By Douglas Kruger
Frasier’s back! And he still doesn’t know what to do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs.
After a hiatus of 20 years (plus one month, exactly), the loquacious doc is set to appear in all new episodes premiering this week on Paramount Plus. After that, he will almost certainly dribble on down to Channel 5.
Not that he ever truly left. Each time Channel 5 completes a cycle, airing all 11 of the original seasons, they simply shrug and roll the tape again: Episode one, The Good Son.
Personally, I don’t mind. It’s my favourite TV show by a large margin, and it appears to have no law of diminishing returns. I even refer to it as “the best sitcom of all time” in the postscript to my first novel. My answer to that old “You’re stuck on a desert island with only two shows” challenge would be: Frasier and Nigella (though for very different reasons).
I grew curious about when it all began, and it turns out Kelsey Grammer first stepped into the role in 1984. The character debuted in the third season of Cheers. Run those numbers and he’s been playing the part off and on for approximately 40 years.
I was writing my final exams in high school as the show hit its heyday and began truly vacuuming up awards. I can recall the talking heads on our TV at the time indignantly pointing out that even the dog, Eddie, was receiving greater pay per episode than our nation’s top actors. Most of us readily conceded that Eddie was a better actor.
Nevertheless, I have a question. And admittedly, it’s directed toward the UK’s broadcasting authorities; Jersey’s off the hook here. Why do they censor spicy lines from the show?
I know the dialogue. I don’t just mean I’m roughly familiar with it. I mean I could recite it in my sleep, or win a gameshow by faithfully performing every line in all the correct character voices. My sister and I are such aficionados that we can chuck out a single word: “Veneer!” and laugh our fool heads off in perfect shared understanding.
So I know when there are chunks missing. The version you see on TV is not the full show. Specifically, they’ve taken a hatchet to all the naughty bits. I’ll give you an example.
In one episode, a pair of radio shock-jocks edit together voice-clips to make it sound as though Frasier and Roz are performing acts of intimacy right there on the radio booth floor. The dialogue that follows is as unconventional as it is delightful:
Shock-Jock: “They’re changing positions. I’ve never seen that one before!”
Frasier: “Love does enter through the nose!”
Okay, as couplets go, it ain’t Milton. But it is comedy gold. I distinctly remember tea coming out of my Mom’s nose.
…Or it was comedy gold, before they abridged it so badly that the scene no longer works.
And it’s not just Frasier, either. Everybody Loves Raymond has fallen prey to it too. And Modern Family.
Raymond may not have been as intellectual as Frasier, but a handful of its top episodes must surely qualify as among the finest moments in comedy history. Watch the episode titled She’s the One and tell me I’m wrong. It contains the best eight minutes in all of televisiondom, through the whole of which Raymond does… absolutely nothing.
But there, too: a mildly spicy insinuation between Raymond and his wife? Not fit for public viewing, thank you very much.
Then there’s Modern Family. Here’s your episode: The Colombian bombshell Gloria accidentally sends a mean email to Claire. Gloria heads over to apologise. She’s unaware that Claire and Phil just had the kids accidentally “walk in on them”. The misaligned dialogue is titillating: “It happened to me once, with another woman. She was the one doing it to me, and it hurt! So just try my cupcakes!” Phil nearly passes out.
Except that he doesn’t, because they chopped that scene to within an inch of its life.
Now here’s where it gets weird. Moral censoriousness deprives us of witty lines in adult sitcoms. But at the same time, in a recent promo for… what was it? Love Island? My six-year-old was exposed to three men coming together for an open-mouthed kiss. That aired without issue.
And every second TV ad these days features a menopausal woman speaking to her friend about peeing her pants during yoga. No problem. These are only interrupted by French brands advertising women smooching in the street… I mean…hatchbacks.
But a spicy innuendo on Frasier, during school hours? Witty repartee that no one with an IQ under 120 would ever catch anyway, because it’s all based on adult wordplay? Out of the question. Our selectively puritanical protectors must spring into action and save the public from such iniquity!
It makes no sense.
Anyway, Channel 5 will no doubt be delighted to have all new seasons of Frasier to butcher. There’ll be no end of material to remove, for the show is adult-oriented, and regularly risqué.
Trouble is, this time around, I haven’t had 20 years to study the dialogue. If they perform a little nip ’n’ tuck on the innuendo, how will I ever know? I’d order the boxset and study it, but people haven’t ordered boxsets for at least ten years now.
We may have to start a social media page. “Spotted a spicy omission? Post the dialogue here.”
Either way, the new series starts this week. And this time around, Frasier’s back in Boston, not Seattle, which means a whole new skyline for the opening animation. Here’s hoping it all works. Fingers crossed that this will be like the second Godfather movie. And not like Grease II.
Douglas Kruger lives in St Helier, and writes books to keep himself out of mischief. When the seagulls aren’t shrieking, he records them too. They’re all available from Amazon and Audible.