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Smart comedy

Culture | TV Review

Issue: "Memorial Day 2004," May 29, 2004

After 11 years, 264 episodes, and 31 Emmys, Frasier had its finale, although it will live forever in re-run heaven. It may not have been the best sit-com, but it was probably the most award-winning. For five of its 11 years, it won the Emmy for best comedy.

Frasier was one of the relatively few TV shows that was not dumbed down. Its main characters, the two neurotic psychiatrists Frasier and his brother Niles, were highbrows. Although the show made fun of their occasional snobbery and pomposity, they remained likeable all the same. The show also played them off against more down-to-earth folks who, remarkably, live with them. Their blue-collar father is an ex-cop with a bum leg and a ratty recliner that he defiantly places in the midst of the designer furniture. Then there is the cockney housekeeper Daphne, with whom the high-strung Niles, again remarkably, falls in love.

Thus, the show deals with social class, but in a way that brings the social classes together. The characters wore well, over the years, and the writing was consistently witty, in the 18th century manner of humorously intelligent repartee.

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By the end of the run, attention kept focusing on the characters' sex lives, which was a shame. On the whole, the series resisted the traits of the lowest common denominator sitcoms: yelling, innuendo, and meanness.

In the last episode, the father, of all people, gets married. Niles and Daphne, who had gotten married in an earlier season, had a baby. Frasier, who for all his erudition is actually just a radio advice show talker, leaves Seattle for a similar gig in San Francisco. The show avoided the Seinfeld syndrome of ending by deconstructing itself.

Another bit of cultural significance for Frasier: One of its creators, David Angell, died in the 9/11 attacks.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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