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Scrambled Up then Tossed Together: Frasier 2023 Review

Anyone who truly knows me, knows Frasier is one my favorite shows of any show. When I heard that Frasier was going to be rebooted I thought about whether that was necessary. After a few minutes, my opinion was that if the issues of race, sexism and classism weren’t going to be addressed and changed in the new show, than there shouldn’t be a reboot. The older I’ve gotten and with more knowledge of the show and the world around me, I saw the many flaws of the show and how they never changed. So when in it finally became official that Frasier was coming back, and even after I learned of Kelsey Grammer’s political views (he has always been and still is an executive producer of the sitcom), I was hopeful for a non problematic show. One thing I didn’t think much about was whether or not the reboot would be good. I guess I thought it would be good or at least decent if it was revival of a great show. Unfortunately, the reboot is bad across the board.

I’ll refer to the reboot as Frasier ’23. Not only for your sake, but for the fact that compared to the original, it must be looked at as it’s own thing primarily because in noway does it measure up to the original, and because, it feels like a waste of time. If anything it is more of an adaptation of a popular TV character that Paramount for some reason wanted to make into a program.

Frasier ’23 follows the character of Fraser Crane originally from Cheers and the Cheers spin off series, Frasier who has returned to Boston to repair his relationship with his son, Fredrick (Jack Cutmore-Scott), while on his way to Paris to enter into his new life as a retired psychiatrist/retired radio show host/newly retired TV talk show host and recent millionaire. The new show posits that the father and son relationship has been fractured for a couple of years since Fredrick dropped out of Harvard, Frasier's Alma mater, and chose the profession of a firefighter which Frasier cannot accept. I say for some reason because the writing doesn’t explain why Frasier can’t get over Freddys choice even by the end of the fourth episode, where Frasier learns a bit more why he hasn’t accepted Freddy’s career. When Frasier arrives in Boston, he’s accompanied by his nephew David played by Anders Keith (Davis is the son of Niles Crane and Daphne Moon) who is, for no explanation hazardous and spacey (he is always dropping something and talking about random things which is supposed to be the funny) the two are greeted by Frasier’s old friend from Oxford, an apathetic brit named, Alan, who exists to provide an intellectual challenge to Frasier the way Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce) did. Alan later on introduces Frasier to the chair of the psychology department of Harvard, Olivia (Toks Olagundoye), a black woman, who, for laughs, (it’s not funny) aggressively, recruits Frasier to teach at Harvard which gives Frasier a new found interest after retirement.

When Frasier surprises Freddy at this apartment, Freddy has no intention of building a relationship. Freddy lives with a woman, Eve (Jess Salgueiro) a bi-racial black woman and her white baby whom Frasier has never heard of and because of Frasier’s disdain for Freddy, Frasier gets no details about his son’s situation. Determined to repair the relationship, Frasier continues to infiltrate Freddy’s world, which would be classic Frasier, except that, Frasier wouldn’t be so mean and judgmental toward his son if this was an actual reboot of the same character. If this were the old show, and a good show, we wouldn’t be watching one pursuit. The two eventually talk and its revealed Eve is the girlfriend of Freddy’s firefighting friend who died after his and Eve’s son was born and Freddy is helping her take care of her porcelain baby. The relationship is far from being repaired after this, which given what is revealed, should be, and in actual classic Frasier fashion, Frasier buys the apartment building Freddy and Eve live in and insists Freddy move in with him, which Freddy begrudgingly does.

For the rest of the episodes, the entire show is Frasier trying to be close again with Freddy. Bits of minor storylines surrounding the other characters fill out the episodes, but do nothing to help us get a sense of who these people are and why they're in this world. Alan, is just lazy and we don't know why. Olivia is supposed to be ambitious, but her reasoning for her pursuits are either barely there or non existent, and she comes off as amoral. Eve wants to be an actress, but we don't know why, David wants to kiss a girl but we don't know why. When the story does center these people for longer than a few minutes, we either continue knowing the same information and watch them go through an episode spouting bad jokes and saying dialogue that doesn't move the story, or when we do get to know more about them, who they are ends up connecting back to Frasier. For example, when we eventually find out Olivia hires Frasier because she secretly is a huge fan of him, this being secret doesn't make the story interesting, and makes her come of as guarded, but for what reason? Eve's status in terms of parenthood, romance, and her job as the only bartender in the show's pub, continues to be one of caretaking, which extends to being a guide for Frasier to reconnect with Freddy, and a possible romantic interest for Freddy. There's no insight into how she's dealing with her boyfriend's death or why she wants to be an actress. There are only one of two major storylines and the repairing is one of them and after four episodes it leads the show nowhere.

