Paramount // 1994 // 544 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 2nd, 2003
Niles: "Frasier, You know what I think about pop
Frasier: "Yes, I know what you think about everything. When was the last time you had an unexpressed thought?"
Niles: "I'm having one now."
-- From the pilot episode "The Good Son," Frasier
Oh how I love the medium of television. Though I haven't been keeping up-to-date on the current crop of TV shows (and with all that "American Idol / Fear Factor" reality crap out there I don't feel like I'm missing much), I still have old standbys which, whenever I catch them in reruns, always make me laugh heartily. One such show is Frasier, a loopy spin-off of Cheers that is one parts elitist snob and two parts lowbrow comedy. The show is now in its 11th year and still retains the same charm, humor, and wit that made it an initial hit back in 1993. Starring Kelsey Grammer as the stuffy yet likable Dr. Frasier (most likely TV's longest running character), Frasier: The Complete First Season makes its DVD debut on a four-disc set care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Go ahead caller...I'm listening.
After leaving his old stomping grounds of Boston (and that famous pub run by Sam Malone), Dr. Frasier Crane decides to head for Seattle, Washington, to start his own psychology radio show. Now divorced from the coldly distant Lilith, Frasier has settled into his new posh apartment as a single professional bachelor. Unfortunately, Dr. Crane's new life is turned upside down when he's suddenly invaded by family and friends. Enter Dr. Crane's brother Niles (David Hyde-Pierce, A Bug's Life) who is also a psychologist, often in competition with Frasier. After discussing what to do with their disabled father Martin Crane (John Mahoney, Say Anything), it's decided that the best option is to have Martin and his dog Eddie (Moose) move in with Frasier. This does not bode well for Dr. Crane, who is accustomed to a higher standard of living than Martin is (i.e., Martin loves beer while Frasier adores wine). Once settled, Frasier decides to hire a live in physical therapist, Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves), to help with his father's disability. Suddenly Frasier's life spins out of control as his apartment goes from just him to his father, the batty Daphne, and Eddie, who tends to be the bane of Frasier's existence. Throw in Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) as Frasier's promiscuously sarcastic radio producer, and you've got the wacky cast of Frasier!
Included on this four-disc set are 24 episodes from the first season:
* The Good Son
* Space Quest
* Dinner At Eight
* I Hate Frasier Crane
* Here's Looking At You
* The Crucible
* Call me Irresponsible
* Beloved Infidel
* Selling Out
* Death Becomes Him
* Miracle on Third of Forth Street
* Guess Who's Coming For Breakfast?
* Can't Buy Me Love
* You Can't Tell a Crook By His Cover
* The Show Where Lilith Comes Back
* A Midwinter Night's Dream
* And The Whimper Is...
* Give Him The Chair
* Travels With Martin
* Author, Author
* Frasier Crane's Day Off
* My Coffee With Niles
The doctor is in, and it's one of the funniest couches you'll ever lie on. Long before Dr. Crane entered living rooms with his own TV show, the pompous psychiatrist was swapping stories and guzzling beer with the likes of Norm, Cliff, Sam, and Diane at the local Boston pub "Cheers." A consistently well-written comedy, Cheers became one of the most popular programs on television from 1982 until its end in 1993. Kelsey Grammer entered the picture in 1984 as Diane Chamber's one time fiancé, and ever since he's been a constant in viewer's boob tubes.
Less than a year after Cheers ended, Frasier showed up to ease the minds of those who missed their barfly buddies from Cheers. Though the humor sometimes skewed a little more highbrow than its predecessor, Frasier still retained enough warmth and humor to be worthy of the Cheers torch. Through Frasier's eleven seasons of hilarity we've seen (WARNING: series spoilers ahead!) Dr. Crane meet, romance, and get dumped by various women; Roz become pregnant and give birth to her child; and witnessed the nuptials between Dr. Niles Crane and Daphne Moon.
