If you’ve read any reviews of the 2023 Frasier reboot, you probably noticed there’s been some disagreement. Is the revival of the 1993-2004 show a “Pointless” “eggscruciating” “unfunny dud” and “an enormous embarrassment for [star] Kelsey Grammar “ - or “as perfect as ever,” More charming than expected” or at least “okay”? Today, we’re taking a look at the new Frasier reboot so far, why it’s caused such a split in opinions, and unpacking if it really has a chance of holding a candle to the original. Here’s our Take!
What Made Frasier Work So Well
Overall, critics rate the new Frasier reboot merely 58% on rotten tomatoes, while it currently enjoys a 85% audience score. Among critics, opinions are coming out strong pro and con, while numerous Frasier fans online are voicing that — even if they might not think it’s amazing — at the end of the day it’s just good fun to see the character again. The answer to all this disconnect boils down to what you’re comparing this new Frasier to – are you measuring it against the original classic that won 37 primetime Emmys (including Outstanding Comedy Series 5 years in a row), or against all the other slightly meh but comforting revivals of our era?
The original Frasier (itself a spinoff of classic sitcom Cheers) became one of the best shows on Television, ever, thanks to its top-notch witty writing, its tightly knit farce and amazing character performances by its supporting cast, John Mahoney as Martin, Jane Leeves as Daphne, Peri Gilpin as Roz, and especially David Hyde Pierce as Niles. Even though the show was called Frasier, it was never just about him — in fact, the other characters were frequently more beloved by fans. When Frasier was at his most unlikable — morally righteous, vain and pompous — it was our love for those around him and their hilarious way of calling him out that made the whole work. This was also part of what made the show interesting: it showed that (contrary to common wisdom about main characters needing to be “likable”), you could build a funny and beloved sitcom around a character most couldn’t relate to and often might find profoundly unlikable. And this led to an experience where we got to watch Frasier push beyond his worst qualities and overwhelming ego. The show never let him off the hook, but while accepting these failings, it ultimately modeled and applauded his attempt to be better and to help others.
The show was also deeply interested in family - both blood and chosen- and how our bonds to loved ones tie us to a core self. In Frasier’s case, the no-frills “common man” persona of his father doesn’t match up with his elite image of himself – yet he’s improved thanks to his relationship with his dad (as well as his platonic relationships with Daphne and Roz, two women with very different backgrounds and personalities to him). It’s a vision of how difference challenges us, for the better. This posed a problem for the reboot when it became evident that no one but Frasier himself was returning.
The Problem - A Meh Fan Tribute
The new show, in broad strokes, seems to understand that all this was what made the original great. It tries to recreate the formula – but often what results is a pale shadow. Most glaring, of course, is the lack of everyone but Frasier (though Roz and Bebe are planned as guest appearances). We have to give Grammar credit that he snaps right back into the role and instantly feels like he’s resurrected the old character we’ve missed. His performance alone provides a certain feeling of continuity between the two shows. But this was never just the Frasier Crane show, so making this one much more of a one-man-show lessens it.The show attempts to replace the original supports with new characters who echo the ones we miss – a nephew who’s half Niles half Daphne (as he’s their son), a professor with a bit of Niles’ sarcastic erudite wit, a professional colleague with a bit of Roz’s ambition, and interest in men (and a sibling rivalry recalling Frasier and Niles’), a roommate with some of Daphne’s down-to-earth charm and a son with Martin’s disdain for pretension and desire to work in a field that genuinely helps society in a concrete way.
As the show gets rolling these characters do start to find their funny moments, But much of the material falls into the trap of tribute-band imitation territory. It feels like it’s rehashing what we loved in a less funny, less incisive (and obviously not as original) way. And it doesn’t have much purpose (besides to create more money from old IP). In its first few moments, the reboot basically undoes the ending of the original series – in the finale, Frasier flew to Chicago to pursue love with Charlotte, putting romance above his career. But now we’re told that long-term offscreen relationship just ended and Frasier actually found new career heights of fame and wealth in Chicago – so whatever point was being made about taking a risk to be vulnerable for love and the sacrifice of stepping back from personal career ambitions has now been lost. Moreover, whereas the original show highlighted Frasier’s and Niles’ spending, it also sometimes pointed out it could be extravagant beyond their means; now we’re told Frasier is just magically wealthy to a degree where he has nothing to worry about (not the greatest choice for adding stakes). We also see this issue in the plot point that Frasier keeps harping on Freddy for not making more money. This hardly sounds like the idealistic Frasier who – while he always had the most expensive and elite tastes – never directly equated worth with how much cash a person had, and would likely react in a far more nuanced way: perhaps applauding his son’s principles while struggling to admit that he imagined a more high-status career for his son.
We have plenty of chances to miss the original show’s impeccable cast; most of the replacements just aren’t as funny — David’s attempts at physical comedy make us pine for David Hyde Pierce’s masterful skills and pitch-perfect delivery. Freddy (who’s been recast) also doesn’t feel connected to the person we met as a kid and young adult in the original, so instead of evolving out of what we already saw, he feels artificially rewritten to fit the role of “next generation Martin.” There are jokes that play on the old running gags, but they, too, feel like pale shadows or don’t feel quite consistent with nuanced character development. For example, when Frasier yells at Freddy, it’s confusing because Frasier himself is only seen in jeans and sneakers in this reboot (including in that scene). His casual attire baffled so many fans it even required the show’s team to clarify that these are apparently very “expensive” jeans and sneakers. (And, to be fair, Frasier did wear some very 90s jeans occasionally in the original show as well).
