Frasier

Frasier

The Seattle skyline is gone from the credits, and Kelsey Grammer is given a vocal cheer from the audience when he first steps onto the set of the new Frasier, like The Fonz into Happy Days.

Yes, it’s grand to see Grammer back in his inimitable role of the biting, erudite psychiatrist from one of television’s favourite sitcoms. Even in his 60s, the character still behaves as he did so many decades ago when, to be fair, he never acted hs age anyway.

Also back are the multicam style and laugh track. To be clear, there is a studio audience according to press notes, but the canned laughs ‘sweeten’ the soundtrack in ways that are unmistakeable and free-flowing. For fans of shows like Big Bang Theory, Fuller House and their ilk, it will be music to their ears.

En-route to Paris our hero visits Boston as a successful TV talk host (looking at you Dr. Phil), seeking to reunite with his estranged son, fireman Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott), the offspring of Dr. Crane and Lilith.

The ensemble is populated by an all-new cast including Frasier‘s old college pal Nicholas (Alan Cornwall), nephew David (Anders Keith) who is the offspring of Niles & Daphne, Harvard Psychology Dept. Head Olivia (Toks Olagundoye) and Eve (Jess Salgueiro), roommate to Freddy. IMDb indicates Peri Gilpin will also make a single episode appearance.

Following the death of his father (a nod to the late, great, John Mahoney), Frasier‘s efforts to bond with Freddy unannounced are rebuffed by his son. There are plenty of years of absence and judgement to mine for comic conflict, and we’re only just getting started.

At the same time Olivia is hoping to convince the celebrity psychiatrist to join the Harvard academia. As a series set-up it is neat and effective.

It also reworks the class abyss so brilliantly executed between Frasier and his late father into a new generation. Now, the working class is his son, who doesn’t see eye to eye with his father’s love of opera, cashmere and fine wine or his repugnancy at the idea of jeans on an expensive sofa.

David, as son of Niles, also brings the nerd-factor to the series while elderly Nicholas provides the peer confidant to Frasier. That just leaves the apple of Frasier‘s romantic eye to be filled which, I presume, is where Olivia will likely step in…?

Frasier was first seen in Cheers, while the character’s long run in his own sitcom from 1993 to 2004 was TV heaven thanks to the talents of the cast, the writing and directing. Legendary director James Burrows returns for the 2023 series which is encouraging indeed. He peppers the episodes with physical comedy, mistaken identity, mugging, expertly timed punchlines and the necessary sitcom moment of poignancy in the third act. And let’s be honest, there’s nothing better than hearing the melifluous tones of Kelsey Grammer spitting out consonant-heavy sentences from on high.

There are definitely some good lines, such as Frasier reaching for a decanter: “Sherry saw me. I can’t say no to her.”

Yet can lightning really be recaptured in a bottle?

While Will & Grace (also under the eye of Burrows) had a successful return, that was with all 4 original principals. Frasier has but one…

The ensemble cast has a lot to live up to. The experienced Alan Cornwall is the pick of the bunch here, though admittedly it is early days.

But this style of comedy is also fading from screens. It asks us to suspend disbelief, accept the canned laughs, the theatrical performance style, the studio sets instead of actual locations -the opening airport set is the size of a butler’s pantry, for instance. Perhaps these are reasons to cling to it too…

As much as I love Grammer in this role, it makes me yearn for what has passed. It’s so easy to find a rerun of Frasier with a crack-team ensemble and a style that suited simpler times. Do I wallow in nostalgia or do I allow it to blow away the cob-webs?

I appreciate the efforts the show has made to its heritage, complete with a newly-minted Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs theme. Perhaps as I get to know this new bunch I’ll feel just as much at home in Boston as I did in Seattle?

Frasier screens Friday October 13 on Paramount+.