The last time we saw Dr Frasier Crane, he was leaving Seattle for a new life and a new love. That was 19 years ago, when one of the great sitcoms of the modern era came to a close after 11 seasons. Now Frasier is back, and rather like its star Kelsey Grammer, he feels remarkably well preserved. Bringing beloved comedies back can be fraught with danger, a shallow and sentimental wallow, but the creators of Frasier know exactly what made the show great. Premiering on Paramount+, Frasier 2.0 is well worth raising a glass to.
Aptly, when we join him, he’s at an airport in Boston, his old stomping ground from Cheers, the classic barfly comedy that first introduced him. He’s only passing through, intending to visit his grown-up son Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott). By the end of the first episode, however, he’ll make Boston his home, securing a teaching position in Harvard’s psychology department where his disenchanted old Oxford pal Alan Cornwall (Nicholas Lyndhurst) works, when he can be bothered to turn up.
Straight off the bat we learn that Frasier’s father Martin Crane passed away (and in a lovely nod to the late John Mahoney, who played him, the bar where some of this new show’s action takes place is called Mahoney’s). There’s also no sign of Niles, Frasier’s equally pompous younger brother, or his English wife Daphne. But we do get David (Anders Keith), their son, who is in Frasier’s psych class and is every bit the mini-me Niles you’d hope for (he carries a laminated plastic card with all his food allergies, naturally).
‘Frasier’ sees the doctor hanging out with his son in Boston. Credit: Paramount+.
If David is channeling Niles, then the sports-loving Freddy is Martin reincarnated – the salt-of-the-earth first responder (a hunky fireman) who is everything that Frasier’s not. Theirs is a strained relationship, at best. He hasn’t even told his Dad that he’s sharing his apartment with Eve (Jess Salgueiro), an actress/waitress who has just had a baby with Freddy’s fireman buddy, who died in service. Single mother Eve might be our sort-of surrogate for Roz Doyle, Frasier’s old producer on his Seattle radio show.
Before long, Frasier’s bought the apartment opposite Freddy’s, convincing him to move in, so they can spend time together. It’s a neat set-up, crisply executed by a cast more than capable of the mix of physical and character-driven comedy required. Grammer effortlessly slips back into his sherry-swigging, opera-loving fop, while Lyndhurst’s boozy, lazy academic makes a good foil for Frasier (just about the only thing he seems to care about, aside from 25-year-old Scotch, is his cat Margaret Scratcher).
There are some lovely throwbacks – nods to the bar where everybody knows your name, to Martin’s tatty armchair recliner, to Frasier’s disastrous dinner parties – without the tone getting too wink-wink. And the early episodes, from Freddy’s furniture choices to a trip to the fire station to Frasier’s being forced to jazz up his lectures, are all funny and warm, everything you want from the show. Yes, the genius that is David Hyde Pierce’s Niles is sorely missed, but Frasier is still as tasty as a tossed salad and scrambled eggs.
‘Frasier’ releases two new episodes on Paramount+ on October 12, then one new episode weekly
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