Kelsey Grammer a few years ago noticed the success of the “Roseanne” reboot on ABC, “The Conners,” and that got him thinking about bringing his signature character Dr. Frasier Crane back to TV.
“I saw the TV landscape cracking a little bit,” said Grammer in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to promote his appearance Feb. 8 at the annual SCAD TVfest. (Tickets are available at scadtvfest.com.) “People seemed to want some old-style entertainment back again in the form of the multicam sitcom. That redoubled my sense that Frasier could go on forever. He’s just an interesting character to play.”
Frasier has been one of the longest-running continuous characters on TV in history. First, he was part of the regular crew on NBC’s “Cheers” for nine seasons set in Boston. He then found a new home as a radio psychiatrist in Seattle on the successful spin-off show “Frasier” for 11 seasons until 2004.
In 2022, Grammer signed on with the Paramount+ streaming service for the official reboot of “Frasier” with Frasier returning to Boston after his father’s death and leaving a successful “Dr. Phil”-style syndicated talk show for a teaching gig at Harvard University. He moves in with his firefighter son, Freddy, an echo of the time Frasier moved in with Martin Crane three decades earlier. (John Mahoney, who played Martin, died in 2018.)
“Frasier” debuted this past fall to mixed reviews with a 56 out of 100 average on Metacritic from 37 critics. Aramide Tinubu of Variety said “there is something so charming about dusting off and polishing up a past relic that makes it as refreshing as you remembered it.” But The New York Times’ James Poniewozik said “the reproduction has the predictable beats of a mothballed 20th-century sitcom.”
“Whatever Frasier does, he does it 100%,” said Grammer, 68, who is receiving a Legend of Television Award when he comes to Atlanta. “He is a pretty resilient character. We surround him in a new world. Old dog, new tricks.”
His goal as an executive producer working with the writers was to ensure the reboot, even with a new cast, maintained the heart the previous incarnation had. “If it’s a comedy without heart, without depth, those are laughs unearned,” he said.
Grammer thinks the show would be an excellent fit on CBS, which has only two multi-camera sitcoms on its current lineup: “The Neighborhood” and “Bob Hearts Abishola.” CBS did air two episodes this past October to help inform people about its presence on Paramount+. But he said those types of decisions are above his pay grade.
To date, Paramount+ has not released viewership numbers for “Frasier” and has yet to officially renew the show, But Grammer is confident the show will have a lengthy second life. And while the focus on the show hasn’t been on past characters with the exception of an appearance in season one of his former work colleague Roz (Peri Gilpin), Grammer isn’t against bringing some of the old gang back.
In fact, the one character he most wants Frasier to meet up with again is Diane, his on-again, off-again squeeze on “Cheers,” played by Shelley Long. “I think she would be the most important person from ‘Cheers’ for Frasier to have a conversation with,” Grammer said. “There are some boxes he has not yet checked in his growth since coming back to Boston. He could get some closure with Diane.”
And while he was happy to do a quick “Cheers” reunion last month at the Emmys with Rhea Perlman, Ted Danson, George Wendt and John Ratzenberger, Long’s absence was felt: “A few days before, she decided not to come, which was too bad.”
Grammer spent some time in Atlanta in 2019 playing a warm Congressman in independent historical drama “Charming the Hearts of Men,” written and directed by Susan DeRose, owner of OK Cafe, Blue Ridge Grill and steakhouse Bones. The film, funded independently by DeRose, came out in 2021. He plans to meet up with DeRose and her husband Richard when he’s in town.
“We became great pals during that period,” he said. “We stay in touch. And I usually like a good steak!”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.