Frasier Review


by Nick de Semlyen |
Published on

Streaming on: Paramount+

Episodes viewed: 5 of 10

“This place is so stuffy…” Beat. “I love it!” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Dr Frasier Crane is back in the building. The one-time Boston barfly turned Seattle radio shrink is the latest subject of a streaming revival — under the auspices of Paramount+, everyone’s favourite high-culture-loving buffoon is here again for a fresh ten-episode run. And the good news is that despite a major series reset — new city (well, old city; we’re in Boston again), new ensemble of characters, even a new dog (iconic Jack Russell Eddie, who even got his own magazine covers during the feverish heights of the original show’s success, has been replaced by an adorable firehouse Dalmatian) — this still feels like the Frasier of old. This is not cutting-edge stuff, with nary a mention of how the world has moved on technologically, and only passing nods to sociological shifts. But it is a satisfying mix of snappy dialogue and cosy sitcom dynamics, efficiently establishing a new world for its hero and then eking a lot of laughs out of the possibilities.


With Frasier’s blue-collar dad Martin gone (there’s a sweet nod to the late, great John Mahoney in the name of the show’s regular drinking-hole, Mahoney’s), the show pivots to the relationship between Frasier and his son Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott). Rather than a cop, like Martin, Freddy is a fireman, and he and Frasier have the same difficulty in understanding each other. This leads to some rather obvious culture-clash comedy, but if it’s not subtle, it’s still fun and sometimes moving. Meanwhile, the equivalent of the radio station — Frasier’s workplace milieu — is the psychology department at Harvard, where Nicholas Lyndhurst proves a hoot as crusty, Scotch-swilling British professor Alan, owner of a cat named Margaret Scratcher. Rounding out the new crew are Frasier’s new boss Olivia (Toks Olagundoye), young mum Eve (Jess Salgueiro) and David (the very funny Anders Keith), son of Niles and Daphne, who free-floats around the show, doing bizarre things and invariably stealing scenes with moves derived from David Hyde Pierce.

The strike-rate of the jokes is pleasingly high, and the whole thing is powered by the performance that matters most.

Some will gripe that the new characters are merely imitations of old ones, and it’s true that there’s a familiarity to the dynamics — when Freddy and Frasier move in together, it’s inevitable that the former will install an air-hockey table with which to appal his old man. There’s also only so many scenarios in which the good doctor can be plonked for comedic effects, and so in the first five episodes we see Frasier taken to somewhere he perceives as base and common (a firehouse; and if you were wondering if someone ends up going down the firepole, then you’ve never seen a sitcom before) as well as somewhere incredibly snooty where he’s desperate to make an impression (an elite members-only club, where a farce unfolds involving a medieval combat gauntlet). But if this is hardly ground-breaking, the strike-rate of the jokes is pleasingly high, and the whole thing is powered by the performance that matters most.

Frasier Crane is the role that defines Kelsey Grammer (apologies to Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dodge from Down Periscope). And what’s incredible is that he’s still finding amusing shades and hues in the sandalwood-scented psychiatrist, 39 years after Crane’s debut, in Cheers Season 3 episode ‘Rebound’. Frasier is greyer now, and a little paunchier, but he’s lost none of his passion for pretension or elation in affectation. As he exults that one of his new purchases is “plumped with wool from Khangai yaks”, or proclaims, “I feel amalgamated with the hoi polloi”, only a true grouch would deny that he is still delightful company. Was the return of Frasier necessary? Not really. Does it feel more like a revived relic than something fresh and vital for 2023? Kinda. Even so, it’s most enjoyable comfort food. Or, to translate that into Frasier-speak, “a Kagoshima A5, decadently marbled, busting with umami, in a retro nasal symphony”.

The old faces are missed, and the tone is resolutely old-fashioned. But Frasier proves a versatile sitcom hero once more, heading back to his original city for new escapades with plenty of warmth and invention. Craniacs should be sated.
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