"Kelsey Grammer’s voice sounds like a reassuring pat on the head,"
December 5, 2017 8:48 PM   Subscribe

How ‘Frasier’ Found a Second Life on Streaming

Celebrating Frasier, Television's Best Comedy Spinoff

‘Frasier’ Explored What It Means to Be Happy in its Real-Time Bottle Episode, “My Coffee with Niles”
The entire premise of the show was surprisingly off for network TV: two ballet-attending, Italian loafer-wearing, espresso-sipping psychiatrist brothers, the Cranes, get into trouble in and out of their own bubble of elitism from time to time. And they’re straight! When Frasier premiered on NBC in 1993 as a Cheers spin-off, the term “metrosexual” was still a year away from being coined, and it would be nearly a decade until its use would become ubiquitous among suburbanites. With Frasier, the mainstream was OK with Puccini references and caviar puns that went over their heads at times because the farce was funny enough. In this sense, I’ve always thought of Frasier as the Steely Dan of network sitcoms.
My Friend, Frasier Crane
posted by the man of twists and turns (70 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 


Really Iridic that should have been the main link.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:39 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


I spent almost a year falling asleep to Frasier episodes! I was suffering from a ruptured disc and writing my dissertation, not to mention planning my wedding...needless to say it was difficult to get to sleep. I would put on Frasier purposefully to lull me to sleep. And now I find out that I'm not alone! This must be how people with ASMR felt when they found out that ASMR is a thing and that other people get it.
posted by k8bot at 9:55 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


I watched a lot of Frasier over the summer, and realized that I hated it. I liked it, at first, for the reasons that are mentioned in the FPP. I then began to hate it because not only is Frasier a completely fucking awful person (see: the way he treats his co-worker, Roz), but the show's perspective is not that Frasier is the sort of anti-hero that we follow in a black comedy, but rather an audience stand-in that we're meant to basically root for. The main things that make Frasier an intolerable dick are also the things that make him an underdog from the show's perspective. So, anyway, fuck Frasier. It's pretty well written for a sitcom of that era, but it's also dated as shit. There are better shows to watch that don't center on a whiny man-baby who mistakes money for taste.
posted by codacorolla at 10:48 PM on December 5 [30 favorites]


Also Niles and Daphne is incredibly fucking gross!
posted by codacorolla at 10:49 PM on December 5 [4 favorites]


Maybe we'd all have had more respect for the guy in Toronto who bankrupted his family pursuing a restaurant if he'd pulled a Frasier & Niles and burned the place down making Cherries Jubilee with too much booze.

I think that might be the only plotline I remember from the show, other than the shitty way Frasier treated Roz.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:01 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


I tried to get into it but lost interest about 2/3 of the way through the first season. Although there was some clever repartee between Niles and Frasier, I got tired of the combination of what codacorolla mentions plus the repetitive formulaic plot lines. "Tonight! Frasier gets himself into trouble because he's a jerk! And tune in again next week, when Frasier gets himself into trouble because he's a jerk!"

That said, I totally envy the honeyed baritone strains of Grammer's voice.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:30 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the voices are so key. Grammer and Pierce's voices together are so mellifluous.

To me, watching Frasier is of a piece with reading The New Yorker growing up—though I grew up in the Midwest, far from cities like that, the air of sophistication and all the literary and cultural references were transporting. The show and the magazine were my parents' things, but they were in the background and eventually became my things. I haven't been able to bring myself to rewatch much of Frasier since then, but I know friends who have, and I remember how the repartee was both soothing and sparkling. It's interesting that those were some of the things my parents—who are/were artists and who both spent almost all their time at home, like I do now working from home—enjoyed. I wonder if the show and the ongoing literary conversations weaving through The New Yorker sort of gave them that presence in their lives that I get from binge-watching shows on streaming services now.

