“Hey baby, I hear the blues a-callin’, tossed salad and scrambled eggs…” If you know these distinctive lyrics by heart, you’re probably a big fan of Frasier, the Cheers spin-off sitcom based in Seattle and starring Kelsey Grammer as a prickly psychiatrist with a taste for the finer things in life.
Frasier originally aired on September 16th, 1993, and became a smashing success, eventually winning 37 Primetime Emmy Awards over the course of its 11 seasons. Let’s sit back and “psychoanalyze” the amazing behind-the-scenes facts of Frasier.
Seattle… The Place To Be
At the end of Cheers, Frasier relocated to the west coast. Gourmet coffee shops were popping up everywhere in Seattle at that time, and writers saw those cafes as ideal central meeting places away from Frasier’s home.
There had already been a psychiatric private practice featured on The Bob Newhart Show, so producers had Grammer host a call-in radio show on Frasier. Grammer’s deep and authoritative voice worked well for radio, too, which was a double bonus.
Paralyzed In A Penthouse?
When they were developing the Frasier concept, Kelsey Grammer and his creative team (including David Lee, David Angell, and Peter Casey), felt that using Dr. Frasier Crane on the new show would naturally lead to unfavorable comparisons to Cheers. Rather, they decided to have Kelsey portray a paralyzed media mogul (with a live-in nurse) who resided in a Manhattan penthouse.
Paramount, however, wanted to take full advantage of the captive Cheers audience and stick with the Dr. Crane character. The decision worked out pretty well for them!
A New Start For Frasier
As Frasier begins, it’s explained that Frasier and Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) have gotten a divorce off-screen. Lilith has been granted custody of their son Frederick, and Frasier has been given visiting rights. In the pilot “The Good Son,” Frasier announces on his show that he left Boston because he felt that his life had grown stagnant.
But Frasier may have gotten more than he bargained for when he moved to Seattle. He shares an apartment with his father Martin (played by John Mahoney) and lives near his younger brother Niles (played by David Hyde Pierce). To say that they’ll have some interesting adventures together is the understatement of the decade.
Kelsey Grammer’s Record-Tying Career
When you factor in his time on Cheers, Kelsey Grammer portrayed Frasier Crane on prime time television for 20 consecutive years. That’s a TV record not broken since Gunsmoke, when actor James Arness played Marshal Dillon for 20 years.
Grammer has said that his publicist invited Arness to appear on The Today Show with him in 2004, but that the veteran actor was uninterested. In fact, he allegedly used some rather colorful language in his turn-down.
That Theme Song
Did you know that Frasier sang the show’s distinctive theme? The song’s composer, Bruce Miller, had to write a ditty for the series that didn’t mention radio, psychiatry, or the name “Frasier.” Lyricist Darryl Phinnessee came up with terms like “tossed salad” and “scrambled eggs” to metaphorically acknowledge all the “crazy” patients that Dr. Crane had to treat regularly.
Theme song composer Bruce Miller originally envisioned jazz crooner Mel Tormé singing the ditty over the closing credits. In an interview, Miller said “He would have been perfect, but the producers wanted me to try Kelsey….and of course, he really made it his own with his interpretation.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Real-life Inspiration For Martin Crane’s Character
Frasier’s dad is Martin Crane, a retired cop played by John Mahoney. Martin’s character was based on producer Peter Casey’s real-life father, who had served on the San Francisco Police Department for three decades.
The producers were keen to land Mahoney for the role. Luckily, he was impressed with the pilot script and accepted the job. Martin Crane appeared in every one of the show’s 264 episodes, and Mahoney received two Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for the role.
A Glaring Inconsistency
Uh oh. On Cheers, Frasier had once said that his father was dead (and also that he had been a renowned scientist). Kelsey Grammer pointed out this inconsistency to Frasier’s producers, but they decided not to address the issue in the hope that the audience would forget.
However, later in the series, it’s revealed that Frasier and his father had not been on speaking terms when the morbid comment was made to his friends back in Boston.
Grammer And Mahoney Were Close In Real Life
In real life, Grammer and Mahoney became very close. Grammer had lost his father when he was very young and Mahoney didn’t have children of his own, so the two developed a father-son relationship over the course of the series.
Interestingly, Mahoney was only 15 years older than Grammer.
Originally, there was no brother written into the show, since Frasier had stated on Cheers that he was an only child. However, the casting director and producers felt that David Hyde Pierce would be a good sibling for Frasier due to their many similarities. Hyde Pierce was impressed by their pitch, and Dr. Niles Crane was born.
Hyde Pierce has said that he wouldn’t like Niles Crane in real life. “I think I couldn’t stand him,” he told The Washington Post. “I remember people like him at school and never really hung out with them–people for whom their world is the only world.”
What A Nice Bachelor Pad
The Frasier set occupied the same Paramount Studios sound stage where Cheers had been filmed for so long. Frasier is quite proud of his posh apartment. He asks his father Martin, “So what do you think of what I’ve done with the place?” in the pilot episode.
