel without Hardy. There was talk Hyde Pierce would return but the actor, who moved on to co-star in Julia the Max series about famed TV chef Julia Child – decided to take a pass. While it seems hard to imagine Frasier without Niles or Daphne (Jane Leeves) or Roz (Peri Gilpin) or especially Martin (the late John Mahoney), consider that Grammer brought nobody with him when he left Cheers. Sometimes fresh blood is an essential part of new surroundings. Plus, one new character is basically Niles 2.0 – Niles’ and Daphne’s quirky son David (Anders Keith), a chip off the old germaphobic block.

Father Time.

As he starts this new Frasier, Grammer is 68 years old – five years older than Mahoney was when he began playing Frasier’s dad on the last series. Having seen a few episodes, however, he is just as vain and has aged as gracefully as the good doctor’s favourite bottle of Sherry. The key relationship in the new show is still father and son, with Frasier playing the disapproving dad opposite his now 30-year-old firefighter son Freddy (played by Jack Cutmore-Scott). This time, Frasier doesn’t want his son’s gross sneakers and sports memorabilia near his Steinway or custom-made couch. It is the same energy in reverse, with the designer shoe now on the other foot. But can that formula capture lightning in the bottle twice?

There’s no dog.

Eddie has gone to the big dog pound in the sky. There is, however, a big baby – and no, I don’t mean Frasier himself. 

Frasier premieres with back-to-back episodes October 12 on Paramount+.


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