Pandemic life comes with cravings. I wake up wishing that my couch was a replica of the sofa in Coco Chanel’s Parisian apartment. At 5 p.m., I want to sip Champagne with Oscar Wilde. Around midnight, I crave tossed salad and scrambled eggs.
You might wonder how I could fulfill these desires. No worries! I don’t need to time travel to meet up with Oscar, buy Chanel’s sofa or rush to scramble the eggs and toss the salad. I just go to Hulu, Amazon Prime or CBS All Access and watch “Frasier.”
“Frasier,” the Emmy-winning sitcom that ran on NBC from 1993 to 2004, serenades us with its theme song, “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs.” (There are reports that a “Frasier” reboot may be in the works.) Its lead character, psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane, has a replica of Chanel’s couch in his Seattle apartment. Wilde’s ghost wittily cavorts through most episodes. Plus, there’s an adorable dog! (Cue Eddie, the Jack Russell terrier who got more fan mail than the show’s human stars.)
Debuting three years before the original incarnation of “Will & Grace,” (which ran on NBC from 1996 to 2006), “Frasier,” was one of the most sophisticated, witty, and queer series on TV in its era. The show received a GLAAD Award for its season two episode “The Matchmaker.” As its popularity on streaming platforms, with younger generations and as the subject of several podcasts attests, “Frasier” has, generally, aged well.
It’s not surprising that I, along with many other aficionados, are turning to “Frasier” for comfort in the time of COVID-19. There’s a limit to how much news we can take in as the virus wreaks havoc on our health, economy, and social lives. Especially if we’re queer. After doing all we can to help ourselves, our families, friends, colleagues and communities, we need to recharge.
During quarantine, other TV shows, especially, “The Golden Girls,” have made its legions of fans, including me, laugh and feel safe. (What virus could withstand Dorothy’s stern admonitions or resist Blanche’s seductiveness?) Yet, “Frasier” is a near-perfect fit for this moment.
In case you haven’t run into it on Netflix, “Frasier” was a spin-off of the NBC sitcom “Cheers.” On “Frasier,” the pompous, but lovable, witty, opera-aficionado, twice-divorced psychiatrist Frasier Crane has moved to Seattle.
There, his father Martin, a retired cop who was wounded while on duty, lives with him. Daphne, Martin’s physical therapist, completes the household. His brother Niles, also a psychiatrist, is, for a time, married to Maris, a spectral caricature who’s never seen on the show. (Maris is one of the things on “Frasier” that hasn’t aged well.) Frasier is a radio shrink and Roz is his producer and friend.
Frasier has more girlfriends than you can count and Niles, early on, falls head over heels in love with Daphne. Yet, the two brothers are each other’s most frequent opera and wine-tasting companion. They’re together so much that a woman planning a dinner party is overheard bemoaning that “if you invite one you have to invite the other one.”
The main characters aren’t queer on “Frasier.” Yet, the show has a queer vibe. This is, I’d wager, partly because “Frasier” co-creator David Lee and “Frasier” executive producer and writer Joe Keenan are gay.
If you’re missing theater because of the pandemic, “Frasier” will help fill the void. Often, “Frasier” episodes are like French farces. Among the best and queerest are “The Matchmaker,” “The Ski Lodge,” “Out with Dad” and “The Doctor is Out.” In “The Matchmaker,” Frasier invites Tom, the station manager, to dinner (thinking he’d be a great catch for Daphne). Tom has no clue that Frasier’s straight, while Frasier has no idea Tom’s gay. The humor isn’t homophobic. The laughs come from the farcical misunderstanding.
If your spirits need a lift, check out “Frasier.” It’s Oscar Wilde meets Halloween.
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.