“Frasier” always was the sitcom for smart people. Winning 31 Emmy awards during its run, the show followed high-brow psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) from that familiar watering hole in Boston named Cheers to Seattle, where he moved in with his retired policeman father Martin (John Mahoney) and got his very own radio show. He bickered with his equally hoity-toity brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) who had his own problems, being desperately in love with Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves), Martin’s home caregiver. The Crane family raised the IQ of American sitcoms for 11 years before “Frasier” ended last spring. The last season in this long-running series is now available on DVD.
Fortunately for “Frasier,” the writing is great enough to sustain far-fetched plot lines like Martin marrying one of Frasier and Niles’s old baby-sitters and Niles’s ex-wife going to jail for shooting her polo-playing Argentinean boyfriend. The cast members fit their roles perfectly, especially Pierce as Niles, a walking bundle of nerves susceptible to combustion at any moment. The guest stars aren’t shabby either. They include Wendie Malick (“Just Shoot Me”) as Martin’s new wife, Laura Linney (“Kinsey”) as Frasier’s matchmaker/love interest and the triumphant return of Bebe Neuwirth as Frasier’s ice queen ex-wife Lilith.
While the show remained above average for its swan song season, it’s obvious that it was time for “Frasier” to end. In the beginning, Niles’s unrequited love for Daphne was the best part of the show. The chemistry between Pierce and Leeves was undeniable, but after Niles and Daphne settled down and got hitched, their sparks were dulled by marital bliss. Grammer looks tired and bored with his character which, while understandable because he’s been Frasier since the ’80s, winds up making the protagonist the most boring part of the show.
For such a great series, the extras are sparse. They consist of only two lowly featurettes, one showcasing the cast and one displaying the producers and creators. Neither is terribly interesting as it was the last season and all of the interviews have a high school yearbook sentimentality. No insightful tidbits will be found in either, merely a load of gracious thanks to co-workers. The show and its fans deserved better.
“Frasier” was an intelligent, strongly written and well-acted sitcom, arguably the most successful spin-off of all time. But it was time for it to ride off into the syndication sunset. This DVD preserves an excellent show but would be a far better buy with more substantive extras.
Show: 4 out of 5 stars
Picture/Sound: 4 out of 5 stars
Features: 1 out of 5 stars