An Idiot’s Guide to Frasier

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As a child, you were probably bored every time Frasier came on MBC4 and you couldn’t possibly understand what was so funny about it. Whenever I mention the show to friends and family, I get the same reaction: it was a placeholder they happened to come across while waiting for the likes of Friends, Charmed, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And I get it, I really do. Frasier offered the kind of humor that went over children’s heads. Instead of resorting to super short scenes with music breaks between them (think of the guitar you hear every time a new scene comes on in Friends), it went for a new, innovative approach: longer scenes accompanied by a trademark black screen with a witty phrase instead of music.

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning. Once upon a time (1982, to be exact) there was a show called Cheers. It was set in a bar starring Ted Danson (who you might know from the show Becker), as well as a number of young celebrities like Woody Harrelson, Shelley Long and Kirstie Alley. Set in Boston, the show ran for 11 seasons and its song still stirs up bouts of nostalgia until today.

During season three of Cheers, actor Kelsey Grammer joined the show as Frasier Crane, a stuffy psychiatrist meant to appear for a couple of episodes just to add some dramatic tension to the love story between Danson and Long.

So, what happened? Why did he stick around? Well, I’m honestly not sure. There are conflicting reports; some say the creators loved what he did with the character, while others say the creators kept him out of spite because Long hated him. In retrospect, the reason is no longer relevant; Grammer stayed on for the rest of the show, and once it ended he got his own spinoff, aptly titled ‘Frasier,’ which ended up being one of the most successful spinoffs of all time.

The show followed his life as a radio psychiatrist trying to adjust after getting divorced and moving across the country for a new start. Throughout the show, we see him run into shenanigans with love interests and his family: his producer Roz, his brother Niles, his father Martin, his father’s physical therapist Daphne, and their adorable dog Eddie.

Set in Seattle, Frasier ran for 11 seasons, meaning that Grammer played the same role for a whopping 20 years (guest starring on other shows as Frasier Crane); making him the longest continuously running TV character of all time. In fact, the writers referenced it during one of the episodes, and the roaring laughter that followed explained it all.

Quick fun fact: Frasier would receive calls on his radio show where he offered advice, sort of like Osama Mounir but without the cheesiness. What not many viewers knew was that these calls were from real life celebrities like Ben Stiller, Helen Mirren Eddie Van Halen, Halle Berry, Art Garfunkel, and even Cindy Crawford!

Now, enough with the history lesson and back to the viewing experience: of course you hated Frasier as a child! He is uptight, his language is pompous, and some of the jokes are so cleverly written that even some adults might take a moment or two to understand. Of course young you would prefer watching Joey try to drink a gallon of milk on Friends instead of watching Frasier and Niles catastrophically fail at arranging a dinner party. But it’s not fair, because it’s SO good. It’s so good that it makes no sense for some adults to say that they don’t like it when they never even gave it a fair chance.

Not only are the jokes witty, but the show also tackles serious topics related to the human psyche, which is natural given the character’s occupation. During one particular episode, Frasier is so haunted by his failure to sustain a seemingly perfect relationship that his imagination conjures up all his previous girlfriends and wives (and dead mother) for a visit. As fights erupt between Frasier and all those imaginary characters, he finally realizes that his problem lies in his inability to put all these failures behind him.

In another episode, he gets obsessed with a caricature of him that’s been hung at a local restaurant, and tries everything (even crashing a child’s birthday party) to make the caricature look better. In the end, his father makes him realize that he was so sick and tired of everything he couldn’t control in his life, like his health or radio show ratings, that he grabbed onto this one thing so intensely in order to be able to control something, anything.

All these lessons and dozens more throughout the show don’t just make us viewers laugh; we end up learning things. We learn things about ourselves, our psyches, our actions and their motivations, and our feelings. When you watch that restaurant episode, you’ll always think twice when you’re handling a situation poorly. You’ll ask yourself: what is my motivation here? Frasier gives you that.

There is a reason why Frasier lasted 11 seasons and why it won so many awards. There is a reason why this show succeeded the way it did, not just in the United States but also worldwide. Don’t let 12-year-old you dictate how you feel about this show; watch it as an adult and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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