It’s the rare spinoff which is better than the show from whenst it came. However, in the case of Frasier, a spinoff of the hit comedy Cheers, rules were broken.
The series, created by David and Lynn Angell (who, tragically, died aboard one of the jets used in the 9/11 attacks), was smart, funny and urbane. It took the concept of the bit character of Frasier Crane and brought his entire life, as well as his family, to the forefront. It focuses on the thinking man and woman, while also appealing to the everyman with the working-class barbs sprinkled all about. In short, Frasier was quintessential 90s television, but there were some key elements which made it so appealing to the masses:
- Frasier was “over the top” snooty at first, but moderated over time. One of the great character development devices was how Frasier himself went from being the uber-snob to more of an average-joe type of thinking man. Perhaps it was how the rest of the cast around him evolved, but it was a truly remarkable transformation.
- The “forbidden fruit” romance of Daphne and Niles finally crossed the Rubicon. Many sitcoms feature two characters with sexual tension for zing but had zero chance of them getting together. Frasier’s brother, Niles, ultimately “got the girl” in Daphne Moon, but not until the chase fundamentally changed him.
- Guest stars were kept to a minimum. Aside from callbacks to Cheers with Woody Harrelson, Shelly Long and Ted Danson, the series was careful not to “guest drop” often. While Bill Gates, Patrick Stewart and Astronaut John Glenn dropped in, the show was largely devoid of A-List guest stars.
- The brotherly rivalry was kept alive just enough to keep you wondering. Whether it is Niles writing for a snobby arts magazine, or Frasier having his own radio program, the Crane brothers rivalry kept the show full of comedic juice,especially with the inevitable meltdowns. Even Martin Crane got in on the action at times.
- The “Maris Factor.” Few unseen characters in American TV had the impact of Maris Crane. Niles’ longtime-then-Ex wife/socialite was a character unto herself thanks to a variety of jokes and plot devices. Who can ever forget Maris racing to the phone when Niles threatens her maid with dropping the secret of her family’s fortune, urinal cakes.
And finally, there was the greatest part of the show, a dog named Eddie who was a bit role but still a fan favorite. Rather a than a scene stealer, the Jack Russell terrier (named “Moose” in real life and actually reviled by Kelsey Grammer for real), was used in countless gags, but always complemented, rather than stole, the show.