Some of my favorite shows of all time are those lulling, episodic scenarios where the characters start to feel like friends, like people I know. I like it a little better when the supernatural and/or science is involved, but I'll take it even if it's not if the show is interesting enough. Scrolling back through Netflix, that would include these for me.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Dead Like Me
Mushi-Shi
Shirobako
Ghost Whisperer
Charmed
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Medium
Battlestar Galactica/Caprica
Crossing Jordan
Being Human
Criminal Minds
The West Wing
The Blacklist
The Returned
Game of Thrones
Lost
Sword Art Online/Sword Art Online II
Twin Peaks
iZombie
The Magicians
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, The Punisher

As I was just telling a colleague earlier who started rewatching Gilmore Girls, that show seems like something I would like if they were all witches. A friend pointed out a while back that the kind of shows I like can be less about the supernatural than they are about women's inner lives, and I thought that was insightful. Perhaps my favorite kind of show to binge-watch is a supernatural ensemble show set in some city or area I've never visited. So it's like making new friends and visiting a new place by way of the mundane, which is my favorite kind of tourism. It all goes back to that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa makes new friends at the shore, I guess...
posted by limeonaire at 11:41 PM on December 5 [14 favorites]


Before this whole thread becomes about how much people hate Frasier, I should note that I love Frasier and think it does hold up well. Frasier is both hero and anti-hero. Yes, you're supposed to root for him, but you're also supposed to laugh at him – and hate him at least a little bit – for his effeteness and venality. That tension is part of what makes the show work.

The Niles Crane character was the genius stroke. If the central axis of the show was just Frasier and Marty, most of the audience would come to hate Frasier and side with Marty. So they came up with another Crane brother who was even more effete than Frasier - someone who would make Frasier seem like the relatable, self-aware everyman. That's why the Frasier character is interesting – for all of his intellectual pretensions, he's also someone who would happily piss away the hours with guys like Norm and Cliff and Sam, and ultimately be accepted by them. For Cheers, he was a supporting character, so putting him on the end of the snob-to-everyman continuum added spice to the show. For Frasier, for him to be the lead, that would be untenable. So they came up with Niles, and that's how they solved the problem.
posted by workingdankoch at 12:01 AM on December 6 [76 favorites]


Frasier’s perspective as an ‘underdog’, or any of the underlying plot points (many of which are misogynist, boring, illogical etc pp), are irrelevant to viewers like me who enjoy the show purely for the jokes/banter, which is way above the level of most other sitcoms. Basically, the ‘plot’ is a clotheshorse for great one-liner writing. If you are in fact ‘rooting for Frasier’, or following a ‘plot’, for that matter, you’re doing it wrong (IMHO). Not having to follow character development or deep plot lines is what makes the show so relaxing. You can miss 2 or 10 minutes here or there and still get 99% of the enjoyment an episode has to offer, which is mostly puns and witty references.
posted by The Toad at 12:02 AM on December 6 [12 favorites]


It must have been very tempting for the creates of Frasier to do the obvious thing when creating his brother and opt for a crude oaf to act as the comic foil. Instead, they went in precisely the opposite direction and made Niles even more effete than Frasier himself. That was a touch of genius, and very much the making of the show. In the later, no-longer-funny, seasons, they took the crude oaf route anyway with Daphne's brother(s) and those episodes were just bog standard sitcom fare.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:21 AM on December 6 [15 favorites]


Dammit, workingdankoch, you beat me to it.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:24 AM on December 6


We get several hours of Frasier weeknights on our cable-cutting digital broadcast alternative and quite enjoy it, especially having missed much of it the first time around. The writers must have really enjoyed themselves on this one. I might also note that David Hyde Pierce is a superb physical comedian as well, and without descending into slapstick. His takes, mannerisms and reactions are gold...
posted by jim in austin at 12:40 AM on December 6 [14 favorites]


For me, the top 3 sitcoms ever (in no particular order) are Frasier, Friends and the original UK version of Coupling, in terms of how funny I found them at their peak back when they aired during my teens and early twenties. I haven’t watched any of them in more than a decade, but out of the three, I’m most likely to watch Frasier because I feel like it has probably stood the test of time the best out of the three. The scene linked by Paul Slade above really reminded me of how good it could be, so maybe I should give it a go again...
posted by jklaiho at 12:45 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Was there ever a British version of Frasier? I seem to recall seeing an episode in the early 90s.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:53 AM on December 6


I recently watched the entire series, hoping for some resolution to his restless life, and in the end... nothing. Not exactly a waste of time but it did take over many of my evenings for the better part of a year. I think I was using it as a way to put off making some changes in my own life. Glad that's behind me.
posted by mantecol at 1:01 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


When my son was born my girlfriend and I watched a lot of random TV reruns and got reacquainted with a lot of TV shows from the 90s. I have to say, of the big sitcoms of that era, Frasier is the only one that isn’t homophobic as fuck.
posted by Kattullus at 1:23 AM on December 6 [11 favorites]


Was there ever a British version of Frasier? I seem to recall seeing an episode in the early 90s.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:53 AM on December 6 [+] [!]


