The Commercial Appeal
Grammer honors Kirstie Alley with new ‘Frasier’
Kelsey Grammer is honoring his late “Cheers” co-star Kirstie Alley.
The actors appeared together in six seasons of the popular NBC sitcom as psychiatrist Frasier Crane and bar manager Rebecca Howe. Alley, who earned an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her performance, died of colon cancer last December at 71.
Rebecca never appeared in the “Cheers” spinoff “Frasier,” which ran from 1993 to 2004 and is being revived on Paramount+ later this year. But Grammer, 67, says Alley’s spirit is still very much a part of the show’s new version.
“When Kirstie died, I was pretty upset about it because I really loved her,” Grammer tells USA TODAY. “She was a magnificent person (and gave) a wonderful performance in ‘Cheers.’ She was remarkable – I mean, the stuff she could pull off. So I did say to the writers of this incarnation of ‘Frasier,’ I said, ‘If we find a character that can do what Kirstie Alley did in ‘Cheers,’ we will be a very lucky group of people.’ So it is in the back of our minds.”
Alley joined “Cheers” in its sixth season, replacing original cast member Shelley Long, who left the show.
“They brought in this new girl, Kirstie, and she lit up the room,” Grammer recalls. “There was one ‘Cheers’ episode (in Season 11) where Frasier and Rebecca ended up in bed together, which was really funny. I just adored her.”
“Frasier” was still a ratings phenomenon when it went off the air, drawing more than 25 million viewers for its series finale, according to Nielsen. Grammer says there was “a brief discussion” at the time of doing another season or two, but due in part to contractual issues with the show’s writers, “everyone had decided it was time to roll ‘Frasier’ over and we were done with it. And I said, ‘OK, great, that’s fine.’ It’s all I ever wanted – 11 seasons was a perfect number, because ‘Cheers’ had 11 seasons.
That’s where that came from.”
But a slew of TV reboots, including ABC’S “Roseanne” revival in 2018, proved that classic characters could still resonate with modern audiences.
“That made me think, ‘Well, maybe ‘Frasier’ does have another television (life),’ “Grammer says. “There’s always room for funny and ‘Frasier’ is funny.”
Grammer has described the revival as Frasier Crane’s “fourth act.” After leaving Seattle for Chicago in the “Frasier” series finale, the character is now back in Boston, where “Cheers” was set. Original cast members such as David Hyde Pierce, who played Frasier’s brother Niles, aren’t returning for the sequel series. So instead, the show will introduce new characters including Alan Cornwall (Nicholas Lyndhurst), a university professor and Frasier’s college friend.
Frasier “never really had a great friend that we know about, so we’re exploring that in this incarnation,” Grammer says. “His chief relationship was really with his brother in the previous show, and Niles is not going to be part of it. So I’m very excited about the idea that he actually has an equal: a person who’s his pal.”
Before “Frasier” returns, Grammer can be seen as pastor Chuck Smith in faith-based drama “Jesus Revolution” (in theaters Feb. 24).