Overall, the writing so far is simply not on the level of the original’s exquisite wit, ingenious comedic episode structure or ability to deliver powerful psychological or social insight. The show is from new creators who loved the original, and it feels like it’s coming from fans rather than the same voice. The team behind this clearly appreciates what was so good about the show, but that’s not the same as knowing how to make that magic.
The Good - Searching For Depth…
To be fair, many shows can need time to warm up; and at times the reboot captures a charm that – though not equaling the original – reminds us of it. The new Frasier centers itself on what the original show began with: an estranged father and son, with different value systems, struggling to reconnect. In the original pilot “The Good Son,” Frasier was the fancy pants judging his retired cop father Martin for his “commoner” tastes, whereas in “The Good Father” pilot here, Frasier clashes with his son Freddie who dropped out of Harvard and eschewed a higher-paying career to become a firefighter.
There’s a cyclicality to Frasier becoming his own father, and the original show (due to its psychoanalysis focus) was always interested in these primal questions of family units and psyches that affect us all. The new pilot ends with Frasier forcing Freddie to move in with him, echoing Frasier reluctantly housing his aging dad after Martin’s injury. The difficult yet rewarding challenge of reconciling their worldviews was symbolized by Martin’s tattered and worn yet comfortable and beloved old chair, viewed by Frasier as an eyesore spoiling his perfectly curated Seattle apartment. So of course, the second episode of the reboot has to see Frasier and Freddy navigating their reunion through the question of where Freddy’s objects can fit into Frasier’s chosen decor.
With Frasier now filling his father’s role of the aging mentor, what wisdom does he have to pass on to the next generation? But beyond just inverting Frasier’s and Martin’s conflict for the next generation, is there anything new to add to this story? After all, the genius of Frasier came from departing from what we might have expected after watching Cheers – while both shows center on the comedic clash of class sensibilities between people who love each other, the spinoff offered a very different world around Frasier’s character, and also gave new insight into Frasier himself that changed how we viewed him.
The 2023 Frasier heads back to his Boston roots (though without any major Cheers characters, either) and is mostly about trying to revive everything it can. As it gets moving, at times, it does channel the comforting fun of the original show’s basic formula – enough to activate our nostalgia for the show’s witty banter. It gets in some classic jokes at Frasier’s own expense — like him believing he’s a wizard with the ladies when he’s completely misread the situation. But is it truly going to get by on just referencing the past – or is there any timely commentary here that can update the original’s meditations on the importance of family and pushing through our differences, its wit about everyday class conflicts and its understanding that intelligence consists of far more than aristocratic tastes? So far – in addition to its blander, more mediocre surface – it’s hard to glimpse much depth in the reboot, much less the teeth to actually feel thought-provoking about the class conflicts of today (which to most feel darker and more urgent than they may have for many Americans in the more prosperous bubble-like 90s).
The Opportunity - Where It Can Go From Here
Frasier seems to have the potential to become a moderate crowd pleaser, especially for fans hungry for more of their old favorite. But its charms are on the same level as many other reboots we’ve gotten used to in today’s era, where we may keep watching because it’s familiar like a cozy old friend – not because it’s that good on its own merits or because we’re all that interested in what’s going on in this world now. The early new episodes of Frasier rely a lot on the pleasure of bringing back this character and his extended world (including through callbacks to the other characters we loved). Once we’ve had a whole season of this, will it be able to establish our new sustained interest in Frasier’s current life and replacement supporting cast? Canceled reboots like How I Met Your Father and Gossip Girl prove to us that initial interest around recreating a past magic for our new era won’t be enough if the writing and execution of the new show is too meh. On the other hand, Sex and the City reboot And Just lIke That (which got renewed for Season 3 despite faltering in many ways creatively) has also shown that enduring love for characters we get to see resurrected can retain audiences even through revival growing pains.
There’s something heartwarming about just seeing Frasier again, and through him, receiving reminders of the other characters – as if they’ve all just been going on in the world all this time. It’s that nostalgia that makes any reboot of a great original show so appealing. Should it have been made? Honestly, from the perspective of the creative legacy of this show, no. But it can extend the life of Frasier to younger viewers and, of course, provide some entertainment in the meantime. If it inspires more audience members to revisit the original show and keep that alive, then that alone makes it worth it.
If you’re a fan of the original Frasier, what video would you like to see us do about the show? Let us know in the comments!
Artavia, David. “‘Frasier’ Is Back and He’s in Jeans. Don’t Worry, ‘They Are Ridiculously Expensive, Personally Tailored,’ the Show’s Executive Producer Says.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, www.yahoo.com/entertainment/frasier-reboot-wardrobe-executive-producer-interview-004304284.html. Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.
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Google Search, Google, www.google.com/search?q=frasier%2Breviews&client=firefox-b-1-d&sca_esv=573962864&channel=fenc&tbm=nws&ei=ZuItZez6Lb2g5NoP2ay5yAk&start=10&sa=N&ved=2ahUKEwjsxfGe9vuBAxU9EFkFHVlWDpkQ8NMDegQIAhAW&biw=836&bih=896&dpr=2. Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.