The NBC comedy cheers led to the hit spinoff Frasier. Even if cheers Called Last Call, fans haven’t had enough of Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane, and Grammer is working on one Frasier now revival. But if the original choice had accepted the role, John Lithgow would have been Frasier Crane.
cheers Co-creator and director James Burrows was a guest at the Conan O’Brien needs a friend Podcast on September 4th to discuss his book, James Burrows directed. Burrows told O’Brien about the original cast for Frasier Crane and why Grammer ended up getting his signature role.
Lithgow would eventually direct his own sitcom, 3. Stone from the Sun in the 90s. cheers added Frasier to the cast in Season 3 in 1984. Around that time, Lithgow would do Unboundand he was always doing theater between films.
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“Kelsey owes his career, and I told him that, to John Lithgow,” Burrows said Conan O’Brien needs a friend. “When the boys wrote Frasier Crane they went to Lithgow, that would have been great. John didn’t want to do a show at the time, so we looked at a lot of people.”
In the 80’s there was no zoom and there weren’t even iPhones. Casting directors pored over VHS tapes submitted by agents. Grammar’s Tape let him see Burrows and Glen and Les Charles. As soon as he filmed his first episode, they knew he was going to be a regular.
“Then Kelsey’s face came out on a tape from New York City and we started laughing,” Burrows said. “He was 28 years old and we put him out. I think he lived in his car for a bit before he got going, but he was amazing. He was a four show arc to get Diane back in the bar, but when that first show happened we knew we had to keep him.
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That cheers The season 2 finale broke Sam and Diane. Diane returned from her institutionalization and fell in love with her doctor. Of course, she would eventually leave Frasier too.
“At the end of sophomore year, when Diane freaks out and goes into a maze, she takes her doctor to Cheers in the first episode of year three, who told her to go back and face your demons,” Burrows said. “And the doctor was Frasier Crane.”
When it came time to spin Frasier out, it wasn’t Burrows and the Charles brothers, Glen and Les, who did it. Created by David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee Frasierand cast the extended Crane family.
“Their genius was that they took an actor, Kelsey Grammer, and made him Sam Malone and David Hyde Pierce Frasier,” Burrows said. “Kelsey is such a good actor that on Cheers he went from being an odd guy to being the center of a show. They could get David to play Frasier.”
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