Kelsey Grammer returns to his iconic role in a satisfyingly familiar sitcom that still hits the right notes.
PLOT: Filmed in front of a live studio audience at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, the new series follows Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) in the next chapter of his life as he returns to Boston with new challenges to face, new relationships to forge and an old dream or two to finally fulfill. Frasier has re-entered the building!
REVIEW: Few actors have been able to successfully take a character from an iconic television series into an equally iconic spin-off. Aside from Bob Odenkirk’s Better Call Saul spinning from Breaking Bad or Sherman Helmsley taking The Jeffersons from All in the Family, Kelsey Grammer’s acclaimed performance as Dr. Frasier Crane went from a supporting role in the eleven-season run of Cheers to the eleven-season run of Frasier. Now, Grammer is bringing back his psychiatrist-turned-radio host to Boston from Seattle (by way of Chicago) for a new iteration of Frasier. Picking up nineteen years after the award-winning NBC sitcom, the new Frasier keeps the opening title card, transitional titles, and closing theme and a new career for Dr. Crane, now a professor at Harvard. Despite missing David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, and the late John Mahoney, this sequel series feels like a natural continuation of Frasier rather than a cash-grab reboot.
Picking up in real time after the series finale of Frasier, the new series finds Dr. Crane having quit his talk show in Chicago and his relationship with Charlotte (Laura Linney). After his father’s funeral in Seattle, Frasier heads to Boston along with Niles and Daphne’s son, David (Anders Keith), a student at Harvard. Reuniting with his friend, Harvard professor Alan Cornwall (Nicholas Lyndhurst), Frasier is courted by the head of the university’s psychiatry department, Olivia (Toks Olagundoye), to join the faculty. He hopes to restore his relationship with his firefighter son, Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott), who lives with actress and single mother Eve (Jess Salgueiro). The series follows Frasier as he explores a new phase in his career and family life in his old Boston stomping grounds. The result is a series that follows the format of the prior Frasier almost exactly, which is far from bad.
Having seen the first five episodes of the new Frasier, I enjoyed it as much as I did the series that inspired it. Kelsey Grammer developed a take on Frasier Crane that exemplified his snooty personality, which, alongside David Hyde Pierce’s Niles, was a perfect clash with the promiscuous Roz (Peri Gilpin), the empathetic Daphne (Jane Leeves), and the lovable but grouchy Martin. With Mahoney and Pierce out of the narrative, the new Frasier replaces them to varying degrees of success. Standing in for Niles is David, who has similar mannerisms and affects as his father. As much as Anders Keith tries to replicate Pierce’s award-winning performance, it is fairly hit or miss, with some jokes emulating Pierce’s manic reactions while others feel like poor imitations. Thankfully, the addition of Nicholas Lyndhurst adds a different dynamic to the series. Alan is lazy, apathetic, and drinks too much, but it plays for laughs as his adversarial relationship with his boss, Olivia, mimics Niles and Roz’s love-hate dynamic. Neither Lyndhurst nor Toks Olagundoye are playing variations of the aforementioned characters, delivering new elements that compliment and clash with Grammer’s familiar Frasier Crane quirks.
The core of the new Frasier is the flipped dynamic between the title character and his son, Freddy. In the original series, Freddy was a precocious and snooty kid who went through a goth phase, much to Frasier’s chagrin. Decades later, Freddy is a working-class firefighter who does not align with his celebrity father’s taste in food, wine, music, or decor. Frasier is now the elder parent, replacing Martin Crane. Now Freddy is the blue-collar guy who loves sports and cheap booze, forcing Frasier to deal with the same issues he had with his dad, but now with his son. Luckily, Jack Cutmore-Scott is a solid foil for Kelsey Grammer, imbuing Freddy with the same charm that John Mahoney brought to Martin, although not with nearly the impact that the late actor did. Jess Salgueiro’s Eve is a fun character but the least relevant to the main narrative of the series. Still, the early episodes wobble a bit before leveling out, especially when the storylines stabilize in the second and third episodes.
Chris Harris and Joe Cristalli create this new series once again under the direction of veteran Frasier helmer James Burrows. Filmed in front of a live audience, this series does not mess with the presentation of the original series, just updating it as if the show had never left the air for two decades. While Kelsey Grammer directs some episodes of the revival, the tried and true multi-camera look still screams “network sitcom,” but it does not feel as heavy-handed as some recent series reboots have felt. As much as I enjoy the new Night Court, the new Frasier is superior to that series. With so many current sitcoms taking the single-camera approach, the studio audience format can feel forced and the laughter somewhat canned. Frasier’s writing staff circumvents that by continuing the high-caliber writing that made the original series so refreshing. While many of the writing staff on Frasier are new to the character, veterans like writer Bob Daily have input on this season, which aligns it with the original series.
In an era where reboots and revivals are a dime a dozen and often smack of cashing in on familiar IP, Frasier is a well-thought-out and faithful continuation of Kelsey Grammer’s signature performance. The tried and true formula for network sitcom episodes is still here, including mistaken identity, pratfalls, and overheard conversations misconstrued for the sake of hilarious shenanigans. Still, the delivery never feels forced or tone-deaf. Thankfully, Kelsey Grammer’s assistance on this Frasier being as good as the original comes through loud and clear. For those who did not enjoy the original series, you won’t change your mind with this new one. But, if you are like me and love Frasier and Cheers, you will find a lot to enjoy in this new run. Frasier has left the building twice before, but, like tossed salads and scrambled eggs, he is back and as good as ever.
Frasier premieres on October 12th on Paramount+.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/frasier-tv-review/