Nope. There were a few episodes with a Britishy setting though, including one in Daphne's English pub. And all those godawful brothers, of course.

A couple of my favourite Niles Crane lines, as best I can recall them now:

"I find that remark crass, boorish and impossible to deny!"
"Where would he have gone if he didn't want to be involved?"
posted by Paul Slade at 1:25 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


I came to appreciate Niles, both the character and his perfomer. But, like, I currently live in Seattle, and in my distant childhood lived in Boston... and the Cranes have nothing to do with Seattle, like, at. All.

Which, every episode, killed my suspension of disbeef, I think the term might be.

As far as sitcom scripting goes? meh, they were going for the Suzanne Pleshette "The Bob Newhart Show" and didn't get the job done. Pity.
posted by mwhybark at 1:45 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


> I watched a lot of Frasier over the summer, and realized that I hated it. I liked it, at first, for the reasons that are mentioned in the FPP. I then began to hate it because not only is Frasier a completely fucking awful person

I've noticed the same thing, but my theory is that 40 minutes of Frasier once a week is Just Enough Frasier. It's when we binge-watch (something that wasn't available first time around) that we realise the characters are awful people. I feel the same about Desperate Housewives.
posted by Leon at 1:55 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


EVERY Shatner Chatner entry needs to be filmed, LIKE YESTERDAY. Starting with this one:

The Other Shoe Just Dropped
Bulldog convinces everyone in the station that Frasier has a foot fetish, whose protestations of innocence are met with disbelief, especially after Eddie (disoriented from painkillers after a cataract operation) hides all of his guests’ shoes under Frasier’s bed during brunch. Patrick Stewart guest stars as a talking shoe only Frasier can see.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:24 AM on December 6 [12 favorites]


when we binge-watch (something that wasn't available first time around) that we realise the characters are awful people

Leon, I have observed this type of phenomenon in many shows I thought I'd get a big kick out of binge-watching. Instead of enjoying it, I was disappointed/discomfited/irritated. Is there a word for it yet (German, or otherwise)? Bingeschmertz?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:27 AM on December 6 [17 favorites]


One of the strangest unintended consequence of 9/11 was that the death of producer David Angell on that day almost certainly caused the precipitous decline in quality that the show suffered in its later seasons.
posted by Optamystic at 2:36 AM on December 6 [9 favorites]


No disrespect to Mr Angell, but sooner or later doesn't that happen to all great sitcoms anyway? Any popular show will eventually reach the point where its creative potential has been exhausted, but its ratings and income from ad sales are just beginning to peak. That more or less guarantees that the network responsible will keep on churning out new episodes long after there's any chance of them being remotely enjoyable.

The Simpsons, Friends and a thousand other sitcoms fell victim to this same phenomenon. Fawlty Towers is the leading exception of the pre-digital era, and then only because John Cleese had the good sense to pull the plug after two short seasons.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:57 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


That is true, Paul Slade. But I attended a taping in 2002, and the atmosphere was decidedly grim, with a giant American Flag above an only slightly smaller memorial plaque for Mr. Angell. Everyone seemed to be forlornly coasting. Compare that with the atmosphere at most sitcom tapings, which is one of harried professionalism with just enough fake cheerfulness to keep the captive audience from wanting to leave. I agree though that it probably would have happened anyway, given the length of the show's run.
posted by Optamystic at 3:12 AM on December 6 [6 favorites]


For Cheers, he was a supporting character, so putting him on the end of the snob-to-everyman continuum added spice to the show. For Frasier, for him to be the lead, that would be untenable. So they came up with Niles, and that's how they solved the problem.

