but moved from Boston to Seattle in the beginning of the
series. Much of the show's humor relies on word plays and puns rather than
visual gags – for example, the name of the radio station Frasier works in,
KACL, sounds like cackle.
The Main Cast
The eldest of the Cranes, Martin (John Mahoney), is a former police
officer in his 70s. He's a down-to-earth common man who would rather watch
sports and drink beer in his infamous arm chair than discuss composers in
French – in other words, he's someone with whom an average viewer can
identify. His character serves as a contrast and often a voice of reason
to his sophisticated sons, Frasier and Niles (David Hyde Pierce). Both are
middle-aged psychiatrists who have studied in reputable universities in
the United States and Great Britain. They speak several languages, love
wine and classical music and sometimes look down on "common folk". In
the first episode necessities force Martin to move into Frasier’s
apartment, and the arrangement that was supposed to be temporary lasts
until Martin’s marriage to Ronee Lawrence (Wendie Malick) in the last
Frasier works as a radio psychiatrist in KACL. While his pride and
ambition often lead him to a brief downfall, most of the time he tries to
do the right thing. His unlucky love life is the center of many episodes.
He has been married twice, and while the second marriage wasn’t a happy
one, the couple had a son. The same plot repeats itself over the series:
Frasier finds a woman he is attracted to, but just as they are about to
sleep together he ruins everything, usually by overanalyzing the situation
or putting his foot in his mouth. However, the last episode implies that
he finds happiness with Charlotte Connor (Laura Linney).
Niles both envies and despises Frasier’s line of work. He has a
practice where he meets the same patients and groups year after year,
while his older brother spends only ten minutes with every caller. On the
other hand, Frasier is a local celebrity and his work is more appreciated
due to its visibility. This is one of the many sources of rivalry between
the two brothers. During the first few seasons Niles is trapped in an
unhappy marriage with an emotionally abusive and whimsical heiress, Maris.
He falls head over heels in love with Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves), Frasier’s
English housekeeper, but doesn’t want to leave his wife. Even after his
divorce it takes him years to tell about his feelings. Eventually Niles
and Daphne get married and have two children.
Daphne is Martin’s physiotherapist who lives in Frasier’s home and
takes care of the apartment. She believes herself to be a psychic, and
although this aspect of her character was played down in later seasons,
she still retains some of her eccentricity. As can be seen in episodes
where other Moons visit the US, Daphne has a rather difficult relationship
with her family – her brothers are drunks and ne’er-do-wells, her mother
criticizes every aspect of her life and her father prefers pubs to home.
For years she’s oblivious to Niles’s growing feelings for her, but ends up
leaving her fiancé for him.
As the years go by, Frasier’s producer Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) becomes
a part of the family’s inner circle. A couple of times there are hints
that she and Frasier might become lovers, but their relationship never
moves beyond friendship, save for a drunken one night stand. She’s
Daphne’s best friend, and while her interactions with Niles during the
first seasons consist of both trying to get under each other’s skin, their
bickering develops into a friendly rivalry. Frasier often makes quips
about Roz’s active sex life, possibly compensating for the lack of his
Differences in the Types of Language the Characters Use
Even though Martin and his sons are have lived most of their lives
under the same roof, the differences in lifestyle result in different use
of language. While Martin often greets people with expressions such as
"How ya doin'?", Frasier uses French: "Enchanté." The
brothers’ speech is filled with uncommon expressions that mark them as
being more “civilized” than the people around them. Sometimes this habit
leads to misunderstandings. In Proxy Prexy Niles asks Roz to join
him and Daphne in mélange (fruit salad), but Roz mistakes the offer
for ménage (à trois) (threesome). The list below includes some
examples of the way Frasier and Niles speak.
In Freudian Sleep the family is visiting a mountain cabin. To
others’ great annoyance, Frasier tries to adapt to the situation by
imitating stereotypical hillybilly speech:
Niles: "Will you look at this crowd? It’s like a Who’s Who of
the crème de la crème of the upper crust!" (The Doctor) –
best of the best; French
Frasier: "Well, I don't mind [squirrels] in their own
milieu." (Freudian) – environment; French
Frasier: "In fact, you know, the last time we saw each other she
wanted to have a little reunion hug, but alas, I was still married
to Lilith." (Caught) – an expression of unhappiness
Frasier: "My problem now is that she’s invited me to her
dressing room for an... après-show tryst." (Caught) – after;
Frasier: "This is passion, kismet!" (Caught) –
Frasier: "I'm fixin' to have me some vittles." (
Freudian) – "I’m about to eat."
Other characters use slang expressions more often (and with more
success). This makes the rift between Frasier and Niles and their friends
George (a parking lot attendant): "Look, I really don't care,
Jack, I just got to get this lane re-opened." (Enemy) – a
fellow. Considering that George is rather annoyed with Frasier, "Jack"
could also mean jackass.