Frasier '23 feels sorely lacking in development for several reasons that I think all directly tie to this idea of protecting the legacy of Frasier. Director James Burrows who directed episodes from Frasier and directs the pilot and the following episode, says in an interview, “Frasier’s character remains the same, he hasn’t evolved over the years. You don’t want to rewrite the Bible, you want to make sure the character stays the same”. Just because a character or for that matter a person grows doesn’t mean you’ve tampered with who they are. This issue of not developing Frasier along with a with a barely-there premise, and underdeveloped characters, are the main issues that make the reboot nearly unwatchable.

It really does all start with the character. For some reason, unbeknownst to Burrows, and the some of the show’s original writers, Frasier wasn’t just a “pompous man”. And even if he was, to make him only that does not make for a good show. The Frasier Crane of the 90’s also cared about people. He saw everyone he loved as more important than he. He wanted to help people whether they were acquaintances, loved ones, or his callers so badly that he’d sabotage his own pursuits and have to learn from his mistakes and investigate his own reasoning. This was why he was a loved character. This is why Frasier was good. Frasier wanted to be seen for who he felt he was—a people’s person—and through the people around him and along with his own failures, he took in lessons and wisdom and tried to be if not better, redeemable, which helped him be more of his true self. So when the older Frasier in this new reboot consistently jabs at his son for his life choices, without any consideration for how it makes Freddy feel, this immediately made me want to stop watching, not identify with him as Burrows claimed I would. Instead of a human being in his old age, who actually cares about his kid, he cares about being right. Burrows and the writers, have reduced Frasier into a troglodyte and a shallow asshole. The banter also, is boring. Watching characters consistently insult each other with no regard for how it makes the other feel or seeing the deeper meaning of a character’s insult is saddening. It’s like being audience to poisonous behavior. It’s hard to want to come back to watch. With character, comes their pursuit, which makes the reboot all the more lacking.

Why would Frasier think he could repair a father and son relationship in a weekend? There’s nothing in the original show or form the first episode or those following in reboot, to suggest that Frasier is that arrogant to think he could just have a talk with Freddy, be all good, and set off for the good life in Paris. Also, by default the addition of Frasier taking a teaching job at Harvard so he can finally to do serious work in psychiatry, in episode three, extends the story, but it doesn’t to help raise the stakes of the overall show, especially when after episode three, Frasier’s dilemma of shedding his celebrity is solved, yet, the toxicity between the father and son continues and we see Frasier actively going against his goal. How am I supposed to root for him? What’s worse is that Frasier and son having this bad of a relationship and this hard of a time forgiving and accepting each other makes no sense when compared to the original. It’s like, why even keep watching? I kept watching because I thought it might get better. I stopped at the fourth episode.

Throughout the original series, Frasier and Fredrick have a very good relationship. Even though Frasier moves to Seattle from Boston, leaving the child version of Freddy (Trevor Einhorn) with his ex wife, Lilith (Bebe Neuwrith), and only talking to Freddy occasionally, only seeing him when he comes to visit, Frasier and his son’s relationship remains a loving and close one. Even in later seasons as Freddy matures and begins to show signs that he's not interested in psychiatry, art, academics, and high culture like Frasier, and even in one episode dresses Goth, which is the total anthesis of Frasier, these are moments that challenged their bond, as well as provided a the audience with a good story. What they learn has an effect on them both as father and son and as people and through these recognitions, they start to understand each other on a deeper level thus enriching not only their relationship, but the particular episode, and the show. In Frasier ’23, watching Frasier and Freddy have such a bad relationship is just too hard because it’s so unbelievable.