This reminds me of something I noticed on Parks and Recreation (and later, to a lesser extent, on Brooklyn Nine-Nine). They tried to get Ben Schwarz on the show, who ended up playing a character that the sleazy grifter character, Tom, brought in for an interview - who ends up being Tom but even more insufferable. What they discovered was that he ended up being really useful as a character to define Tom against - if they came up with a plotline that would cause problems for Tom, because it required him to be too amoral, or stupid, or sleazy, they could give it to Jean-Ralphio. April, the cynical misanthrope, got Orin, and family members on Brooklyn Nine-Nine usually play the same role. Niles ends up being this for Frasier, except baked into the premise of the show.
posted by Merus at 3:40 AM on December 6 [5 favorites]


I don't think Frasier is remotely a "fucking awful person", wtf. He's a character with a number of admirable qualities and a number of flaws, just like characters ought to have. One of the things I enjoy about Frasier, actually, is the way it regularly makes space for characters (including and especially Frasier himself) to be decent and humane to one another -- much more frequently and successfully than other late 20th century sitcoms. (What it reminds me of, actually, is Roseanne, which had very different situations but a similar ability to go from snark to sincerity without descending into utter mawkishness.) Frasier is a thoughtful person, capable of a lot of kindness, generosity and patience, who nevertheless can't control his vanity, ego, social striving and lust and generally ends up making a fool of himself as a result. He's no underdog, that's absurd. The show is very clear on the fact that he has every advantage and simply can't get out of his own way. If anything he fits more easily into the trope of upper-class twit, but fleshed out to lead character proportions. And honestly, especially from seasons 1 through 6, the jokes are just killer and the ensemble cast is so tight. Those seasons of Frasier are, along with most of the run of The Golden Girls, my very favourite things to binge-watch.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:50 AM on December 6 [23 favorites]


> I don't think Frasier is remotely a "fucking awful person", wtf.

Watch it again (or don't, there's no reason to ruin it for you). He once took photos of a woman asleep in his bed so he could prove he slept with her.
posted by Leon at 3:53 AM on December 6


I haven't thought about Frasier in years; I'm tempted to try re-watching it just to see how it stands up, although it doesn't sound like it's going to go especially well.

I never got into the show when it was on, but I think that was largely unrelated to the show's merits (or lack thereof) and more because the people I knew who really liked it seemed to be frequently insufferable people, who would always tell you how much better it was than Seinfeld in a way that was basically the early-1990s version of "To Be Fair, You Have To Have a Very High IQ to Understand Rick and Morty".

Looking back on it in the context of the town where I grew up, there were probably some class-signaling things at work that I didn't really pick up on. Hmm.

Kelsey Grammar does have a great voice, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:56 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Also, can I say I'll never understand why of all things Friends is the sitcom that seems to meet with the most approval on this site. It's so strange how things get coded OK and not OK here. People are constantly reaching for reasons to call Seinfeld and Frasier dated and offensive. Yet when I was a preteen in the early 00s I made a bet with myself that I would never see an episode of Friends without a homophobic joke or an implication that being like a woman is worthy of contempt. While I admit I haven't watched every episode of Friends, I've seen most of them and I haven't lost my bet yet. Not to mention the horrific, misogynist writer's room environment exposed by writer's assistant Amaani Lyle in her sexual harrassment suit (which was of course, ultimately dismissed) around the time season 6 was airing. The plaintiff's declaration linked here a) turns my stomach and b) doesn't even surprise me given what made it on the air.

I guess I find it easier to enjoy a show like Seinfeld where it seems like the show knows the characters aren't 100% OK than one like Friends where everyone is kind of appalling in a lot of ways and it's just not really acknowledged. To me, Frasier is more in the first category, as much as the characters' flaws are presented sympathetically, but I can see how other people put it in the second.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:00 AM on December 6 [20 favorites]


Watch it again (or don't, there's no reason to ruin it for you). He once took photos of a woman asleep in his bed so he could prove he slept with her.

