Spin-off's from successful series are always fraught with the danger that the certain magic which a character possessed in the original will somehow be lost in the process of transfer. When the character in question was a core member of a phenomenally successful ensemble series like Cheers, then the danger of failure is even greater.
Luckily, Frasier not only avoided that danger, it actually succeeded in transcending the brilliance of its parent show to become quite possibly the most sophisticatedly stylish US situation comedy series ever produced. The series finds Kelsey Grammer's snobbishly egotistical psychiatrist, Doctor Frasier Crane living once again in his native Seattle, where he host's a popular radio phone-in show. As with Cheers, Frasier boasts a fine ensemble cast of outstandingly talented actors whose performances mesh so perfectly with the high quality, top drawer scripts from a team of the brightest comedy writers currently working in television anywhere.
Amongst a cast as consistently excellent as Grammer himself, along with veteran actor John Mahoney as Frasier's resolutely low-brow, ex cop father, Martin Crane, Jane Leeves (a former dancer on 'The Benny Hill Show'), the sassy, slightly eccentric home help and physiotherapist to Martin, Daphne Moon, and Frasier's sexually frustrated radio producer Roz (Peri Gilpin).
One character constantly threatens to eclipse them all. Frasier's younger, smarter and altogether more ineffectual brother, Doctor Niles Crane. In the hen-pecked, cowardly, waspishly tongued Niles, actor David Hyde-Pierce has created one of the truly great character's of modern situation comedy. So perfectly judged is his performance that even in episodes where Niles is non central to the story's action, his brief appearance is certain to provide the episode's crowning moment of comedy. In fact Frasier and Niles' bouts of sibling verbal sparring are so brilliantly executed by Grammer and Hyde-Pierce that never for a moment do you doubt in the carefully constructed reality of their fictional brotherhood. The sheer delight of their sharply written, beautifully observed and acted war of words is the yardstick that lesser comedies can only aspire to -but seldom achieve.
Frasier is the modern US sitcom at its zenith. Brilliantly written, acted and slickly produced with the added bonus of acknowledging that its audience is aware and intelligent enough to savour the numerous throwaway allusions to literature, art and culture that liberally pepper every episode. Frasier is that rarest of television beasts, a spin-off that actually succeeds in outshining its illustrious progenitor. Who could ask for more?
Published on December 14th, 2018. Written by SRH for Television Heaven.