It only makes sense when you look at a behind the scenes promotional video for the reboot. In this video Joe Cristalli, executive producer, even says that, "Frasier and Freddy have always had a good relationship." Yet their reasoning for making the reboots premise about the relationship is that, "it's nice to see him present and in his son's life". The writing would have you think Frasier should went straight to Paris. Also in the video, Grammer, and Cuttmore-Scott both believe bringing the show back at a point where the need to repair the relationship is crucial to the story. Cuttmore-Scott says dealing with the father son dynamic, felt like a "natural place to pick up". But this doesn't make sense when we look at Frasier and Freddy's relationship as well as examine Martin Crane's (John Mahoney) and Frasier's relationship. While Martin, a retired police officer and representation of the everyday man in the elitist world of Frasier, often challenged and argued with Frasier, there was a reason specific to Frasier, Martin and the show as to why they had to fight to have a good relationship. Frasier and Martin didn't fight with each other just because it would make for an interesting show. The issue among the two came from the question of whether or not Frasier and Martin could ever have a good relationship since Martin had always showed disdain for Frasier and his brother Niles for being sensitive and in Martin’s words, “hoity-toity“, but during the 90's show, Martin came to have to depend on Frasier after becoming disabled.

In the pilot for Frasier ‘23 the writers actually named the title, "The Good Father”, which pays homage to the 90's sitcom pilot, "The Good Son”. After watching the pilot as an adult and after actually reading the script for this episode, I've seen the many ways in which the pilot is amazing. One reason is that this first episode deepens the Frasier and Martin storyline throughout the 30 minutes. While the two are different from each other, and never could quite accept each other, though loved one another, they were similar in their pridefulness and stubbornness, and need for validation. These three traits created the disagreements in the pilot, but both father and son’s awareness of these traits in the other, along with their love for each other, kept them fighting their own pride to come back to another another. They did this throughout the series and they helped each other grow as people. By the end of the series, Frasier and Martin were in a good place.

This beauty is nowhere in Frasier ’23. Re-creating the surface level issues of Frasier and Martin for the new show with Frasier and Freddy doesn't feel natural or nice, it comes off as lazy story development and appears as an excuse just to bring Frasier back. By the fourth episode where Freddy takes Frasier to work to prove to him how important his job is, there's no understanding to the audience or even Frasier as to why Freddy himself, thinks the job is important. Frasier comes to a revelation that he’s scared to lose Freddy to firefighting the same way he and Niles were scared to lose Martin to his police work. And then nothing. Frasier doesn’t share his revelation with Freddy and the two keep jabbing. Frasier, keeps being this unidentifiable Frasier Crane and his son, keeps on being unknowable to us and his father.

Frasier was never just about Frasier either. The characters of the original had their own lives, and we saw into them a decent amount. Throughout Frasier ’23 aside from Freddy, characters just pop into scenes out of nowhere only to add a joke, continue the plot, or only exist to serve Frasier's goals or challenge him. That’s literally all they do. And what I hoped would be a change when it came to the issues of race and sexism were not changed but simply and obviously, just not dealt with. Unlike Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) and Daphne (Jane Reeves) who, while being underwritten and more than not, reduced to punchlines, at least have some dimension, while Eve and Olivia are only rough sketches of characters. With them being black women, the casting of Jess Salgueiro and Toks Olagundoye makes it clear that the characters only exist for diversity sake. The underdevelopment makes the appearance of their blackness for show and actually makes them less human than the occasional black character on the 90’s sitcom.

Everything about Frasier ‘23 makes the show feel like its existence was to continue the legacy of a TV character. But all it does make me wanna just watch the original, and think of creating a show like Frasier that could be better for people of color, women, and the working class, and with all of the humanity afforded the men in the original. Frasier’s drive and reasoning to fix his fractured relationship comes off more like he’d just like things to go back to the way they were without changing his part in why things were bad in the first place. It makes him come off as self absorbed, self righteous, and disinterested in his son and disinterested in self introspection. I can relate to this—from Freddy’s point of view. And whether in real life or in a TV show, what makes things better, is a recognition by the parent of what they could do better, actually doing it, and continue to do this. That provides the belief that there will be trust, love, and a strengthening of the bond for a child. If this happened within four episodes of the show, the overall story would have a chance to move into new territory to be explored for not only for the side characters but for Frasier and for Freddy—just like it would in real life. But sadly, like some parents, it’s seems that Grammer as executive producer, the writers and James Burrows seem to either care more about or only can visualize their idea, of who the parent and child were, and not look at what actually was, and then try to see and pursue what could be.



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