Let me reconfigure my thought. It's not so much that Frasier isn't a "fucking awful person" as that that strikes me as an irrelevant and exhausting way to think about characters' actions in a lot of fiction and particularly in the highly moralistic sitcom genre, where characters typically do things that would be considered unacceptable in real life. Whereas in real life, justice for bad actions is achieved through societal condemnation and/or the judicial system, in a sitcom, justice is generally delivered by the narrative, which punishes bad actors by exposing them, hurting them, humiliating them, and/or denying them what they want. This is intended to provide moral closure for the audience, so we can feel cleansed of enjoying comedy based on a character's evil actions. Maybe this kind of thing doesn't work in 2017, but I watch a lot of television and it seems to me that people still do a lot of terrible things, especially in shows that take a heightened rather than realistic approach.

In the case you're talking about, Frasier is immediately found out by the woman, who witheringly and righteously condemns him in front of the family and friends he was hoping to impress by surreptitiously taking her photograph, then goes off to live her fabulous life. That's his punishment, and in the context of a sitcom, that is supposed to make things "OK" again. Again, maybe that doesn't work for you, but I'm OK with it, even though I would shun somebody for doing something like that in real life, and even though I'm glad violations like that are, 20 years after that episode aired, finally taken seriously enough that they are considered unsuitable behaviour for lovable protagonists.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:34 AM on December 6 [38 favorites]


Basically a show like Frasier attempts to process the viewer's moral response on their behalf, and counts on the viewer, seeing that the work is done, not to bother too much, and therefore not to be deterred from sympathising with the characters. It's within your rights not to play along, but if you can't, yeah, it's no surprise if you don't find it enjoyable.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:48 AM on December 6 [6 favorites]



Here's my favorite take on this recent Frasier resurgence:

"The reason Frasier is so popular with millennials is that he basically hosts a podcast and is always alone."
posted by jeremias at 4:54 AM on December 6 [19 favorites]


I tried to get into it but lost interest about 2/3 of the way through the first season

I'd suggest skipping to season 2. I think that season one hits the "Frasier and Martin come into conflict because of Frasier's snobbery and insensitivity" button far too many times, and I don’t find it particularly soothing for this precise reason. It feels, in the second season, like they've worked out a better balance between the characters, and episodes from that point on tend to fit more into my relaxing TV niche.
posted by howfar at 5:31 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there a tumblr account (or similar) at one time solely dedicated to imagined Frasier plots? I seem to remember reading and enjoying at least a dozen or so.
posted by aesop at 5:40 AM on December 6


"Frasier." Now, my homie said it's iconic and shit. Even won a record 37 Primetime Emmys, or whatever. So I started watching. And I'm cool with suspending my disbelief a little, but this? Am I really supposed to believe a baldin' white dude from Seattle gets to smash that much? And it's not like he was slaying hood rats, neither. This nigga get more butt than ash trays. Turned me off from the fucking situation comedies altogether. Had to cleanse the palate.

And I know it only got one Emmy nomination, but I'll tell you, you wanna see a believable protagonist doing extraordinary shit? Don't sleep on "Knight Rider," yo.
~ Leon (Joey Bada$$) in Mr. Robot (rough transcript for S03E07), my only real point of reference for Frasier.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:01 AM on December 6 [10 favorites]


Niles: There, there. I'm here for you. [pushes Bulldog away] And you're over there for me. …
s4e2: Love Bites Dog
posted by scruss at 7:01 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


Overall, I was kind of "meh" on Frasier, but "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz," is, for my money, one of the best and most representative sitcom episodes ever written.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:20 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Weirdly, I've never watched Frasier, not because I particularly disliked Grammer (that would come later), but because I wasn't that big a fan of Cheers and never felt compelled to check it out. The closest I came was, of all things, the Star Trek 30th anniversary special, which had a sketch that involved the Frasier cast taking the place of the bridge crew, but Grammer was a no-show because he'd crashed his car into a tree and spent a month at the Betty Ford Center, so a visibly disgruntled Kate Mulgrew took his place in the captain's chair at the last minute.

Anyway, pursuant to the topic of the FPP, I could see myself giving this a try anyway because I've recently done so with The Office, more or less at random, and have been burning through two or three episodes a night. Certainly having an unsympathetic main character isn't a drawback for me because of Michael Scott.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:55 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


> Also, can I say I'll never understand why of all things Friends is the sitcom that seems to meet with the most approval on this site.

