Tag Archives: Comfort

The Comfort of Sitcoms: Fraser

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Hey all, it’s Kern here. I’m back to writing proper blog posts, yes it’s taken me a while to get back into the swing of things, and I apologize for that profusely. In any case, let’s just dive into the topic at hand, shall we?

Today I want to talk a little bit about sitcoms. The draw they have and the appeal they carry to a wider audience shouldn’t be overlooked. For anyone that knows me and also the situation going on around the house right about now, you’ll know that sitcoms are a family affair. We’re known to crowd around the television together to watch an episode or two of our favorite ones.

Now back in the days of cable, we generally had shows we habitually flocked to. Shows like “The Nanny”, “Golden Girls” and “I Love Lucy” commonly filled the warm glow of our television screen. However, in this household only one sitcom stands out as king among the rest.

The show we watch most of all just so happens to be a show that hasn’t had any new episodes produced since May 13, 2004. This show is known as Frasier, and when it comes to sitcoms this show lasts the test of time.

Insofar as my household is concerned, we still watch the show nightly. With the advent of streaming services, we can now do so at length. Even before then, we had all of the box sets for the series, some of them we even have doubles of. Seasons one and two particularly. This is because when we first bought the box sets, it was in the early 90’s. Therefore we had them on VHS tape. When DVD’s became the foremost way to watch media, we switched over to those, and that’s why we have multiple sets of season one and season two.

Nowadays, streaming is the way of the world, and smart televisions are where it’s at. We were slow on this uptake in this house, only picking one up in early 2020, but Paramount+ was the wisest subscription we ever made because now my mother can watch Frasier to the point that she can drive me insane with it… and she often does. That was a fact I even mentioned in a previous blog post, which was very fitting at that exact moment.

As I stated at the time, even while I was writing a post about idle gaming, my mother was watching Frasier. She watches the show daily, we call it a hobby. So, when I said that we watch all eleven seasons of that sitcom over and over every week, I wasn’t joking then, and I’m not joking now. She is once again watching the show, and I am too.

For those of you that know of the show, and the sort of episodes you can find within the series, we are currently in the middle of the one where Frasier Crane (played expertly by Kelsey Grammer) looses his job as a radio talk show host and has a mid-life crisis of sorts. That particular plot line goes on for a few episodes. This episode isn’t exactly the best one in the series by far, but it is the one that happens to be playing.

All in all, it does illustrate my point.

The show stands the test of time, and even the test of my sanity. Eleven seasons isn’t very many when you watch them endlessly, much like we do around here. A reboot series in in the works apparently, spearheaded by Kelsey Grammer himself. It’s anyone’s guess if it will actually hold up to the old material, but I do remain hopeful.

The series won’t be the same without
John Mahoney, who played Martin Crane in the series. He passed away in 2018. May he be resting in peace.

The character of Martin was my absolute favorite as a child, and even now, I enjoy his time on the screen. He’s a breath of fresh air in the series. Martin Crane is the typical “every-man” that enjoys sports and fishing just as much as a good beer and time with his family. His beloved dog named Eddie is also a key focal point for him.

As former police officer, Martin Crane was a simple guy with a worldly aware attitude. His desires and vices are also simple as a result. He wasn’t too complicated and offered a staunch juxtaposition for the pomp and circumstance that other characters, like Niles and Frasier so commonly find themselves embroiled in.

When I think of sitcoms, a great many of them come to mind, but so few qualify to stand in my list of cream of the crop “comfort shows”. Some are funny, sure enough, and many of the older ones bring with them a hefty dose of nostalgia, but those are few and far between for me.

So then, why Frasier? Why not Cheers, which was where the character of Frasier Crane first originated? Why not literally any other sitcom? That’s a good question. I’ve been thinking a lot about that too, actually. It’s the heart and soul of the series that truly makes it special for me.

Surely the series has plenty of distilled witty humor, dry retorts mingling with overly long diatribes. To be honest, most of them sound much more sophisticated than they really are, as that is the punchline of those gags. However, it comes jam packed with slapstick comedy too.

Tongue-in-cheek humor tends to creep into visual hilarity at it’s finest. The image above highlights this, I believe. You don’t need to know the character of Niles too deeply to find find his absolutely disgusted look amusing, all while his pet bird uses his head as a perch.

It really is simple little visual jokes and sideways comments thrown about offhandedly, that truly makes the series sticks out for a good laugh or two. Even after you’ve seen all the gags, they’re still funny. It doesn’t lose the charm in re-watching the scenes. Honestly, the show is best enjoyed in it’s layers of symbolism and deeper discoveries. You should watch it a second time at least.

As a series, Frasier is both full of heart and goofy psychobabble related nonsense. It unflinchingly pokes fun at the psychiatric field, but it also softens that humor with stories that are truly steeped in the flaws that make us human. The series is just as much about the family unit as it is about hair-brained schemes and mindless posturing. There are times when it questions personal identity and moments when it refuses to fit the mold at all.

One of my favorite episodes includes Sir Patrick Stewart portraying man by the name of Alistair Burke. The character only appears in one episode, and in season eleven no less. However, the character is in a successful position in the theater, and his attempts to woo Fraiser Crane are the highlight of the episode. Fraiser has no idea the man is attracted to him until the matter is far too late to correct.

It is an iconic episode for me, and one that sticks out as a noteworthy piece of media because back in 2004 my inclusion in the GRSM (Gender, Romantic, and Sexual Minorites) community was lacking to say the least. I was still a teenager in high school, so characters in media were all that I had. Seeing an openly gay or trans character in the sitcoms my own mother watched was of great comfort to me. She did it without complaint, and without thinking twice about the matter, and it truly solidified my own comfort with my own identity.

Now, in a perfect world characters would be portrayed by a properly identifying individual more often than not, no matter the identity we’re discussing. Representation in media is very important, and therefore, we shouldn’t overlook that angle either. When we discuss what actor gets what role, identity should be a consideration (though not the deciding factor). However, this isn’t a perfect world, and it certainly wasn’t perfect back in 2004.

I don’t hold it against the media of the time… in fact, if anything, I think Sir Patrick Stewart did a wonderful job in the role for the single episode that he got to portray Alistair Burke.

Honestly, I’m thankful I just had the opportunity to have some level of wider exposure to the concepts that high schools refused to talk about, such as being gay. However, that’s why I believe I love this sitcom so much.

Frasier wasn’t just topical for its time, it was also down to earth and close to home. It didn’t chase down trends in a vain hope to appeal to the masses blindly… or at least it didn’t “feel” like that’s what the show was trying to do. I think that makes all the difference. It never felt like it tried to be more than it was, and what it was could often come off as pretentious and snobby to say the least. Particularly if someone wasn’t on screen to knock the Crane brothers back down a few pegs and rip off their masks of frivolity.

Someone always came along to do it too, usually Martin Crane or the character of Roz Doyle (played by Peri Gilpin).

Frasier was an intelligent series. It made statements that invited the viewer to come to their own conclusions. It was as funny as it was thoughtful, and it has aged decently well. Occasionally, it could even manage to be sad and soulful too.

That’s why I’m so drawn to it, and why my mother is too. It is rarely ever bombastic, yet it is far from mindless. The themes and the lessons are simple, and Martin Crane often tends to be the wisest character of all. If you’re looking for a decent sitcom and you haven’t seen it, give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.

This has been Kernook, of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at it’s finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

If you liked this content, please be sure to follow the blog so that you can see more like it. I’ll be talking about sitcoms from time to time along with other media.

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