Niles: (reading Maris' message) "'Big ups to all my
homeys in lock-down.'" (The Ann) – "big ups" is an expression
of respect and "homey" means a homeboy or -girl, i.e. a good friend.
Martin: "That was really nice of your boss to give you the
cabin. What made him do it?"
Ronee: "I put out." (Freudian) – to offer to have sex with
Roz: "We just got in our convertible and drove through the
desert, and we stopped at this honky-tonk." (Freudian) – an
Kenny Daly (the manager of KACL): "But should I quit my job,
throw away my whole career
and financial security just to chase some cock-a-mamie dream?!"
(Goodnight) – crazy, senseless
Nanette Gooseman (Frasier's ex-wife): "Gosh, I’m sorry."
(Caught) – God
Donald (Nanette's husband): "Mr. Bunny’s using again."
(Caught) – to take drugs
Nanette: "You don’t know how many times I’ve sat down here
(backstage), curled up in a ball, vomiting like a wino." (
Caught) – a homeless alcoholic
Frasier: "I have also wildly applauded her trumpet rendition of
"Froggy Went A-Courtin'". -- There will be no discussion of a lawsuit
tomorrow when I send her a-packin'." (The Ann) – a- prefix
is an intensifier that has fallen out of use.
British English Used in the Series
As was mentioned above, Daphne Moon comes from England – to be precise,
In earlier seasons she still uses British vocabulary, but by the last
season her speech has become more American: for example, she talks about
cookies instead of biscuits (Caught). However, she
still retains her accent. When her family makes an appearance, they use
British English, and to the amusement and annoyance of the British
audience of the series, Simon, one of Daphne’s brothers, has a Cockney
Simon: "Well I heard you was knocked up so I, er, brought you a
present. Come on in, lads! We knew you’d be here when we went to your
house and you wasn’t there." (Goodnight)
The examples of British English used by the Moons include:
- biscuit tin (The Good) – AmE: cookie jar
- loo (The Good) – AmE: toilet
- gent (Dinner) – gentleman
- bobby-dazzler (Dinner) – AmE: well-dressed
- to bump the gums (Dinner) – AmE: to chitchat
- cheerio (Dinner) – AmE: bye
- bloody (Goodnight) – AmE: damn
- luggage (A New) – AmE: baggage
References to American History and Popular Culture
As the following examples show, the series makes frequent references to
American history and popular culture.
Jen (Roz's young cousin): "I gotta say, Florence is over. It was
probably cool, before all the Americans found out about it."
Frasier: "You mean three hundred years ago?"
Jen: "Exactly. That's why I'm going to Vietnam. Americans
have never even heard of it." (Kissing) – Even though Jen
tries to appear smarter and more knowledgeable than other people,
she has no idea about the Vietnam War.
Martin: "In my day it was simple: girl would put on something
slinky, guy comes home, has a couple of pops, throws some Dean Martin on
the Hi-Fi and bim-bam-boom, you're lightin' a Lucky." (No) – Pop
means a soft drink (however, in this context it's likely that Martin means
a couple of 'shots' of whiskey or some other alcoholic beverage), Dean
Martin was a popular singer and actor, and “lightin’ a Lucky” refers to
Lucky Strike cigarettes. In older movies it was common to have characters
smoke a cigarette after having sex.
Bebe Glazer (Frasier’s manager): “Darling, it’s San Francisco!
Do you know what life is like there for a good-looking straight man?
You’ll be like a Snickers bar at a fat camp!” (Goodnight) – San
Francisco has a strong gay rights movement, Snickers is a well-known candy
bar and fat camps (or weight loss camps) are places where obese children
or adults and children can go to lose weight over the summer.
Daphne: “Isn’t she the children’s entertainer?”
Martin: “Yeah, SpongeBob Hotpants.” (Caught) – SpongeBob
SquarePants is the titular character in a children’s cartoon series.
In the following excerpt, Frasier hasn’t had a single phone call on his
show. As an act of desperation he tells Roz to play a caller, and she
starts to recite the plot of Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise (1991).
Roz: I'm new in town, from Texas, and uh, I just left my
Frasier: I see, and why did you do that?
Roz: Well, uh... Oh, I know, he was abusive!
Frasier: That couldn't have been easy for you.
Roz: Well, my girlfriend helped me. We just got in our
convertible and drove through the
desert, and we stopped at this honky-tonk. I started dancing with this
cowboy--long story short, he roughed me up, and my friend killed him--but
then... we met the cutest cowboy, but he stole all our money, so we robbed
a gas station and blew up a tanker truck...
Frasier: Well, thank you, Thelma. Or is it Louise? -- You know,
I really think you were closer with that character yesterday--the young
teen who moved into the town that had banned dancing. Now that, that had
the tang of reality.
Roz: That was Footloose, you idiot. (Freudian) –
Footloose is a 1984 film directed by Herbert Ross.