Oh my god I hate "Friends" so fucking much. Thank you. I am relieved to hear that I am not The Only One. I started off tolerating it with a dose of the usual eyerolling over sitcom tropes, but hated it more and more each year...and even more so after it went to such profligate rerun schedules that it seems like everyone (including myself) has seen almost the entire run of the show, like it or not.

(I was about 21 when it premiered and I am also a white middle-class person, so it was extra-frustrating that the characters were used as a sort of lazy set of standard comparisons for people of my generation.)
posted by desuetude at 8:27 AM on December 6 [9 favorites]


Oh my god I hate "Friends" so fucking much. Thank you. I am relieved to hear that I am not The Only One.

I, too, hate Friends. It always struck me as the sort of straight person pablum that I find it very hard to care about. Plus, their apartments are ridiculous. Say what you want about Seinfeld (the driving! why do they drive so much? They all live in Manhattan it's ridiculous) at least their apartments attempted to be somewhat realistic. And don't give me that crap about how it was Rachel's aunt's rent-controlled apartment or whatever, that shit is still ridic as fuck
posted by Automocar at 8:36 AM on December 6 [8 favorites]


I never cared for this show, for reasons people have outlined above (although I loved Cheers). I also disliked how cruelly the show treated Lilith on her guest appearances.

The one episode I did enjoy was when Woody came for a visit, and Frasier realizes that he has nothing in common with him. I think most of us have been there.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:38 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


>Oh my god I hate "Friends" so fucking much. Thank you. I am relieved to hear that I am not The Only One.

>>I, too, hate Friends.


I gladly will join this Friends-hating trio. I remember during the original run when I had real friends who arranged Friends viewing parties. Tried it once and...nope, somehow this is worse than "not funny", it's anti-humor.
posted by jeremias at 10:06 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


+1 to hating Friends. It's just so dumb—like the characters aren't generally meant to be particularly intelligent, the writing isn't particularly smart, etc. Give me Seinfeld or Frasier any day.
posted by limeonaire at 10:17 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


I always thought that Frasier's life being basically disappointing and not going anywhere being due to his awfulness was baked in to the show to a degree, like how when Seinfeld was on no one ever talked about how awful all the characters were. That was an 'oh everyone knows that' consensus after the last episode.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:29 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


The Toad: "Basically, the ‘plot’ is a clotheshorse for great one-liner writing."

This.

"Ah, yes. Dog saliva. Nature's miracle solvent."

"Niles: Don't you DARE call me irrational! You know that makes me crazy!"

And this extended exchange:
Frasier: NILES!  Niles, get a hold of yourself!  Stop it!  Stop, stop.  
         It's all right.  You're no longer an awkward teenager, you're 
         a renowned psychiatrist.  Danny Kreizel may have won a battle
         or two back in junior high, but that's where he peaked.  You
         won the war.  You know the expression, "Living well is the
         best revenge"?
  Niles: It's a wonderful expression.  Just don't know how true it is.
         Don't see it turning up in a lot of opera plots.  "Ludwig, 
         maddened by the poisoning of his entire family, wreaks 
         vengeance on Gunther in the third act by living well."
Frasier: All right, Niles. [heads into the kitchen]
  Niles: [follows him] "Whereupon Woton, upon discovering his 
         deception, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act 
         again by living even better than the Duke."
Frasier: Oh, all right!
posted by Mitheral at 10:35 AM on December 6 [14 favorites]


Basically a show like Frasier attempts to process the viewer's moral response on their behalf, and counts on the viewer, seeing that the work is done, not to bother too much

I could not have written something so damning if I tried.
posted by PMdixon at 10:53 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


I will not pretend Frasier doesn't have its share of homophobia and/or cheap gay jokes and misogyny. I do think it's miles better than Friends or even later sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother. I don't speak for all gay people, but I think even the episodes where "lol, someone has to pretend to be gay" are handled with more... class and as an in-joke to actual gay people than a lot of media... maybe because so many cast members are gay.

I love the scenes where Frasier and Niles fight and thinking about how perfectly you'd have to act that, syncing up the outrage and the back-and-forth. Mrs Molerats and I are both fond of saying 'I...am...WOUNDED!!!"
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:10 AM on December 6 [8 favorites]


The only episode I can ever remember is the one where the Crane boys solve Dad's one last case. A trained monkey did it! But then they're all, "But wait, while we are certainly amazingly intelligent and clever, it would crush dad to be reminded of this fact on a case which has been so important to him and stumped him for so long." So they re-arrange the clues to point to their solution and at first Martin is mad because they're messing with his stuff and then he goes wait a minute and runs off to the police station because he's finally cracked it.