He then goes on to list each “carefully selected” item gracing the home. But the truth is the show’s designers actually laid out almost $500,000 for the set so it would have that authentic look of luxury.
Even That Ratty Old Thing
Even Martin’s ugly (but beloved) recliner cost a pretty penny. The prop department couldn’t find “just the right” chair at the thrift stores they scoured, so they eventually covered another used chair with expensive fabric from a 1970s-era textiles supplier.
Some of the show’s most hilarious scenes focus on the chair and Frasier’s many attempts to get rid of it. New Statesman even proclaimed: “That armchair is the single most meaningful object in the whole of 1990s comedy.”
Peri Gilpin Almost Wasn’t Roz
Lisa Kudrow was initially given the part of Roz, but Peri Gilpin was recast in the role before the pilot was filmed. Fun fact: before joining the Frasier cast, Gilpin had appeared in a last-season episode of Cheers (pictured above with Woody).
After Frasier, Gilpin and co-star Jane Leeves started a production company, “Bristol Cities.” Gilpin has since appeared in TV shows such as Medium, Desperate Housewives, Make It or Break It, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Men at Work. She’s also provided her voice talent to a number of television and film projects.
A Large Souvenir
Frasier’s Steinway piano is a prominent feature of the show’s set and it plays an important role in many episodes. After the series ended, Grammer kept the grand piano from the apartment as a memento of his time on Frasier.
A real-life piano enthusiast, Grammer once said, “prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when you’re listening. Playing the piano allows you to do both at the same time.”
Eddie “Spaghetti” Crane, played by a Parson Russell Terrier named Moose, was one of the most beloved characters on the show. In fact, John Mahoney once revealed that Moose received more fan mail than any of the other cast members.
As it became apparent that Frasier was in for a long run, puppies were bred specifically as replacements for Moose once he grew too old to act. Moose’s son Enzo fit the bill, as he had similar facial markings and was the same size as his father. Enzo began acting as Moose’s stunt double and eventually took over the Eddie role completely after the show’s eighth season.
You know all those scenes where Eddie licked people? In order to get the dog to do that, his handlers had to smear liver pâté or sardine oil on the actors’ faces. Offstage, Moose had a severe chewing problem, which had led to the premature loss of his teeth. No solid treats for him!
Fame didn’t go to Moose’s head, though. After the first season of Frasier, his handler Mathilde de Cagny told The Pet Press that he was “still the same old Moose who likes to chase cats.”
Rosie Perez Almost Snagged A Role
Can you imagine Rosie Perez playing Daphne’s character? It could have happened! Grammer was pushing for his dad’s caretaker to be played by a Latina, and Rosie Perez was considered for the part. However, the production team had Jane Leeves in mind.
After several screen tests, Grammer agreed and Leeves became Daphne. The role paid off, as Leeves was one of the highest-paid British actresses in America during her time on Frasier.
Jane Leeves Used A Voice Coach
Prior to stepping in as Daphne Moon, Jane Leeves used an accent coach.
Although she was from England (just north of London) and already had an accent, producers wanted to be sure that American audiences would understand her.
John Mahoney Originally Had An Accent
John Mahoney actually grew up in Manchester, England. He got American citizenship by joining the U.S. Army and lost his British accent during his service. Manchester is where Daphne is from!
About her Jane Leeves accent, Mahoney thought it was amazing, even though he understood why she had to go through the process of studying with an accent coach.
I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends
As he accepted an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy at the 1998 Emmys, Grammer thanked his Frasier co-stars for stepping in during his time of need.
“To a very special, small group of people who came to me a while back in a very dark time of my life and told me that there was a way out. I wanted to thank them. I love you, and thank you.” The caring bond between the cast is evident in photos of the event.
Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe hosts a sports show at Frasier’s radio station, KACL. Played by Dan Butler, Bulldog is a super-macho, obnoxious womanizer. However, in real life, Butler is openly gay.
At the same time the first season of Frasier was filming and he took on the role of the boorish skirt-chaser Bulldog, Butler was also performing a one-man show he had written, “The Only Thing Worse You Could Have Told Me.” The show was his public coming out.
Brothers From Another Series
Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce have also appeared as bickering brothers on the long-running animated series The Simpsons. Grammer voices Sideshow Bob Underdunk Terwilliger, and Hyde Pierce is Bob’s younger brother Cecil Underdunk Terwilliger.
Their first Simpsons episode together, “Brother from Another Series,” earned Grammer and Hyde Pierce second place on AOL’s list of their favorite 25 Simpsons guest stars of all time. The pair has been featured in a three other episodes: “Funeral for a Fiend,” “O Brother, Where Bart Thou?,” and “My Fare Lady.”
The One Where Diane Came Back
When Shelley Long’s Cheers character Diane Chambers appeared on Frasier, it was an opportunity for Long and Kelsey Grammer to bury the hatchet. In their Cheers days, Long supposedly didn’t care for Frasier’s character and it’s been said that she tried her best to have Grammer tossed from the series.
In fact, she once blamed Frasier for making the show “terrible.” Yikes. Grammer has said that seeing Long again to film the episode “The Show Where Diane Comes Back” gave the two a chance to make amends.
