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A new 'Frasier' seeks success with fresh characters who seem a lot like the old ones

Jack Cutmore-Scott as Freddy Crane and Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane.
Chris Haston/Paramount
Jack Cutmore-Scott as Freddy Crane and Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane.

What's the easiest way to create a new version of the classic sitcom Frasier for the streaming era? Clone the original series with new characters who provide the same functions as the old ones.

Who is he?

  • Kelsey Grammer returns as fussy, classist psychiatrist-turned-media star Frasier Crane in a new version of Frasier, crafted for the streaming platform Paramount+.
  • Grammer's current take on Crane remains comfortably similar – moving to Boston for a job at Harvard, he schemes to get into a private, exclusive club and swoons over the designer pillows on the lavish couch in his new apartment.

From top, left to right: Nicholas Lyndhurst, director James Burrows, Anders Keith, Jess Salgueiro, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Cutmore-Scott and Toks Olagundoye.
/ Chris Haston/Paramount+
/
Chris Haston/Paramount+
From top, left to right: Nicholas Lyndhurst, director James Burrows, Anders Keith, Jess Salgueiro, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Cutmore-Scott and Toks Olagundoye.

Who are the new faces?

Frederick "Freddy" Crane — played by Jack Cutmore-Scott.

  • He is Frasier Crane's down-to-earth adult son who works as a firefighter in Boston. Frasier's clashes with Freddy over his regular-guy tastes and his decision to drop out of Harvard mirror Frasier's conflict in the old series with his dad Martin, a retired cop. (John Mahoney, who played Martin, died in 2018)


David Crane — played by Anders Keith.

  • He is Frasier's adult nephew — the son of his younger brother Niles and Daphne, a former caretaker for Martin. Since David Hyde Pierce's Niles isn't in the new version, David takes his place as a sickly, fussy foil for Frasier, even though a nephew can't really stand as a competitor and occasionally irritating equal in the way a brother can.


Eve — played by Jess Salgueiro.

  • She is a friend of Frasier's son who occasionally provides the sassy caretaker energy of Jane Leeves' Daphne, who also isn't in the new series. For at least one episode, Eve is also the object of affection from David Crane, echoing the Niles/Daphne dynamic from the original series.


Olivia — played by Toks Olagundoye.

  • She is the head of the psychology department at Harvard. She has the workplace-fixer vibes of Frasier's producer Roz, played by Peri Gilpin, who is expected to make an appearance in the new series (Bebe Neuwirth, who plays Lilith, Frasier's ex-wife and Freddy's mother, is supposed to appear, too.)


Alan Cornwall — played by Nicholas Lyndhurst.

  • He is a friend and colleague of Frasier — and seems the least like any character from the original series.


Does it work?

  • The latest Frasier cast allows Grammer to recreate some of the dynamics from the original series but with a slightly different feel, given the new characters' differing relationships.
  • For example, when confronting his son over missing Martin's funeral, Frasier Crane is a dad desperate to avoid disappointing his son. On the original Frasier, he was the son whose high-class ways often disappointed his working-class father.
  • In a way, the new Frasier is trying to make lightning strike a third time. The character was introduced in 1984 on the third season premiere of the legendary NBC sitcom Cheers, as a snobby rival of Ted Danson's bartender Sam Malone. After standing out among a crowd of amazing characters there, Frasier Crane got a spinoff series in 1993 which lasted until 2004.

  • The through line here is Grammer's deft, expertly rendered performance as Frasier Crane. Originally presented as boorish and self-involved, Frasier evolved through Grammer's work to keep those qualities while gaining a humanity and occasional awareness about his faults which made him more appealing.

Grammer as Frasier Crane in NBC's version of <em>Frasier</em>.
/ Gale Adler/Paramount
/
Gale Adler/Paramount
Grammer as Frasier Crane in NBC's version of Frasier.

So, what now?

  • The biggest question remains: Will Grammer's onscreen charm and fans' nostalgia for Frasier Crane can keep them watching long enough for the character to have a successful third act?

  • Frasier streams beginning Thursday, Oct. 12 on Paramount+ and Pluto TV.


Learn more:

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

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