So I did it again: I watched the Pilot and Series Finale episodes of a classic sitcom back to back. But this time… it was for a show that I’ve actually seen most of… well, a while ago. Hey Baby, I hear the blues are calling because it’s time to dissect the bookends of “Frasier”.
One summer about seven or eight years ago, I watched nearly all the episodes of “Frasier”. It might’ve been the same summer I watched all of “Hope & Faith” or “The New Adventures of Old Christine” or “Everybody Loves Raymond”. The years kinda blend together. But nonetheless, I am quite familiar with the Seattle-based adventures of Dr. Frasier Crane, brother Niles, father Martin, caretaker Daphne and radio show producer Roz. Oh, and of course, dog Eddie.
As much as I remember how the show ended (and I only watched part 2 of the finale for this special viewing), I must confess, I did not remember exactly how “Frasier” began. Certainly, I knew that Frasier moved from Boston (where everybody knows your name) to Seattle to start anew. Frasier admits to a radio caller in the Pilot (“The Good Son”) that he was “clinging to a life that wasn’t working anymore.” But the rest was murky in my brain. How exactly did the others enter the picture?
Roz is quickly determined to be a reliable radio partner. Brother Niles is a quick-witted know-it-all who trades snarky jabs with Frasier. I couldn’t believe how much the audience was laughing at the first details of Maris, who is hardly flushed out (through Niles’ dialogue). Turns out Frasier and Martin did not get along (the show’s third segment ends with Frasier flat-out yelling at him and leaving the apartment). And Kelsey Grammer’s iconic character also did not approve of the menacing Eddie (he stared a lot) or Daphne.
And, to my surprise, Niles and Daphne don’t meet each other in the Pilot. The legendary James Burrows directed the Pilot of “Frasier”, as well as all 17 episodes of Grammer’s follow-up sitcom, “Back to You”. The Finale “Goodnight, Seattle” was co-written and executive produced by Christopher Lloyd, and Dan O’Shannon was also on the crew. Both of them would also venture over to “BTY” with Grammer for a memorable year chronicled in my recent venture, “The Back To You Podcast”.
Back to “Frasier” – and to the one clear connection between the Pilot and the Finale: Martin’s Chair. Frasier didn’t want it in the apartment because it cramped his style. But when a delivery man comes and takes it away in the final episode, you can tell that Frasier chokes up a bit. The guy asks him if he’s been waiting long. Frasier’s reply: “11 years.”
Frasier says “I want a new chapter.” And it’s the same thing Grammer hopes for in a “Frasier” revival, if it happens. It has to be “a third act.” But will it be a risk worth taking? As Dr. Crane himself says on his final radio broadcast, “While it’s tempting to play it safe, the more we’re willing to risk, the more alive we are. In the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took.”
If there does end-up being a new season of “Frasier”, I’d be concerned that Laura Linney’s Charlotte would quickly be written out of his life. So maybe it’s best to just let this be. And hopefully, they did get together in the end.