Frasier Crane is Gonna Have a Podcast LOL
On the Frasier reboot and loving what you do
The last we’d heard of a potential Frasier revival, it was 2018. Revivals of Will and Grace, Mad About You, Roseanne and other sitcoms from the syndication time slots of my adolescence were already on the air. Clearly Kelsey Grammer had been fielding offers from either fans or middle-aged television writers who want to buy vacation homes. At the USC Comedy Festival, during the series’ 25th anniversary, Grammer said of the process: “No, there’s been no premise that has come along that has the necessary fire. A lot of us are quite committed to the concept that you would never try to redo what we once had.” In other words, the ideas were clearly bad.
It’s not surprising. Frasier was also an oddity amongst ’90s NBC sitcoms. It wasn’t just funny. You also felt smart watching it. It borrowed more heavily from farce than situational comedy, and you’d be more likely to hear a joke about Molière on Frasier than anywhere else in NBC’s comedy line-up. The show’s physical comedy and absurd situations made the headier jokes go down easier than the sexual musical chairs and one-liners that populated Friends. And suffice to say, not a single reboot of a ’90s sitcom has felt particularly smart. Nor do they have anything particularly interesting or new to say about how humans interact with one another.
It was baked into the DNA of the original series, which saw Grammer’s Frasier Crane as a radio show psychiatrist in Seattle. It routinely had storylines about love, family, and class. The series ended with Frasier meeting Laura Linney’s Charlotte Connor, a matchmaker with a failing business who scams him out of money, only for him to eventually fall for her. Frasier signed off on his radio show in the series finale and moved to Chicago to pursue a relationship with Charlotte.
I’d like to imagine pitches for the reboot have involved Frasier and Charlotte working on their relationship in Chicago (good luck dragging her away from that boring show Ozark that is perennially lit like an Instagram filter). But come on, we know that the bulk of the revival ideas involve Frasier having a podcast.
In the show’s original iteration, Frasier was the host of a successful radio show. Of course he would have continued to be a radio host in Chicago, but even radio shows these days put their episodes into podcast feeds. As a person whose job is literally to host a podcast, it still seems weird that it’s now a profession that’s given to television characters instead of architect or magazine writer when you want your characters to seem young, cool, and professional.
I don’t know when I first realized that podcasting was a job. My first experience on a podcast was in 2015, on Watch What Crappens, a Bravo podcast hosted by my friends Ben Mandelker and Ronnie Karam. I remember being quiet and muted on it, unsure of myself until we got into the swing of things. I still had no real idea what podcasts were, but I knew that more of them were popping up on the internet. While I was working at BuzzFeed, the company began taking pitches for podcasts. I pitched a pop culture one with my colleague Louis Peitzman that never came to fruition because they focused all their podcast resources on the New York office, and I was living in LA.
Years later, while at the reboot of MTV News started by Grantland staffers, there was talk of podcasts again. This time, stung by BuzzFeed’s rejection, I knew I wanted one. I still didn’t particularly know what having one meant, but I knew that having one would be cool. I was eventually given one with my colleague and friend Doreen St. Felix. We called it Speed Dial. We talked about pop culture and politics, and it was exciting to have conversations about the things I was interested in with a friend rather than with strangers from the internet. I’m proud of it even though it wasn’t particularly successful in the least, we did manage an interview with Kelly Rowland, though, who I interviewed in the break room of an Ulta Beauty in Los Angeles while she was promoting her makeup line.
Eventually I would develop a podcast with Crooked Media after guest appearances on Ana Marie Cox and Jon Lovett’s Crooked shows. Keep It was technically born in 2017, but we didn’t launch until 2018. I still never really thought about it as a job, though, because what I moved to Los Angeles to do was become a screenwriter. It’s kind of funny how much you enjoy things when you don’t think about them as a job. But eventually, Keep It became my main source of income while I struggled to launch a screenwriting career. Now, in my fourth year of producing it, it’s odd to see how successful the show is. The guests we get. The fact that thousands listen each week. That nearly a million are subscribed to our Snapchat channel.
It’s a thing that makes you step outside of what you think success is. Of course, at the end of the day, I’m making content and not art (shout out to Marty Scorsese), but it does allow me a creative outlet to discuss art and to pursue my own artistic career. For many people, though, it actually is a job. Sometimes I find myself crippled with guilt over merely having a good time doing something that others see as their livelihood. I wonder if I would be any better at it if I cared intensely about being the best podcaster that ever existed. I wonder if I would even know what that looked like. I also wonder if I will be doing this for the rest of my life, and the art that I consume to discuss on the podcast will be the only memories I have of sharing the things that burn in my soul. Or maybe I haven’t quite figured out that you can actually do something you enjoy and it is work.
When I see someone who is a “podcaster” on television, I often wonder what they think of their job and their role in the world. I wonder about if older television creators consider any of this when they make a young character a podcaster because it’s something“cool” that the kids are doing. But more than that, podcasters are engaging with art, engaging with what makes humans tick. We’re baring parts of ourselves to audiences that may or may not have any idea how much we beat ourselves up about it every day. Maybe Frasier should have a podcast. I’d watch that show.