References aren’t limited to dialogue: the titles of many episodes are
derived from songs or movies.4
- Death Becomes Him (season 1, episode 11) – Death Becomes Her
(1992, dir. Robert Zemeckis)
- Guess Who’s Coming To Breakfast? (1.13) – Guess Who’s Coming to
Dinner (1967, dir. Stanley Kramer)
- Flour Child (2.04.) – “flower child” is a synonym for hippie
- An Affair to Forget (2.21) – An Affair to Remember (1957, Leo
- Fraternal Schwinns (10.16) – fraternal twins. Schwinn is a bicycle
producer, which is fitting for an episode that centers on a charity bike-
- Guns N’ Neuroses (11.09) – Guns N’ Roses is a popular rock band.
- The Ann Who Came To Dinner (11.13) – The Man Who Came To Dinner
is a play written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman in 1939.
Language as Subtext
The cast of Frasier includes a wide array of different people, each
with their distinctive voice. Their speech reminds viewers of the
underlying differences in their lives and backgrounds and keeps the
dramatic tension between characters alive. The scriptwriters also sneak in
jokes that are instantly familiar to American viewers and require people
abroad to have some knowledge about the country's culture. While it is
certainly possible to enjoy the series without being familiar with
American language and culture, background information adds another layer
to the show's humor.
- Cheers was aired from 1982 to 1993. It got its name from the bar
whose regular customers the series told about. A few of those characters
had cameos in Frasier.
- The actress Jane Leeves is English as well.
- Since the Cockney accent is one of London's dialects and the Moons
live in Manchester, it shouldn't be possible for Simon to have a different
accent than the rest of his family.
- In this section episodes are marked with numbers that indicate their
order of airing and the season in which they appeared. "2.4." would be the
fourth episode of the second season.
- An Affair To Remember: BD Review. 4 February 2011.
- The Ann Who Came to Dinner. Frasier. Season 11, Episode
13. 13 January 2004. Written by Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil. Dir. Scott
- Burke, Thomas.
The Man Who Came to Dinner. July 28 2000.
- Caught in the Act. Frasier. Season 11, Episode 15. 24
February 2004. Written by Joe Keenan. Dir. Kelsey Grammer.
- Dinner at Eight. Frasier. Season 1, Episode 3. 30
September 1993. Written by Anne Fleet and Chuck Ranberg. Dir. James
- The Doctor Is Out. Frasier. Season 11, Episode 3. 30
September 2003. Written by Joe Keenan. Dir. David Lee. Transcript.
- Enemy at the Gate. Frasier. Season 10, Episode 2. 1
October 2002. Written by Lori Kirkland. Dir Kelsey Grammer.
- Englannin fraasiverbit. Jyväskylä: Gummerus, 2007.
- Ford, Matt. Death
Becomes Her (1992). 6 October 1992.
- "Frasier" (1993) –
Full cast and crew. The Internet Movie
Database. Viewed 12 October 2011.
- Frasier Scripts
archive. Cats n'
Guitars. Viewed 25 October 2011.
- Freudian Sleep. Frasier. Season 11, Episode 14. 3
February 2004. Written by Lori Kirkland Baker. Dir. Cynthia J. Popp.
- The Good Son. Frasier. Season 1, Episode 1. 16 September
1993. Written by David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee. Dir. James
- Goodnight, Seattle (Part 1). Frasier. Season 11, Episode
24. 13 May 2004. Written by Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan. Dir. David
- Holden, Stephen. Dean Martin, Pop Crooner And Comic Actor, Dies at 78.
26 December 1995. The New York
- Kismet. 4 September
- Kissing Cousin. Frasier. Season 10, Episode 4. 15
October 2002. Written by Eric Zicklin. Dir. Scott Ellis. Transcript.
- Maslin, Jane. Movie Review – Footloose. 17
February 1984. The New York
- McKiernan, Jason. Thelma &
Louise. 8 April 2009.
- Millar, Lisa.
Parents turn to
fat camps for obesity solution. 5 September 2004.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- A New Position for Roz. Frasier. Season 10, Episode 24.
20 May 2003. Written by Lori Kirkland. Dir. Kelsey Grammer.
- No Sex Please, We’re Skittish. Frasier. Season 11,
Episode 1. 23 September 2003. Written by Bob Daily. Dir. David Lee.
- Pettiward, Jim. Series 5: Big Up. Keep
your English up to date. 21 April 2009.
- Pinette, Christopher. Gay Pride / Rainbow Flag. Ed. António Martins. 12 June 1996. Flags of the
- Proxy Prexy. Frasier. Season 10, Episode 3. 8 October
2002. Written by Chris Marcil. Dir. Cynthia L. Popp. Transcript.
- Quinion, Michael. Cockamamie. 17 January
2004. World Wide Words.
- Rekiaro, Ilkka. Amerikanenglannin slangisanakirja. Helsinki:
WSOY, revised edition, 2007.
- Spanoudis, Stephen L.
Quotations #30: As Advertised. October 2007. The Other Pages.
- Willmott, Don. Guess Who’s
Coming to Dinner. 23 August 2001.