"Cheers" was one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, running for eleven years before it closed up the bar in 1993. Eager to continue the show's success, the show's creators thought there was potential in continuing the story of Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), a psychologist who moved from the Boston bar to a Seattle radio station for the new show. Surrounding Frasier is snobby brother Niles (the brilliant David Hyde Pierce), his grumpy father and former police officer (terrific stage-and-screen actor John Mahoney) and a few other supporting players, such as a caretaker for Frasier's father (Jane Leeves) and Frasier's co-worker, Roz (Peri Gilpin, replacing Lisa Kudrow from "Friends", who was originally cast).
"Frasier" is now entering its 10th year, and the show continues to hold on to an audience on Tuesday nights. Although the show may not be quite as consistent as it was in its finest hours mid-way through the run, the chemistry of the cast is still impressive and the writing is still often sharp and intelligent. Some of the plots have started to seem familiar after ten years, but the show often comes up with inspired new stories for the characters.
It's interesting to relive the first season of the series, as it shows some of the finest moments of the show. Grammer and Hyde Pierce energetically jump into the material (see "My Coffee With Niles", set entirely within the coffee shop that the two frequent, had great dialogue between the brothers and wrapped up the season's subplots quite well), both using their strong timing to play the high society humor and contrast between themselves and their working-class father. Both sons and their father have a very different outlook, but it's obvious that both sons care about their father, and he about them. The first season also has a few mild differences - Daphne is a tad flakier, claiming to be psychic. It's also entertaining to see the early moments between Niles and Daphne, as Hyde Pierce was able to create something funnier with his falling for Daphne than what he's done after the characters got together. Niles's troubles with spoiled, cold and unseen wife Maris are also remarkably funny - the show's creators were able to come up with a remarkable amount of little side-stories about Maris.
1. "The Good Son" 2. "Space Quest" 3. "Dinner at Eight" 4. "I Hate Frasier Crane" 5. "Here's Looking at You" 6. "The Crucible" 7. "Call me Irresponible" 8. "Beloved Infidel" 9. "Selling Out" 10. "Oops" 11. "Death Becomes Him" 12. "Miracle on Third or Forth Street" 13. "Guess Who's Coming to Breakfest" 14. "Can't Buy Me Love" 15. "You Can't Tell a Crook By it's Cover" 16. "The Show Where Lilith Comes Back" 17. "A Midwinter Night's Dream" 18. "And the Whimper is..." 19. "Give Him the Chair!" 20. "Fortysomething" 21. "Travels with Martin" 22. "Author, Author" 23. "Frasier Crane's Day Off" 24. "My Coffee with Niles".
VIDEO: "Frasier" is presented in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame ratio for all of the episodes included in this set. The image quality of the episodes is really quite good. While not more than broadcast-quality, the presentation does remain sharp and detailed throughout, with only the occasional touch of softness to the image. Flaws were generally minor, with only a tiny bit of compression artifacts. No edge enhancement or other concerns were spotted. Colors were bright and vivid, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Frasier" is presented in Dolby 2.0. The show's soundtrack leans on the laugh track to an irriating level, but other than that, these soundtracks are perfectly fine. Dialogue remains crisp and clear, while the occasional ambient sounds are natural-sounding.
EXTRAS: Creator David Lee and writer Peter Casey offer a commentary for the pilot episode of the series. They seem to have a bit of trouble remembering all the details about the early stages of the show's production, but they do pack in a respectable amount of information on how the show got started. We learn about casting, writing, characters and how some aspects of the series (celebrity voices as the call-ins on Frasier's show) got started.
Making of "Frasier": Creator David Lee, writer Peter Casey and star Kelsey Grammer discuss how the show came to be, with Grammer visiting the creators with the idea of continuing the character and the creators coming up with a very different idea on how the show would be. The show as-is emerged, though, and we learn more about casting, creation of characters and more. Interviews with David Hyde-Pierce, John Mahoney and others are also featured. There's nothing too out-of-the-ordinary about this 20-minute piece, but I liked the insights into the creation of the characters and found the respect and compliments each participant offered the other to be warm, sincere and enjoyable to hear.
Also: A tour of Frasier's apartment with the production designer and a guide to the show's celebrity voices.
Final Thoughts: While a tad uneven in recent years, "Frasier" still stands as a warm, witty and well-written show that consistently entertains. Paramount's DVD set offers fine audio/video quality, along with a few enjoyable supplements. Recommended.