[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Frasier revival Season 1 finale “Reindeer Games.”]
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong at Frasier’s (Kelsey Grammer) Christmas party: too many trees and too few chairs, over-whisked eggnog, an elementary school quartet, and a live goose. But the Frasier season finale also featured a very welcome return in Peri Gilpin as Roz, just when Frasier needed the boost the most.
But this wasn’t the original story that the executive producers, Chris Harris and Joe Cristalli, had planned for her. For that and more inside scoop, read below.
This finale had some really sweet moments while remembering Martin, from the dancing Santa to Frasier’s “I really miss you” to the toast. Talk about taking the time for that the way you did, especially because “I really miss you” was such a quiet, perfect moment.
Chris Harris: Yeah, it’s one of the great advantages of being on Paramount+ is that we’re not confined to a 20-minutes-and-10-seconds time limit or whatever the current amount of time is. And so we can let the comedy breathe, but we can also let these serious moments breathe, open them up. Yeah, it’s a long cross. We’re with Frasier for a long time, both at the very beginning of the episode and then in that moment that you’re talking about, and we think that’s important. This is the season coming back to where it started, which is, it’s all in a way about Frasier coping with the loss of Martin and wanting to be a great father in his honor, in his absence. And so yeah, we love the way that Kelsey played that and with such real emotion, not afraid to be honest about it, which, I think, is what makes it so powerful.
Once you knew you’d be bringing Roz back into Frasier’s life onscreen, how did you go about figuring out how and what we’d see from the two of them? The scene at the bar was so good, as was just watching Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott) trying to get her there on time.
Harris: It took a long time. We knew that we wanted to bring Roz back in the first season, and we knew that it needed to be a great and important episode. We talked through a lot of things, and we actually had a whole other episode — I won’t get into the details because we might use it in Season 2, but Kelsey felt like it didn’t give Peri the spotlight that she deserved. And so that was something we had in mind. We also had a lot of ground to cover with all of our new characters and only 10 episodes in this season and trying to pack everything into the finale. And so at some point we realized that maybe we can give Roz that spotlight she deserves, but also have time for other things if she comes in at the end Han Solo-like and basically is there for Frasier in his biggest moment of need. And we love how she comes in and is that sort of warm, familiar family member really that Frasier needs right in that moment.
As we’ve seen, Frasier is moving into this next chapter, but this party shows he’s very much still Frasier. When you were figuring out his journey for this season, where did you want to leave him?
Joe Cristalli: He was always going to be, per Kelsey — and I think Kelsey’s right — not as worried about how people perceive him anymore. He’s much more comfortable. He’s much wiser. He feels better in his skin. That being said, there are certain things that will still trigger him to be very uppity. This idea that the eggnog is over-whisked is very Frasier. You have a beautiful elegant party, but someone over-whisked the eggnog. Those kinds of things are never going to leave him. Those neuroses and those sort of idiosyncrasies, those are always going to be there. He can always snap at those. But if he’s starting in a place that isn’t quite as uppity, I think those actually stand out a bit more now in a great way, because even though he’s trying his best to be a little more contemplative, it’s just like, no, no, no, no, he’s still that guy. That’s the funniest part of Frasier. The funniest part is he’s lovably pompous, just arrogant. That’s the part that makes you laugh. So yes, he can be a little bit more at ease, and yes, he can be wearing jeans and sneakers, but he is still going to be that guy that turns his nose up at certain Oregon Riesling, I think is what we landed on in one episode.
When you mentioned the eggnog, that cut to Olivia (Toks Olagundoye) and the flan comment…
Cristalli: I gotta say, I had no faith in that on the page, but Toks just making a face was so good.
Speaking of that, it seemed like almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong with this party. Was there anything else you considered but decided Frasier had been through enough?
Harris: [Laughs] Yeah, there were. Do you remember, Joe?
Cristalli: There was a couple scenes of him deciding how to kill the goose that I think we cut. He had a giant pot of water at one point. He had a meat hammer at one point. I forget what else we had. We talked about a ton of things going wrong, but I think one of the very first things that even sparked us to doing this was Chris was like, “It’d be funny if you ordered a bunch of chairs and one tree and it got mixed up and it’s just 30 trees in the apartment.” And it was like, yeah, let’s do that.
Harris: Yeah, we just thought that that was a funny visual to go with, and then that sort of built from there. And I think it was Jenna Martin, one of our staff writers, who had the line that made it all worthwhile, “I can’t see the florist for the trees,” which —
Cristalli: Puns get a bad rap, and they should. But puns like that deserve their place.
How would you want to use the original run’s cast going forward? Similar to what we saw this season with a couple of returning and mentions? Because you did a very good job of keeping the Frasier-Niles dynamic alive with just a text and a one-sided call that we heard in the finale.
Cristalli: Yeah, I mean, anybody that wants to be a part of it, hopefully that’s how we’ll do it. We can’t do it every episode because we have to stand on our own two feet. And especially even Season 1, Lilith [Bebe Neuwirth] doesn’t show up until [Episode] 7. I think on the original Frasier run, the Cheers people didn’t show up until Season 7, but it’d be great to see anyone.
Harris: And also folks from Cheers, that’s the exciting thing is we have not one but two amazing, legendary classic comedies to draw from and those characters, and we’re excited to fill in the gaps and connect the dots a little bit here and there, hopefully for many seasons, because I’m excited to revisit some of these characters as a fan, not just as a writer.
I love that you dropped Olivia into a Hallmark movie almost in her own little romance with Moose (Jimmy Dunn). Is that a viable relationship going forward for her?
Harris: Yeah, no guarantees. But it does seem funny for her suddenly spark to, as someone who prides herself on her intellect and her capability and everything, to fall at least for a little bit for —
Cristalli: — someone named Moose?
Harris: — maybe not the smartest character on our show.
You had mentioned changing the original plan for Roz and you might use that, so you can’t say anything, but is there anything that you had planned for this season you couldn’t get to that you can talk about?
Harris: No, there are just a few things that we can’t talk about. Yeah, Roz, we know that we’d like to bring Peri back and have some thoughts about that. We do want to start to tiptoe our way towards the Cheers cast. Was there anything that we just abandoned, Joe, that we can [mention]?
Cristalli: Nothing that I feel like we’re not hoping to also do in Season 2. I’m trying to think of anything that we just blew up that we’ll never do.
Harris: We talked about a lot of Frasier and Alan [Nicholas Lyndhurst] stories before deciding on the first Frasier-Alan story, which we consider “The Founders’ Society,” Episode 5. It’s so fun, and it was absolutely the right story for them to really show their dynamic and show in a way we’re also stating how Alan is different from Niles, which is that Alan doesn’t care what people think and he thinks it’s ridiculous and kind of funny that Frasier does. We love that that’s the starting point for their dynamic. But they’re so good as a team. They’re so good as a pairing, as a buddy-buddy comedy, we’re really excited to explore that relationship a little bit, some of their misadventures. And also eventually — in that episode, we saw what Alan does for Frasier — we hope to show a little bit of what Frasier does for Alan.
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