Scott D. Pierce: ‘Frasier’ is back — and still comfortably funny

The revived series will stream on Paramount+. The first 2 episodes will air on CBS.

(Pamela Littky | Paramount+) Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane in "Frasier."

TV’s newest blast from the past — a revival of “Frasier” — has an extremely tough task, because the original series was one of the best sitcoms in television history.

For its first five years, “Frasier” was unquestionably the best comedy on television. That’s not just my opinion. The sitcom won Emmys as best comedy from 1994 to 1998.

Emmys aren’t always deserved, but in this case they were. And that’s saying something, given that the shows “Frasier” beat out included “Friends,” “Home Improvement,” “Mad About You, “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Seinfeld.”

Remarkably, when it premiered in September 1993, “Frasier” hit the ground running. The character of Frasier Crane wasn’t new; Kelsey Grammer played him for nine seasons on “Cheers” (1984-93), appearing in 202 episodes of that show. He was an often-amusing character, but the idea that he could carry a show that would rival — maybe even exceed — “Cheers” seemed, well, laughable.

“Frasier” moved Frasier across the country, from Boston to Seattle, and surrounded him with an entirely new cast of characters. The writing was great, and the actors’ chemistry was instantaneous. The first five seasons were spectacular; the last six seasons were still good.

It’s a lot to live up to. The Paramount+ revival, which premieres Thursday, makes every effort to be the same while different on the surface. When last we saw the Frasier in May 2004, he was following a woman to Chicago. In the revival, we learn that he stayed there, hosting a nationally syndicated daytime talk show. (Sort of a far less mean-spirited “Dr. Phil.”)

As the sequel begins, Frasier arrives in Boston to deliver a lecture at his alma mater, Harvard. He’s just come from his father’s funeral — John Mahoney, who played Martin Crane, died in 2018 — and he’s estranged from his son, Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott).

Frasier says he has “mixed emotions” about being back in Boston. “I’m not sure I was ever my best self here. I may have spent a little too much time at a certain bar.”

When he wonders why Freddy doesn’t seem to want him around, Alan asks, “Have you considered that he hates you?”

(Chris Haston | Paramount+) Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane and Jack Cutmore-Scott as Freddy Crane in "Frasier."

The original “Frasier” often centered on the relationship between Frasier and his father. This sequel centers on the relationship between Frasier and his son — and it’s the same relationship. They’re both about a very different father and son who love each other but had great difficulty finding common ground.

Martin was a retired police officer, a regular guy who never understood Frasier’s pompous, stuffy, snobbish airs. Freddy is a firefighter, a regular guy who’s kind of embarrassed by his father’s behavior.

Niles (David Hyde Pierce), Daphne (Jane Leeves), Roz (Peri Gilpin), Bulldog (Dan Butler) and Eddie the dog (Moose) are nowhere to be seen this time around, although each of them is referenced at least once in the five episodes screened for critics. In their places are Alan (Nicholas Lyndhurst), Frasier’s old college buddy and a current Harvard professor; Olivia (Toks Olagundoye), the head of the Harvard psychology department who wants to hire Frasier; David (Anders Keith), Frasier’s nephew/Niles and Daphne’s son; and Eve (Jess Salgueiro), Freddy’s roommate.

Grammer, 68, and Cutmore-Scott, 36, work well together. (And Cutmore-Scott is just about the right age to play Freddy — he was born in 1987; Freddy was born in a 1989 episode of “Cheers.”)

David is the weakest link in this version of “Frasier.” He’s more a cartoon figure than a believable character. And, after watching half of this 10-episode 12th season of “Frasier,” the jury is still out on the inclusion of the Eve character.

(Chris Haston | Paramount+) Toks Olagundoye as Olivia, Kelsey Grammer as Frasier and Nicholas Lyndhurst as Alan in "Frasier."

The most pleasant surprise is the interplay between Olivia and Alan. The shots they take at each other are often hilarious. When Frasier tells Olivia he’s going to Paris to do research for a book he wants to write about Pierre de Marivaux, she says, “If you’re interested in obscure Europeans who haven’t been published in 300 years, you should just stay here and study Alan.”

For Grammer, jumping back into the character is like putting on a pair of well broken-in shoes — entirely comfortable. And it’s the same for “Frasier” fans. I don’t know that the revival will win over a whole lot of new fans, but it should please a lot of old ones.

Three series

“Frasier” premiered just over 30 years ago (Sept. 16, 1993), but the character first appeared closer to 40 years ago — on the third-season premiere of “Cheers” (Sept. 27, 1984). How long ago was that? The BYU football team was four games into its national championship season, and Ronald Reagan would defeat Walter Mondale to win a second term in the White House less than five weeks later.

Frasier has actually appeared in three series — “Cheers,” “Frasier” and “Wings.” Both Frasier and his then-wife, Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth), guest starred in the February 1992 “Wings” episode titled “Planes, Trains and Visiting Cranes.”

“Wings” was created and executive produced by ex-“Cheers” writers/producers David Angell, Peter Casey and David Leeb, who would later create “Frasier.”

‘Frasier’ tragedy

David Angell and his wife, Lynn, were aboard American Airlines Flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001 — the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.

In the “Frasier” finale in May 2004, Niles’ and Daphne’s newborn son was named David, in honor of Angell.

(Chris Haston | Paramount+) Jack Cutmore-Scott as Freddy, Anders Keith as David and Kelsey Grammer as Frasier in "Frasier."

Streaming and on TV

The first two episodes of “Frasier” will start streaming Thursday on Paramount+, and Episodes 3-10 will debut one at a time on subsequent Thursdays.

If you want to get a taste of the revival and you’re not a Paramount+ subscriber, Episodes 1 and 2 will air back-to-back Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 8:15 p.m. MDT on CBS/Channel 2. These new episodes are longer than the standard 22-minute, broadcast network sitcom — Episode 1 is just over 29 minutes; Episode 2 is just over 27 minutes — so the two episodes will air from 8:15-9:30 p.m.

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