Frasier kind of feels oddly forgotten and overlooked as one of the great sitcoms of the last forty years? Maybe my perception is skewed a bit, but it just seems the show does not get discussed or referenced as much as it should in comparison to some other huge hits from that time period. Whatever. Anyway, here is how I rank the seasons.
LAST: Season 8 – Daphne Fat Jokes
One hundred percent, the worst season of Frasier ever. It started off bad and only got worse from there. Season 7 ended with Daphne leaving Donny at the alter for Niles (who had just married Mel). Season 8 starts off with a multi-episode arc dealing with the fallout from that. And it’s awful. Donny was suing Frasier and Daphne. Mel made Niles pretend to be in the relationship with her so she could save face. It was miserable, hacky sitcom shit. Then Jane Reeves’ pregnancy became too obvious to ignore any longer so the show decided to handle having the character gain weight from eating too much and proceeded to make as many jokes as possible about it. When Reeves went on maternity leave, there was a brief respite as the show just focused on the three Crane boys hanging out but there was just simply no recovery from how the season started.
10. Season 9 – The fastball is gone
After the disastrous season 8, this thoroughly mediocre and limp season 9 was a breath of fresh air. The big things holding down season 8 were gone but so was the magic of the show in its prime. Quite frankly, there is not much else to say about this season of the show. It is purely fine but also not really notable in any way, shape, or manner. At this point in time, it seemed clear the show should have ended after season seven. (It also had half of a Cheers reunion episode towards the end of the season that really crystallized how limp all those episodes were. You can never go home again.)
9. Season 3 – New Boss
The first big wrinkle in the show’s formula happened this season. The radio station had a new boss who became a legit recurring character. And it was not a very good development. The conflicts were uninspired. The performance was unimpressive. The eventual romance between the new boss, Kate, and Frasier was also predictable in that sitcom trope sort of way that only compound the previously existing issues. The season was not without its laughs but the big new focus took away overall.
8. Season 10 – Frasier Back??
After two very off seasons of the show where it seemed like the show had lost all of its wit and charm, Frasier made a remarkable comeback in its penultimate season. It was far from one of its best seasons do not get me wrong. But the show had life once again and had a number of a great episodes. The storyline (however brief) that seemed to light a fuse with the show again was Niles needing emergency heart surgery. The heavy story that nearly resulted in Niles’ death managed to truly bring the show alive again. (Though the stuff with Felicity Huffman was all mostly a misfire.)
7. Season 6 – Unemployed Frasier
While a very solid season of Frasier overall, this season did have a significant issue that causes it pale in comparison to the best stretches of the show. The show introduced two significant narrative elements. The season started with Frasier having no job, as the new(?) owners of the radio station ditched all of the talk shows. Beyond early episodes of Frasier losing his mind, this story did not really go anywhere and then the show found a boring way of reverting back to the status quo. Secondly, Daphne starts to date Niles’ divorce lawyer, and then it turns out that Roz also used to date him. And Saul Rubinek being that divorce lawyer just could not pull it off. He was just simply too boring and unfunny.
There were some highlights and good moments of course. (Niles doing his ironing and Grammer directing it as if it was a silent film in particular stands out as one of the best sequences the show ever did.) Overall though, it felt like this season underdelivered.
6. Season 5 – Roz Gets Pregnant
There were some notable developments this season. Frasier got laid a handful of times. Niles and Daphne came closer than ever to hooking up. All dangerous storyline developments for the show. But the actual big misstep was Roz becoming pregnant after having sex with a college student. Roz herself was a great supporting character on this show no doubt, but as the show grew less interested in the weekly comings and goings of Frasier’s radio program, it felt like they were stretching for new stuff to do with Roz.
5. Season 11 – The End?
While this was a very hit-or-miss season in many respects, it truly felt like the show was going out with a bang. Their hits were big hits, and even their misses felt ambitious in a manner that you do not even mind. “They left it all on the field” you might say. Some of the funniest episodes and scenes of the whole show ended up in this final season. That is very rare for a long-running sitcom. It would almost be a shame if there was some reboot or whatever because this was as good of a way to go out as you could hope.
4. Season 7 – Mel and Donny
One of the best things this season of Frasier did was that it backed off the Donny/Daphne relationship in regards to screen time. Saul Rubinek was seemingly set up to be at least a recurring character in this season given that the previous finale saw him and Daphne get engaged. To the point that I was really dreading having to watch a full season of them together. But he was just so (delightfully) absent for much of this season that it allowed the show to focus more on what already works. Anyway, this was a very fun season with the only downside being the finale setting up the Daphne/Niles relationship which was obviously a disaster.
3. Season 4 – Back to Business
After the very weak season 3, season 4 was an important bounce back year for the show. There were no weak new wrinkles like season 3, and the characters started to progress a little from their status quo established in seasons 1 & 2. While the eventual Daphne and Niles relationship was an obvious misstep, their will-they/won’t-they tension was actually pretty well executed and a good source for humor. They upped the ante big time here. Frasier and Marty also continued to progress ever so slightly as people in a way that felt earned and not trite.
2. Season 1 – “I’m Listening”
The first season of this Cheers spinoff does an amazing job of taking what worked about that sitcom pillar and creating its own distinct identity to the point that you mostly forget it was a spinoff. The show is split between Frasier’s home life and work life with the former getting far more screen time and thus ending up being far more successful. The key to the show’s success is
obviously the dog the relationship between Frasier, Niles, and their father. It mines the majority of the show’s humor and successful emotional moments, and the show can essentially always count on that dynamic when other elements of the show are working less successfully. They came out of the gate firing on all cylinders on that front and the show was great from the jump as a result.
1. Season 2: If It’s Not Broken
Season 2 of Frasier essentially made no significant alterations to its formula, and as a result, they basically got an even sharper version of the show’s ideas and sensibilities. It is simply like watching an even better version of season 1 to the point it almost feels like one long season.