How Frasier Changed Its Titular Character

Frasier - Frasier Crane

In the fall of 1993, Frasier Crane got divorced and took a journey across the United States, arriving in Seattle to live with his ailing father and  take a job as a radio personality, wishing everyone in the city “good mental health” on a daily basis. However, the transition for Frasier Crane’s character became as tumultuous as the events in his life, as the man from Cheers faded away, retinkered into a new, louder form by the writers of Frasier – and while it’s difficult to argue which one is better (given how unique each comedy was), there’s no doubting how much the show changed in the few short months there were no Cheers-related characters on TV – here are some of the biggest, most influential changes made to the good doctor.

He was given a family

On Cheers, Frasier was a man without family. He once told everyone in Cheers that his father was dead, and there was never any mention of having a brother he was competitive with. For whatever reason, the Frasier Crane on Cheers was a man alone until he met Lilith, giving him the family he never had… or apparently, just never wanted to talk to. Early on in Frasier‘s life, it made everything feel a little off, like Frasier had entered a fever dream where he all of a sudden had a family, a conscience, and a best friend in the form of his brother Niles, which in turn helped add texture not only to the world of Frasier, but its titular character, who benefited from being in the center of a family, something he’d only briefly had on Cheers. 

He doesn’t drink beer anymore!

Ok, here’s the one change that always bothered me: once Frasier moves to Seattle, he hates beer. We literally never see him drinking a mug of beer on Frasier – instead, he becomes a fan of fancy wine and champagne, arguably his most elitist trait when living on the West Coast. His love of wine even becomes a plot point in multiple episodes (like when him and Niles compete for Wine Club presidency), but it never quite felt right for Frasier: one of the man’s charms on Cheers was how normal he was, given his occupation: while he was always going to be a man who enjoyed Freudian rants, it was always more pleasurable when he had a cold, frothy one in his hand, rather than arguing with Niles over what fancy bottle of crushed grapes to drink.

Frasier: A Single Man

In retrospect, one of Cheers‘ best stories was the love story of Frasier and Lilith, arguably the show’s beating heart once Sam and Diane said their final farewells in season five. Originally just the scorned fiance Diane left to go back to Sam, Frasier slowly became a member of the show’s main ensemble in season three – and as the years passed, he went from depressed psychiatrist to happy husband, giving us some of the character’s best moments on either Cheers or Frasier (his and Lilith’s complementary cruise wear still makes me laugh, even to this day). Unfortunately, the show would unravel that version of Frasier Crane over the years as he went from one woman to the next on Frasier – there’s still an argument to be made that the Cheers version of Frasier is the best one (even if it’s an argument I’m not going to make – in the end, they’re just different).

He became a radio host

On Cheers, Frasier was the respectable therapist who couldn’t  keep his own life in order; but on Frasier, he was the bumbling host of a radio show, constantly fumbling his way through phone calls and constantly giving subpar advice on air. Sure, the radio station gave us a lot of comedic avenues for the show (and of course, Roz, my favorite Frasier character) – but in a way, it marginalized Frasier’s career, which made him a much easier character to laugh at then he was on Cheers, where his humor came from the ironies of his intelligence, not the farcical manner in which he’d accidentally give bad advice, or accidentally leave the mic on when seducing a co-worker during a live broadcast.

Photo via NBC

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