Frasier says goodnight - so where's the spin-off?

Last Night: Frasier, NBC

It has become received wisdom in entertainment that any half-successful Hollywood venture should finish with at least a hint of a possible sequel. And so it was with the last night of
Frasier - itself already the most successful sitcom sequel in US television history - as it took its final bow after 11 years on the air.

It has become received wisdom in entertainment that any half-successful Hollywood venture should finish with at least a hint of a possible sequel. And so it was with the last night of Frasier - itself already the most successful sitcom sequel in US television history - as it took its final bow after 11 years on the air.

The eponymous radio psychiatrist, played by Kelsey Grammer, did not just utter his signature line "Goodnight Seattle" for the final time. He also said "Hello San Francisco".

Dr Frasier Crane bade farewell to the penthouse apartment he shared with his cranky brother and father and set off for a new radio job in California. The fact that his plane, in the show's final twist, landed in Chicago, may or may not have been a detail of broader significance.

Thursday's night's hour-long finale was the second time in as many weeks that America has waved goodbye to a popular network sitcom. Last week's send-off for Friends was watched by 52 million people. Frasier was not expected to beat that but it wasn't for lack of trying by NBC. The network ran a publicity blitz to coincide with the May "sweeps", when advertisers set their rates according to the latest viewing figures.

Could Frasier return in yet another incarnation? The character has been played by Kelsey Grammer for a record-equalling 20 years, first in the Boston bar comedy Cheers and, briefly, in Wings. But he hasn't excluded a further outing. There has been talk, too, of a new show centred on Niles, his brother, and Niles's wife Daphne.

Frasier's final hour was replete with the standard tropes of sitcom - a birth, a wedding, a six-year-old who accidentally gets drunk, and several unruly animals. Frasier wound up spouting Tennyson, which was a welcome reminder that this show was always a bit classier than its peers.

The plot centred on two points: the arrival of Niles and Daphne's first child, and the marriage of Martin, the dad, to his girlfriend Ronee. Naturally, the two events became hopelessly entwined. Eddie the dog swallowed the wedding ring, prompting an emergency trip to the vet where Daphne's waters broke. At one point Niles was left holding not his baby, but an infant monkey. While Martin and Niles represented different incarnations of "Love Triumphant", Frasier was left feeling frustrated and lovelorn until the final moment, when it turned out he was flying to Chicago in the hope of kindling true love with his most recent passion, Charlotte.

Can the romance work? The show did not say. No doubt it will be down to viewing figures and the desperation of NBC executives looking for the next big hit.



Profile, pages 40&41

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