Then it turns out that their re-arranging accidentally pointed Martin to it being the responding officer, who immediately confessed when confronted, not a trained monkey. Because solving crimes is actually a specialized field that Martin is way better than his untrained and unexperienced sons at.
posted by ckape at 11:40 AM on December 6 [11 favorites]


Friends is the best sitcom for the same reason 'serious' rock / pop music magazines best album of all time is an ever shifting target from approximately twenty years ago.
posted by vbfg at 11:44 AM on December 6


i mean everyone knows that the best thing about Frasier is whenever Marty says "Shut your big bazoo"
posted by fairlynearlyready at 11:54 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Thank you all for overthinking TV for me this morning. It's one of my favorite features here, no lie.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:09 PM on December 6 [4 favorites]


This title of this post just makes me want to plonk down some cash on a EV RE20. That's a nice microphone.

Frasier is most interesting to me as a Cheers spin-off; it sort of occurs in that universe, but the West Coast setting somehow frees Frasier from the constant mockery of the Cheers crew. I guess the dad was supposed to fill that role?

Sadly, without that mockery Frasier the character--and therefore the show--is intolerable for me now, although I watched it occasionally when it was in syndication. The writing was decent, but the snobbery and insecurity of an idiot man-child, coupled with pop-psych and misogyny, just . . . don't hold up. To the point that I'm a little worried about rewatching Sideshow Bob episodes of the Simpsons, even though I remember the one with David Hyde Pierce being hilarious.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:47 PM on December 6


Not to abuse the edit window, I see above that workingdankoch covers the other side of that point regarding how the writers fit it into the Cheers universe.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:53 PM on December 6


I love Frasier and I love Friends, though the latter is mostly nostalgia from my childhood as I've never felt a need to rewatch. Honestly, I can't rewatch Frasier that much but that's because I can no longer deal with laugh tracks.
posted by asteria at 2:10 PM on December 6


Danny Kreizel may have won a battle
or two back in junior high, but that's where he peaked.


I have very mixed feelings about Frasier, but "The Throne" is truly one of the finest sitcom episodes of all time. It's got great physical humor, cute character bits ("there goes Crane, down the drain!"), unexpected reversals that build up to a hilarious episode climax, and a genuine heart.

It's also the relatively rare Frasier episode where one of the "intellectual" jokes/references (the one quoted above about Wotan) actually had intellectual content. So many of the cultural phrases were passed around like fetish objects. What's Biedermeier furniture? Who knows, except it sounds fancy and snobbish and so it can serve in a joke about fanciness and snobbishness? So very much of that. That's not inherently bad comedy, but you always got the feeling the show thought it was way more culturally sophisticated than it actually was.

I would like to take credit for being the one to suggest to Mallory Ortberg that, in the sense she uses it, anyway, Niles might be a lesbian icon.
posted by praemunire at 2:14 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Also, now that I've been thinking about that episode and parallels between Martin and Columbo I'm wondering what a Frasier-themed episode of Columbo would be like. I'm thinking Niles kills Frasier and poorly tries to frame Roz.
posted by ckape at 2:33 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Also, Roz was great. Doesn't Frasier get any points for presenting a sexually active - even sexually adventurous - single career woman in such a positive light?

She could hold her own against both Frasier and Niles, and frequently got the better of them both. The example that springs to mind is her withering putdown of prissy Niles: "I bet you don't even ruffle the sheets, do you?"

Too bad Peri Gilpin (the actress who played her) seemed to disappear from TV when the series was done.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:42 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


I adore David Hyde Pierce's work as Niles so much in the early seasons, before he and Daphne getting together ruined the character for me. His pants-on-fire, nosebleed-fainting scene is a master class in physical comedy. And the season 2 episode where he fights his wife's fencing instructor is one of my very favorite episodes of television ever.
posted by merriment at 3:15 PM on December 6 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: something I would like if they were all witches ?
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 5:22 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Many, many moons ago I informed a longstanding friend at length that I would quite like to have Frasier's dating life. Not in the vulgar "phwoaaar!" sense, more in that I found it exaggeratedly unrealistic but obviously aspirational to be able to regularly meet new people where we find each other mutually attractive and do something enjoyable together to see if there's a spark. Minus the bits where "my" brother Niles has a parrot clamped to his head. You have seen that episode, haven't you?

