Without David Hyde Pierce, the Frasier reboot may as well close up shop.
Kelsey Grammer is officially returning to his signature role of Frasier Crane in a revival series for Paramount+, and he’s bringing along at least some of the old crew including Peri Gilpin as Roz. David Hyde Pierce, however, who plays the titular shrink’s brother in the original sitcom won’t be there. Pierce was the best thing about Frasier, and his absence makes a revival seem pointless.
I mean no disrespect to Grammer or any of the other talent involved with Frasier or the revival. I started off being someone who didn’t really give the sitcom a second thought, but who nevertheless lives with a woman who loves the show so much she regularly falls asleep to it. Slowly I became an invested fan, but whenever I watch an episode it isn’t Grammer or Mahoney or Leeves I can’t wait to see, but David Hyde Pierce.
According to Grammer’s discussion with People in November, it was Pierce’s choice to not return to the role. Grammer said Pierce “wasn’t really interested in repeating the performance of Niles.” Considering Pierce already played him to perfection for eleven years on the original, it’s genuinely tough to blame the guy.
Grammer’s journey as the titular character started not on Frasier, but on the hit sitcom Cheers. Originally intended merely as a romantic rival to Ted Danson’s Sam for the affections of Diane (Shelley Long), the shrink proved popular enough and sympathetic enough to earn a recurring spot on the series. Once Cheers closed its doors, Frasier premiered with Crane moving to Seattle and sharing a luxurious apartment with his less academic father Martin (John Mahoney) and the troublemaking dog Eddie.
Frasier is blessed with some memorable regular and recurring characters, but the funniest and most perfectly cast of them all is David Hyde Pierce as Niles. Pierce wonderfully steals every scene he’s in, and his relationship with his brother is the emotional core of the series.
What Frasier is to the other characters on Cheers, Niles is to his brother. He’s more arrogant, more pretentious, and is host to a rich collection of phobias. He both delights in teasing Frasier for his radio talk show, which he considers a “fast food approach to psychiatry” while secretly envying his brother’s fame, taking over as host on a number of occasions.
The relationship between Frasier and Niles is the most consistent relationship on the series. There’s ebb and flow between Frasier and Martin, as well as between Niles and Daphne (Jane Leeves), but you can always count on Frasier and Niles meeting at their favorite coffee shop, even if the meetups sometimes include more barbs than compliments.
Frasier is a fantastic sitcom, but without Niles, it would have been worthless. It would have essentially been one long stream of scenes mostly involving Frasier making up, or simply going along with, incredible lies in order to achieve some goal (usually getting a woman in bed), and everything eventually crashing down around his ears.