The Frasier reboot is already filling fans with despair – but it’s a gamble worth making

Ruff night: Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane and Moose the dog as Eddie in an episode of the classic sitcom ‘Frasier’  (Getty)
Ruff night: Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane and Moose the dog as Eddie in an episode of the classic sitcom ‘Frasier’ (Getty)

Oh, baby... I hear the blues a-callin’. And it’s not just me: hundreds of thousands of Frasier Crane fans have started singing the same song. It’s been that way ever since the revival of the hit Seattle-set sitcom was announced, intensifying as it became clear that no one, bar Kelsey Grammer, would be returning. Instead, the Frasier reboot, expected to premiere on Paramount Plus later this year, will drop Grammer’s finicky psychiatrist into a different milieu, alongside a completely new cast. As far as gambles go, it’s a big, potentially legacy-tarnishing one, which many people have already dismissed out of hand. There’s one question almost nobody seems to be asking: what if they actually pull it off?

Over the past week, the first casting news has surfaced, and it hasn’t exactly assuaged the doubters. The first actor to be announced was Only Fools and Horses’ Nicholas Lyndhurst – an actor of demonstrable sitcom pedigree, but one who has hardly had a role in years. Lyndhurst is playing Alan Cornwall, a university professor and old college friend of Frasier’s. He almost seems a better fit for one of Daphne Moon’s insufferable “Mancunian” relatives. It was also announced that the role of Frasier’s son, Frederick, had been recast. No surprise there, of course – fans weren’t exactly clamouring for the return of former child star Trevor Einhorn (though roles on Mad Men and The Magicians have ratified his adult acting chops). Stepping into the part would be Jack Cutmore-Scott, the star of the ABC crime drama Deception. It’s no disparagement to say that, to most viewers, he represents an unknown quantity.

Frasier was once in a very similar situation, with exactly the same creeping doubts. Cheers, the show on which Grammer originated the Frasier character, was not only a massive hit, but a bona fide paragon of the medium – and a masterclass in ensemble casting. How could you possibly unmoor Frasier Crane from Ted Danson, Bebe Neuwirth et al and still expect everything to click? David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves and Peri Gilpin were all quality actors, with various noteworthy credentials to their names, but none of them were stars before Frasier. (Pierce’s biggest selling point, in fact, was his uncanny resemblance to Grammer.) Of course, quality soon won out and the spin-off was a winner, going on to amass more Emmys than any comedy in history and comprehensively escaping the shadow of Cheers. If the Frasier revival succeeds – and there is, despite what anyone says, a small but extant chance that it could – it’ll have to win over its audience again, for the third time.

The notion of continuing Frasier’s story without Pierce, Leeves and Gilpin present (as well as the late John Mahoney) has inevitably caused some viewers to baulk. But from a storytelling perspective, it actually makes complete sense. Frasier ends with its protagonist upping sticks and leaving Seattle, having realised that all his family and friends have found love and fulfillment – completing their arcs, in a very literal narrative sense. Frasier is the only character with open road ahead of him. What good is there in going backwards?

In recent years, Grammer has become known for his right-wing political views, including his support of Donald Trump and opposition to legalised abortion. Some have accredited the stigma of these views to the decline in his professional profile. Whatever the reason, the drop-off is somewhat undeniable: it’s been 10 years since Grammer’s last widely acclaimed role, in the short-lived political drama Boss. And yet there are hardly enough superlatives in the English language to describe Grammer’s prowess on Cheers and Frasier. He was, quite frankly, a generational sitcom star, delivering one of the most assured, consistent and comedically dextrous performances ever committed to camera, for nearly two decades straight. The prospect of seeing this Grammer on screen again must be a tantalising notion, even, perhaps, for those repelled by his politics.

Grammer onstage at a gala in November 2022 (Getty Images for Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation)
Grammer onstage at a gala in November 2022 (Getty Images for Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation)

As well as two worldbeating performances from Grammer and Pierce (and strong, likable turns from the rest of the cast), Frasier’s other key strength lay in its writing. It struck a delicate balance between levity and sincerity, between high cultural references and accessible storylines. No other TV series has proved quite so adept at farce; few have ever matched Frasier’s erudite wit. For the new reboot to replicate this is a tall order, especially with an all-new creative team at the wheel. But still the question remains... what if they did?

The revival may be a cynical work of cash-in hackery. It may be a last thrust at the spotlight from an actor whose glory days are behind him. But what if it isn’t? Maybe it’s worth the risk of near-certain disappointment. These “what ifs” are questions too sweet to go unanswered. Frasier hasn’t left the building just yet.