Not really notable you might say, yet I mainly remember that conversation (monologue) for the fact it came up after my friend mentioned that she was actively dating at the moment and quite separately, during a brief lull in the opinionvomit, happened to ask whether I was currently single. Why yes, like Frasier I was! Did you know...?

I don't dwell on it too much since being labelled the town's #1 Cause Of Sinkholes isn't something I aspire to. At least someone had a lucky escape that day!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 6:13 PM on December 6


Too bad Peri Gilpin (the actress who played her) seemed to disappear from TV when the series was done.

She just had a great cameo in a recent episode of Broad City. Took me forever to remember where I'd seen her before and figure out where my spontaneous affection for the character was coming from.
posted by chortly at 6:23 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


"Basically, the ‘plot’ is a clotheshorse for great one-liner writing."

For Niles usually. A couple I remember:

First, when Niles and Frasier are getting coffee somewhere and a woman who's recently met Frasier comes over to say Hi. She starts talking to him and the conversation starts getting a little...forward. Niles finally interjects: "Hello, I'm Niles, the other person at this table." (Followed later in the conversation when she says something really outrageous, and Niles leans over to Frasier and advises "She is the devil, Frasier - run fast, run far.")

Second: There's a city-wide blackout, and everyone's mad at each other, and Niles storms out in an effort to leave. Five minutes later he shows up back at the door, utterly winded, and gasps out the following:

"Nineteen floors down to my car! Garage door's electric! Can't open! Twenty floors back up! Lost count! Bad lady upstairs! Big dog! Need! place! to die!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:27 PM on December 6 [4 favorites]


I love the running gag that Niles hides under the piano when he's stressed.

"There's nothing for me out there. It's all lawyers and ex-wives and broken hearts. All I have to contend with under here is a couple of dust bunnies... some cobwebs... some kind of a nest."
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:17 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


And the season 2 episode where he fights his wife's fencing instructor is one of my very favorite episodes of television ever.

God, yes. I cited the climactic duel in a recent AskMe about the best physical comedy bits ever. The way he loses his rapier! And then recovers by swinging on the chandelier!

Yeah, the show definitely had its moments.

Also, Roz was great. Doesn't Frasier get any points for presenting a sexually active - even sexually adventurous - single career woman in such a positive light?

You may have, understandably, mentally erased Frasier's constant slut-shaming of her. It's pretty damn irritating, and constant.
posted by praemunire at 7:23 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


So, about y'all's milkshake duck. I've never been able to watch Grammar because he seems to be a garbage human :/
posted by Ogre Lawless at 9:59 PM on December 6


First, when Niles and Frasier are getting coffee somewhere and a woman who's recently met Frasier comes over to say Hi. [...] Niles leans over to Frasier and advises "She is the devil, Frasier - run fast, run far."

That wouldn't be Bebe, Frasier's demonic agent, would it?

You may have, understandably, mentally erased Frasier's constant slut-shaming of [Roz].

That seems too harsh a way of describing it to me. I remember it as being more like the acerbic teasing which good friends sometimes use to affectionately spar with each other. And it's not like Roz was ever a victim - she went toe-to-toe with Frasier in these exchanges and landed some good punches of her own.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:42 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


> they were going for the Suzanne Pleshette "The Bob Newhart Show" and didn't get the job done.

mwhybark, Bob Newhart is on Hulu. I would love going to sleep with Bob & Suzanne, so thanks for prompting me to look it up.
posted by theora55 at 3:37 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


Nah, it literally was "you're a slut with no standards and it's funny."

Roz, you've been around the block a few times-- (audience laughs) It's funny, you see! Because women who have multiple sexual partners are socially deviant!

No credit awarded.
posted by praemunire at 8:06 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


theora55, it's the pinnacle of the form.
posted by mwhybark at 11:32 PM on December 7


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