Frasier evaluate: An unsettling collision of Nineties sitcom tropes and present-day sensibilities

There’s a thought experiment known as “The Ship of Theseus”, based mostly on the traditional king of Athens. The issue refers back to the query of whether or not you may take away and substitute each constituent a part of an object – a ship, say – piece by piece, till nothing unique stays. Is it nonetheless the identical ship? It’s a paradox that has been utilized, within the modern-day, to the band Sugababes, and, in fact, Set off’s broom in Solely Fools and Horses. Now, the patchwork ship sails into view once more – this time with Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier Crane on the helm, clinging to that final vestige of what made Frasier, the hit Nineties sitcom, Frasier.

Returning to our screens on Paramount+, Frasier finds himself again in Boston, town the place he started his televisual life. However the setting right here isn’t the beer-soaked Cheers (“I’ll have spent an excessive amount of time at a sure bar,” he observes, ruefully, of his earlier stint within the metropolis). As an alternative, Dr Frasier Crane – to provide him his full title – is off to Harvard, the place he’ll be lecturing on psychology and trying to reconnect along with his son, Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott), who dropped out of the college to grow to be a firefighter. Becoming a member of him at this most august of educational establishments are outdated mucker Professor Alan Cornwall (Nicholas Lyndhurst, aka Rodney Trotter), school chair Olivia (Toks Olagundoye) and his nephew, David (Anders Keith).

In different phrases, not one of the unique solid (although Peri Gilpin is mooted to make an look as Frasier’s acerbic radio producer, Roz). With out the crutches of Jane Leeves and David Hyde Pierce, each of whom opted to not return, as Daphne and Niles respectively, to not point out Martin Crane (performed by the late John Mahoney) or Eddie the Canine (performed by the late Moose and Enzo), 2023’s Frasier seems like a special beast. Frasier himself, who at all times appeared preternaturally middle-aged, is now outdated. The roles are reversed: Frasier is now Marty, in age if not spirit, whereas Freddy is Marty, in spirit if not age.

The result’s an unsettling collision of Nineties sitcom tropes and present-day sensibilities. Hardcore “Craniacs” will rue ever having heard the strains of “Child Shark” throughout an episode of their beloved present, while newcomers could discover references to Thomas Middleton, “Oregon Rieslings” and herringbone jackets considerably jarring. However nearly discernible, on this muddle, is the urbane but self-flagellating spirit of Frasier. Usually, sitcoms converse to the dominant cultural technology, quite than the prime socio-economic one. However whereas Associates was the definitive textual content of Gen X life, Frasier was stealthily providing one thing to swathes of boomers. Now, regardless of air hockey, negronis and attractive calendars, that throwback spirit prevails.

All the identical, there may be little that’s new to this collection that genuinely works. Frasier’s adoptive sidekick, Alan, a crusty British soak, is a feeble Niles substitute, whereas female spunk – typified initially by each Roz and Daphne – is delegated to the lesser determine of Eve (Jess Salguerio), the quite idealised roommate of Freddy. And each Freddy and his cousin David battle to discover a voice of their very own. Reminders of the present’s forebear are frequent (“I don’t know should you’ve ever handled a sibling with whom you’ve gotten a really intense, aggressive relationship…” Olivia asks Frasier; “I outlasted that little mongrel!” Frasier roars at a dalmatian) however the comparisons are unflattering. And regardless that 30 years have handed, the set design and lighting look cheaper than ever. No amount of leather-bound books can compensate for the oversaturated flimsiness of the trendy sitcom “look”.

Olivia (Toks Olagundoye), Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Professor Alan Cornwall (Nicholas Lyndhurst) in Frasier

(Paramount Plus)

The truth that there’s something to get pleasure from on this return to the Craniverse is testomony to the thrill of Cheers and Frasier, to not point out Grammer’s efficient flip within the lead function. Little could stay aside from a title and an endearing snobbery, however, similar to Theseus’s trip earlier than it, the spirit of Frasier stays intact. Not fairly seaworthy, maybe, however nearly afloat.

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