Dr. Frasier Crane is an extremely adaptable character. If you count reruns, he’s been on television since 1984, when he first walked into the eponymous Boston bar from Cheers as a love interest for Shelley Long’s Diane Chambers. A spinoff that premiered in 1993 found Frasier back in his home town of Seattle, hosting a radio show and cohabitating with his cranky ex-cop father. Now in 2023, Dr. Crane is back in the rebooted Frasier— and honestly, it’s nice to have him around again.
Is Paramount+’s Frasier (2023) is anywhere near as good as Frasier (1993)? Not remotely, at least not yet. Is it a cynical nostalgia ploy like so many reboots before it? Of course. But if there’s one thing Kelsey Grammer is still pretty great at, it’s playing Frasier Crane.
The new show picks up after Frasier’s father Martin Crane’s funeral. (John Mahoney, who played Martin, died in 2018; the first episode is dedicated to him.) The good doctor—who’s starred in and then quit his own Dr. Phil-style talk show since we last saw him—has returned to Boston to look for his son Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott, replacing Trevor Einhorn, who played Freddy as a child.) He’s accompanied by his nephew David (Anders Keith), the son of Frasier’s brother Niles, who won’t be showing up in this incarnation.
Freddy, we learn, is something of a disappointment for the ever snooty Frasier, since he’s dropped out of Harvard to take a job as a firefighter. The creators of this version, Chris Harris and Joe Cristalli, have inverted the dynamic of the original, in which Mahoney’s character was a working-class father who couldn’t comprehend his son’s fancy-pants lifestyle. Frasier is trying to reconnect, but Freddy is resistant to letting his father (and his father’s criticisms of him) back into his life. But Frasier persists and decides to relocate to Boston permanently, getting a job teaching at Harvard, where he finds new colleagues and comic foils, played by Toks Olagundoye and Nicholas Lyndhurst. Soon he’s also palling around with Freddy and Freddy’s roommate, Eve (Jess Salgueiro), a struggling actress and new mom.
The original show achieved a specific cast alchemy that’s missing from the Frasier reboot; so far there is no one delivering a performance quite as brilliant as David Hyde Pierce’s Niles Crane, Frasier’s even-snobbier brother. Meanwhile, Mahoney is sorely missed, as Cutmore-Scott can’t quite manage to make Freddy’s blue-collar rebellion at all distinctive. (For what it’s worth, Peri Gilpin’s Roz and Bebe Neuwirth’s Lilith are scheduled to show up eventually.)
Still, Lyndhurst is a delight as Frasier’s old pal, a daffy British drunk, and Olagundoye is charming as the tightly wound head of the Harvard psych department. Eventually Keith also manages to find some laughs as the dorky David, who certainly is his father’s son.
But mostly the new series is just proof that Frasier Crane is almost a foolproof character—even if you put him in jeans. He’s a man who clings onto what he considers excellent taste even when the world may roll his eyes or he has to debase himself with the so-called commoners, and Grammer slides right back into that affected accent, cooing over sherry and houndstooth. Spending time in his presence is like having an old pal reappear in your life and offer you a fine scotch. It might not be Blue Label, but it does the trick.