A Suggested ‘Frasier’ Pilot Tweak Would Have Been Disastrous for the Series

by Suzanne Halliburton

Frasier fans, can you imagine the series without Martin and Eddie? After the pilot, some at NBC thought about dropping the father from the comedy about family.

Recall those first few episodes of Frasier, which launched on NBC in September 1993, as a spinoff to the classic TV show Cheers. Frasier, portrayed by Kelsey Grammer, was a regular at the Boston bar. But after his divorce from Lilith, he moved across the country, back to Seattle, his hometown. The show was all about Frasier adapting to his new life as a radio talk-show therapist. Fans of the show were able to meet Frasier’s family, including dad, Martin; Niles, his snooty brother and Daphne, Martin’s live-in physical therapist. Plus, there were his quirky work friends, including Roz and Bulldog. Frasier either was at home in his spectacular downtown high-rise apartment, at work or at the coffee shop, Cafe Nervosa.

If you remember, Frasier and Niles didn’t have a great father-son relationship with Martin, the retired cop. Frasier and Niles were artsy, highly educated snobs who loved fine wine, the theater and classical music. It was all part of their comedic charm. Martin, the widower, was a pragmatic ex-policeman who loved beer, his dog and his cop friends. His favorite activity was taking Eddie on walks. Or, he’d spend his hours relaxing in his 1970s-era easy chair while watching TV. Frasier and Niles preferred the symphony. Meanwhile, Martin wanted to go watch a Seahawks or Sonics game.

Kelsey Grammer and John Mahoney (Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Frasier Pilot Brought Out Emotions in Grammer, Mahoney

As the series started, Martin, who had to retire from his job after being shot in the hip, didn’t want to live with Frasier. He was both cantankerous and independent.

But after the first rehearsal for Frasier, one NBC executive wanted a change. “Get rid of the dad.” That’s according to series writer Ken Levine. He told Vanity Fair about the executive: “She now takes credit for being one of the people who ‘developed’ the show.”

Peter Casey, a Frasier co-creator, told the magazine about another pilot scene involving Grammer and John Mahoney (Martin). He talked it over with series writer David Isaacs.

“Frasier and Martin get into this heated argument,” Casey recalled. “I had asked David if we should put a joke or two in. The feeling was our actors had the chops to do it straight, so let’s go for it.”

Isaacs said that Grammer’s voice was quivering as he argued with Mahoney, his TV dad.

“At the end of the episode, we got a standing ovation. Kelsey’s response was ‘It seems we did rather well,'” said Christopher Lloyd, a Frasier writer/producer. “That was typical—understating his own effect on an audience.”

Although the show kept Martin in place, executives did do a major change in casting. Lisa Kudrow, initially, was supposed to play Roz. But after a few rehearsals, the show hired Peri Gilpin for one of the best roles on TV. Rest assured Kudrow did OK with her career. A year later, she became an original cast member of Friends.

Frasier reruns are classic TV staple. And a reboot is in the works. Sadly, Martin Crane won’t be part of it. Mahoney died in 2018.