Can "Frasier" Save Comedy?
Kelsey Grammar, whom viewers across the world still associate (and will perhaps always associate) with that cranky but lovable radio doc Frasier, is coming back to prime-time television in yet another network attempt to salvage the traditional sitcom, a genre currently endangered by hour-long dramedy and reality. But do viewers still care?
Three years ago "Frasier" ended its 11-season run along with NBC's other mega-popular sitcom "Friends" which anchored a "Must-See TV" night of programming for over a decade.
TV's other high-profile laughers "Will & Grace" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" shortly followed suit, marking an end of an era. Gone was the Nilesen firepower of the 30-minute sitcom as TV's current greatest hit "Two and a Half Men" rarely makes it to the Top-10.
Creatively, comedy is anything but dead. ABC successfully launched hour-long dramedies "Desperate Housewives" and "Ugly Betty" which redefined the genre, and NBC revamped its Thursday night comedy block with critical darlings "My Name Is Earl," "30 Rock," "The Office" and "Scrubs." Even The CW came up with a brilliant comedy, the Chris Rock-narrated series "Everybody Hates Chris."
But none of these shows have managed to generate the sort of Earth-shattering numbers that once made classics like "The Cosby Show," "Cheers," "Frasier," "Seinfeld" and "Friends" global megahits. The networks are launching only 6 new comedies this fall. With less than 20 comedies on air (about half as many as five seasons ago) is the genre really dead?
I personally believe that is not the case. The viewer today may have become more sophisticated and demanding and the networks will have to try harder, but once a well-written comedy with relatable characters at its heart comes along, I am sure the viewers will embrace it and make it the kind of a megahit we have not seen in years.
For the time being, as a die-hard "Frasier" fan, I will certainly wish Kelsey Grammer and his new comedy "Back To You" (co-starring Patricia Heaton of "Everbody Loves Raymond" fame) the best of luck.
Grammer plays an egotistical TV news anchorman Chuck Darling who, following an on-air blunder in Los Angeles, reunites with his former Pittsburgh TV news co-anchor Kelly Carr, an uptight single mom with a 10-year old daughter.
The comedy is written by Frasier alums Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan and helmed by top sitcom director James Burrows in front of a live studio audience. Just like in good old days. "Back To You" premieres Wednesday, September 19 at 8/7c on FOX.