The Real Connoisseur
Niles Crane is a wine snob and opera fanatic, while his father Martin prefers canned beer and despises theater on Frasier.
But in real life, it was John Mahoney, himself a true theater buff, who turned David Hyde Pierce onto opera.
Moose’s Final Curtain Call
When Frasier came to an end, Moose (Eddie) was 14 years old and hadn’t appeared on the show for quite some time. But he was present for the taping of the series finale, and his trainer carried him out onstage after the show so he could take his bows with the rest of the cast.
David Hyde Pierce said that “It was one of the most moving things I saw that night. Moose is pretty old and pretty heavy, snow white and stone deaf. But he knows when people are applauding. It was great for him to get his due.”
Here’s a fun bit of foreshadowing from Frasier. In the episode “The Show Must Go Off” (Season 8), Frasier attends a sci-fi convention to buy an X-Men comic for his son. He ridicules the comic book fans in attendance at the convention.
In 2006, Kelsey Grammer made a cameo appearance as the mutant Beast in the film X-Men: Days of Future Past. He later said, “I hope to do another. I hope they find some way to come up with a new story that involves Beast in my timeline.”
Kissy, Kissy Roz
Roz is known for being an unabashed, red-blooded man-chaser, and her promiscuity is a frequent topic of jokes. During the series, Roz’s character kissed Niles, Frasier, Bulldog, Martin, Gil, and Noel on the lips.
She dated so many men on the show that there are fan websites dedicated to documenting all of them! Roz’s character is frequently cited as a fan favorite because she’s a strong single mother who’s driven by her career and is completely comfortable with who she is.
Nearly all of the Cheers regulars made guest appearances on Frasier. Lillith, Sam, Diane, and Woody all visited Frasier in Seattle, and the Cranes went back to Boston in Season 9 where Carla, Cliff, and Norm guest-starred.
Kirstie Alley was the lone holdout. She said in an interview it would be against her beliefs as a Scientologist to appear on a show that promoted psychiatry. Allegedly, she announced this to co-creator/producer David Lee directly after news of the spinoff was announced.
Many Other Guest Stars
Many of the callers to Dr. Crane’s radio show were voiced by celebrities. Many times, they would actually phone their parts in to the studio, rather than appearing in person, for a more authentic sound.
Notable guests include Eddie Van Halen, Patti LuPone, Jay Leno, Jodie Foster, Ben Stiller, Linda Hamilton, David Duchovny, Cindy Crawford, Mel Brooks, Christopher Reeve, Jeff Daniels, Elijah Wood, Reba McEntire, Bruno Kirby, and Carl Reiner. Above, Zooey Deschanel appeared in a 2002 episode.
Kelsey Grammer’s Favorite Episode
Season 4, episode 18 is titled “Ham Radio.” In it, Frasier tries his hand at directing an old-time Agatha Christie-style radio drama for the radio station’s 50th anniversary. As in most of the episodes, things quickly turn disastrous.
Bulldog gets stage fright, Roz shows up with her mouth numbed after emergency dental surgery, and Gil refuses to follow the script. The program was a complete fiasco — just as Niles predicted it would be. Kelsey Grammer has said that this is his favorite episode of the series.
The Last Man Standing
Apart from the regular cast, only one actor appeared in both the pilot episode and the series finale. Cleto Augusto played a deliveryman on the show. In the pilot, he was the man who brings Martin’s ratty Lazyboy to Frasier’s apartment, and in the finale he comes to take it away.
Besides being an actor, Augusto was also a producer. He was known for his work on The Artist, Warrior Road, and I Know What You Did Last Winter.
Frasier Inspired Tina Fey
In preparation for writing the final episode of her hit series 30 Rock, Tina Fey and her team watched the finales of other successful shows for inspiration. Fey said this of the Frasier finale:
“[Writer] Tracey Wigfield was crying when they wheeled Frasier’s dad’s chair out of the apartment. One of the things we learned from [the episode] was that it’s okay to give your characters an opportunity to actually say goodbye to each other in the body of that episode. You don’t have to worry if that’s cheesy.”
The End Of An Era
On May 13, 2004, the final episode of Frasier was aired. Titled “Goodnight, Seattle” in a nod to the theme song’s lyrics, the series finale received 33.7 million viewers. This made it the 11th most-watched series finale in television history.
“Goodnight, Seattle” is the only episode that depicted a rainbow over the Seattle skyline in the opening credits. This photo shows the cast and crew applauding (and crying) after the final scene was filmed.
It’s A Good Show To Sleep To
Frasier has stood up to the test of time, and it’s gained a second life as well as new audiences now that streaming media has taken over. The show’s legacy is unquestionable, 25+ years later.
One of the strangest reasons that Frasier is still a fan favorite is that it’s considered a good show to sleep to. The Week cited its soothing musical credits, the calming tone of voice used by the characters, and the fact that any problems brought up in each episode are neatly wrapped up by the closing credits as reasons it’s a very sleep-able show.