In the this first season of Frasier, however, fans will get to see where it all started. Watch as the estranged Martin moves in with Frasier, Niles becomes a constant staple at the Crane apartment, and Daphne slowly becomes one of the family! One of the joys of this show is the constant struggle between Niles and Frasier -- the two brothers compete for everything from job success to Martin's affections, yet still keep their bond as brothers. Also entertaining is watching Martin and Frasier's constant head butting at home -- Frasier enjoys the finer, more refined things in life while Martin prefers life's simplest pleasures. In the episode "Guess Who's Coming To Breakfast," Frasier makes the dastardly mistake of discussing Martin's sex life on his radio show. When Martin confronts him about it, Frasier is baffled, thinking he was flattering Martin on the air. This scene is a wonderful example of the differences between the two generations of Crane men; both live on opposite ends of the psychology spectrum, which makes for superb comedic moments.
It would be hard to refute that Grammer is one of the funniest men working in television today. His comedic timing is impeccable, complimented by a very likable (if stuffy) personality. His supporting cast is equally adept in their roles; Jane Leeves' batty Daphne provides more then her fair share of off-the-wall moments, John Mahoney's Martin comes off as grumpy and huggable, and David Hyde Pierce (the spitting image of a younger Grammer and the real star of the show) provided me with more laughs in one episode than Caroline in the City did in its entire run. [Editor's Note: Everyone laugh and point...Patrick admitted to watching the entire run of Caroline in the City!] His anal retentiveness -- he must, must, MUST wipe the seat every time he sits down at their local coffee house -- and perfect timing makes him one of the most endearing characters in television history.
In short (and as if you needed this reiterated): Frasier will go down as one of the classic comedies of the 1990s. Grammer and crew ended up being a worth successor to the Cheers legacy. Though the end is most likely in sight for the show (2004 looks like D-day for the Cranes), it will continue to run in syndication for years to come -- and Frasier: The Complete First Season is a good way to get ready for the ensuing laughs. This set is highly recommended.
Frasier: The Complete First Season is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. It's hard to believe that this show is well over ten years old. The transfers for each of these episodes look both attractive and clean -- though there are a few inherent imperfections in the medium (some edge halos are visible), generally these are fine looking episodes that have worn well. Frasier was taped on film stock, which in turn produced a much nicer, slicker looking show than other sitcoms filmed on video tape (i.e., Home Improvement).
The soundtracks are all presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English. Keeping in mind that this is a 1993 TV show, generally speaking these are all decent, well recorded sound mixes. Their limitations are obvious (5.1 remixes weren't warranted since this is an early '90s show), though overall the soundtracks are crystal clear and free of excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on each episode are subtitles in English.
Paramount's work on this set is better than most TV-on-DVD collections. Here's a rundown of what's been included on this set:
Celebrity Voices: Each disc includes a brief snippet of the celebrity callers for Dr. Crane's radio show with the real actor's name on the bottom of the screen (i.e., composer Henry Mancini, Piper Laurie, et cetera). This isn't all that interesting of a feature -- aside of the text with the names, this is all just repeat material from the show.
Commentary Track on Pilot Episode by Executive Producers/Creators Peter Casey and David Lee : A genial, laidback commentary that features a wealth of information on the show's characters, how the show came into being,and a few of the fine details about the initial episode "The Good Son." Both Casey and Lee seem to have genuine affection for both the characters and the actors who play them. Since this is the only commentary available on this set, it's worth the listen and won't take up too much of your time.
Behind the Couch: The Making of Frasier: A nice companion documentary featuring Grammer, Casey, Lee, Jane Leeves, David Hyde-Pierce, Peri Gilpin, and John Mahoney. It's interesting to note that before Grammer decided to do a Cheers spin-off he was originally going to do a sitcom about a guy bedridden with a disability from a motorcycle accident. Let's all applaud him for making the right decision. This featurette is filled with info on the casting (including stories from the cast members) and reminiscences about the show.
Production Design Featurette: Click on various pieces of Dr. Crane's furniture or in different rooms and you'll be whisked away to an explanation of how that particular item/room (i.e., Martin's grungy chair, the kitchen, et cetera) came about. For those who want to get into production design, this is a must.
I'm glad to see that Paramount has finally released one of my favorite sitcoms on DVD. This four DVD set is a nice way for Frasier "newbies" to check out why this show has remained so popular over the last 11 years.
Frasier has been released from my care so he can spread his psychobabble to the world!
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 544 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary Track on Pilot Episode by Executive Producers/Creators Peter Casey and David Lee
* Celebrity Voices
* "Behind The Couch -- The Making of Frasier" Featurette
* Production Design Featurette