When it was originally on: 1993-2004
Original network: NBC
Where you can stream it now: Hulu or CBS All Access
Had I seen it before: I’m aware of the general premise, but I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a full episode beginning to end. And while I have seen a few episodes of Cheers, I haven’t seen any of the ones that featured Frasier.
Why I picked it: Tv loves a good spinoff, and Frasier is arguably the most successful one of all time. It’s also a show that unites both the masses and television insiders. It ran for 11 seasons, and won the Best Comedy Emmy in its first five seasons. Mind you, these are years when Friends and Seinfeld were both on the air as well, one of the golden ages of white people sitcoms. Frasier has always seemed like a show I would enjoy if I ever gave it the chance, so it was time to give it a chance.
What I liked: This one does a great job of balancing humor with emotional connection to the characters. It finds clever ways of letting all three of the Crane men show their feelings despite the fact they are all emotionally repressed men. This most notably comes in the form of Frasier’s radio show. That radio show is a brilliant device, giving the writers endless opportunity to show us how Frasier feels about things without him ever having to express his feelings openly.
It’s also rare for a tv pilot to land so many jokes successfully, and moreso, some of those jokes actually give us valuable insight into our characters. One of my favorite lines is when Niles says “You know what Mother always said. A handshake is as good as a hug.” This isn’t just a funny joke, it’s an organic glimpse into how these two brothers were raised. If you’re going to rely on dialog to have characters tell the audience about their past, THIS is how you do it. No lengthy explanation of how Mother didn’t really love these brothers, just a snappy joke that a man could believably say to his brother.
We also get some great teases for other conflicts to come. We meet Daphne, but we don’t get to see her try to take care of Frasier’s dad. We learn that Niles is also a practicing psychiatrist who scorns Frasier’s radio gig. We don’t see that conflict come to fruition, but I think they could have a lot of fun with that. We know Frasier doesn’t particularly like Daphne, yet he’s stuck with her because his dad didn’t like any of the other prospective caregivers. And of course the mac daddy of them all, Frasier and his father will now live together even though neither one of them actually wants this. There are 263 episodes of Frasier and there are enough unresolvable conflicts in this pilot that I can easily picture all 263 working.
What I didn’t like: There’s a brief bit in the beginning where Frasier explains his past life in Boston that felt a little on-the-nose, but that’s a very tiny gripe in an otherwise fantastic pilot.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Absolutely! It was entertaining and set up plenty of interesting conflicts to come.