Frasier 2.0 and Night Court 2.0 and Why Hollywood Can’t Grasp Comedy
Thirty-five years ago, Cheers and Night Court aired on Thursday nights on NBC as part of a successful marketing gimmick called Must-See-TV…and years later we got Frasier.
The writing on both shows was clever and smart. I’m still laughing more than 35 years later. The writers and actors put a lot of thought, time, effort and, last but not least, pride into their final product.
Both shows earned their laugh tracks. Those were real people in a live studio audience, laughing in real time.
Both shows had characters that, on the surface, seemed irredeemable.
On Cheers, Ted Danson’s Sam Malone was a womanizer and recovering alcoholic. Kristie Alley’s character was a money-grubbing career opportunist. Norm Peterson sat on his butt all day drinking beer. He spent far more time at the bar than he did with his wife. The waitress, Carla Tortelli, was nasty to customers and wouldn’t last a day waiting tables in real life. Woody Harrelson played a character whose IQ was so low that people today would call him special needs.
Night Court, meanwhile, hosted a non-stop parade of hillbillies, illegal immigrants, and what we refer to today as uptight and angry “Karens.”
John Larroquette’s prosecuting attorney Dan Fielding was a shameless pervert and sex addict, but his manic performance won him several Emmys. In one episode, his two Swedish flight attendant girlfriends confessed “We used to be men.”
Upon learning that, Larroquette’s reaction made most people laugh so hard they shot tea straight out of their noses.
Try getting away with that kind of humor in 2023.
The audience knew these characters practiced unacceptable behaviors. Neither show promoted those behaviors and, in fact, revealed their consequences. And while these characters seemed irredeemable, the writers, over several years, redeemed them. The writers and the actors not only created four-dimensional characters, but they also reminded viewers that we’re imperfect too.
As you already know, Cheers eventually had a successful and equally funny spin-off called Frasier.
Frasier went off the air almost 20 years ago, but now it’s back, this time on Paramount +.
The writing on the new Frasier is sub-par, and the actors, including the super-talented Kelsey Grammar, are completely unable to fine-tune it.
This is just another generic sitcom.
The writers on the original Frasier are retired or dead. In their wake, we get younger and newer writers who are out of their league. The audience knew this was unacceptable behavior. Neither show promoted it.
On the plus side, at least the new Frasier is nowhere near as painful as the new Night Court.
Yep, even Night Court is back.
Larroquette is back. This time he’s so redeemed he was never worth bringing back. Many original cast members (and writers) are deceased. The new characters are flat, one-dimensional, painfully unfunny and so innocent there’s nothing to redeem to begin with. By extension, they are dull as dishwater.
Assuming any young Hollywood scriptwriters are reading this, stop turning in scripts that resemble first draft efforts.
Take pride in your work.
And with all that ails this world, give us something that will actually make us laugh.
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