Frasier Crane, following several failed relationships in Boston and tiring of the bar scene, returns to his home town, Seattle, to see if he can't rebuild his life. As an occupation, he chooses that of a radio psychiatrist. As fate would have it, he ends up living with his cantankerous father Martin, his father's "psychic" health care worker Daphne, and a Jack Russell terrier named Eddie. His core group is completed with the addition of his brother Niles and his radio show's producer, Roz Doyle.
The title character Frasier – whom many will recall from the popular sitcom Cheers of which this series is a spinoff – is played brilliantly by Kelsey Grammer. It never ceases to amaze me how Grammer can, in a span of minutes, go from hilarious comic buffoonery to being an intelligent, educated, caring psychiatrist with complete believability. If you got to know and like Frasier in the context of Cheers, you will find this new journey of self-discovery a wonderful experience.
Frasier's father Martin is played by veteran actor John Mahoney. This may be Mahoney's best roll – a retired, no-nonsense ex-cop (injured in the line of duty) and the perfect foil for the socially-conscious, fastidious Crane brothers. Frasier's brother Niles, played to subtle perfection by David Hyde-Pierce, is in many ways more Frasier than Frasier himself: more delicate, more refined, allergic to most everything and with an abiding fear of germs and small creatures. Daphne Moon, the family's housekeeper and Martin's physical therapist is played by Jane Leeves. It is impossible not to fall in love with this delightful character. Roz Doyle, Frasier's producer, is played by Peri Gilpin -- more than capable of holding her own in this stellar company. Roz is a seasoned radio professional with an overactive love life and another perfect foil for the Crane boys. Other regulars include Bob "Bulldog" Briscoe (Dan Butler), a macho sports broadcaster, Gil Chesterton (Edward Hibbert), a loveably gay food critic, and Noel ("the mole") Shempsky (Patrick Kerr) –- a Star Trek fan with a major crush on Roz. And of course, there's Eddie (Moose/Enzo), Martin's beloved pooch to whom the Crane brothers must play second fiddle when it comes to their father's attention.
If one were to say that Frasier was the best television sitcom ever, it's not like many people would laugh – perhaps no one would. The reason is simple: from the first show to the last, the acting and writing are of the highest quality. In other popular shows, after the first few years, the producers often have to resort to gimmicks to keep interest alive: you suddenly have the main characters traveling to exotic locations, or perhaps will see an increase in the number of flavor-of-the-month guest celebrities. Gimmicks were never necessary with a show of Frasier's caliber. In the end, you had the feeling that the show could have continued indefinitely.
If you've never seen Frasier, don't worry about getting hooked only to find your favorite character leaving the show. The first show and the last involve the same core group of characters. Even the main set, Frasier's apartment, still has all the original furniture after eleven years; changes were limited to small objets d'art.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Frasier is its integrity. At the end of eleven years, you almost have the feeling that it was all written beforehand. One of the essential themes –- that Frasier and his father come to understand and appreciate each other –- was brought to a heartfelt conclusion. Another story line, that of Niles' and Daphne's relationship, ends with the birth of their son, David. Roz gets a well-deserved promotion, and even Martin, mellowed by his association with his sons, finds love again and marries. This consistency was in no small part due to the series creators, David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee. And Frasier ends up... Well, watch and see.
To sum up: it will amuse you, it will touch you, and it will educate you. Don't miss it.