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Frasier Fans Are Wrong: The Revival Is Better Without Niles

Since its debut, 2023's "Frasier" has been the subject of many fan debates. Debates have sprung up about fans' hatred for Dr. Crane, how the revival run forever alters the original show's legacy, and the series' willingness to forego easy nostalgia grabs to take narrative risks. Mostly, "Frasier" dares to give audiences the one thing they'd never thought they'd see — a world where Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) has stopped spending time with his brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce). And, you know what? In the end, it's the right choice. 

Please, hold back your fury! Nobody's saying that Niles is a weak character or a low point within the world of "Frasier." In this new series, there just isn't a place for him. But that's a clever and thoughtful choice that the series commits to for Frasier's emotional growth. By sending Frasier back to Boston and asking him to start his life over — without the friends he made at "Cheers" nor the colleagues and family members from his Seattle days — the series takes a more meaningful turn than the fluffy and cameo-fest it could've been. Frasier's character feels placed under a microscope, reminding us of the friendless, lonely psychiatrist audiences first met when he set about courting Diane Chambers (Shelley Long). 

Yes, Niles is missed. But due to his absence, the show has explored the ravages of aging, the poignancy of losing touch with loved ones, and remembering it's never too late to evolve.

The Frasier revival originally planned to have Niles - and it would've been way worse for it

Interestingly, the show had different plans to start. According to a Vulture interview with "Frasier" showrunners Joe Cristalli and Chris Harris in October 2023, the original plan was to see the brothers turning a black box theater into a profitable and valued artistic destination — presumably clashing along the way, too. Would that have been fun? Sure! Meaningful? Nope. Once David Hyde Pierce rejected the project, the showrunners shifted the show to focus on the doctor's return to Boston and healing his relationship with his estranged son, Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott).

While it's hard to deny the pull of what might have been had Pierce signed on — would Roz (Peri Gilpin), Daphne (Jane Leeves), and all of their other friends throw themselves into the theatrical world? — it's also difficult to picture Frasier and Niles battling over a small-potatoes theatre company. The show would have turned into a revisiting of all of the brothers' greatest hits — rehashing battles of ego and wit, which we've already seen plenty. For all of its flaws, at least the 2023 version of "Frasier" has allowed the titular character to change somewhat from his time in Seattle. If Niles remained stuck in his orbit, it's unlikely that Frasier would have expanded his purview as much as needed to foster his son's growth too.

Niles' absences adds to the bittersweet feeling of this new Frasier

Based on its debut season, 2023's "Frasier" does a fine job presenting Frasier's new life in Boston — filled with regrets, emotional scars, and flawed relationships. This series presents Frasier as a man who left his family and professional name behind to become a "Dr. Phil"-esque television host. His relationship with Freddy (Jack Cutmore-Scott), who has become a fireman and doesn't care about his sophisticated roots, has faded. The drama here is relatable and quite different from the comedy of social manners and professional snafus Frasier embarked on with Niles.

This version of Frasier reflects on the death of his father and how that too has changed his approach to parenting. His relationship with Niles goes unmentioned — though it seems to be strained if you string together various dialogue hints. He broke up with Charlotte (Laura Linney), the woman he moved to Chicago to be with initially. Notably, he confronts the notion of rebuilding his career and regaining gravitas in education after decades of life in the public sphere as a celebrity figure. These are much more sophisticated plotlines to explore than the ones offered by the original spin-off concept. Sadly, none of them could have been mined fully if the series had moved forward in its original form — afraid to let Frasier face himself alone, too.

Because Niles isn't with Frasier, we get to believe that Niles & Daphne had a happily-ever-after

For viewers still distressed by the fact that Niles isn't a part of this new version of "Frasier," remember one thing: Daphne and Niles are still out there. Yes, they're still happily married, according to the wisdom of their son, David (Anders Keith). They might have even had more children after David who we've yet to meet and are just waiting to surface and annoy their big brother. This is the benefit that they receive because they're not on the show. While Frasier must be unpeeled like an onion — experiencing new heartaches and growing pains for the sake of the narrative –, Niles and Daphne's off-screen presence allows them to live in our heads as the content married couple we always hoped they could be.

If viewers want more Niles-style antics, they only need to look at poor, nervy, and nerdy David to remember what he was like before he shed Maris and married Daphne. While David isn't wholly like his father — he seems incredibly sheltered, for one — he still carries that sort of sweaty-palmed angst that embodied Niles throughout the show's original run. Thus, through David's presence, Niles' spirit continues. As this new version of "Frasier" builds a fresh identity, it's better off allowing us to feel certain character absences, as much as we might miss them. After all, that's what real life is like, and these new characters deserve a chance to fail, grow, and find a place in our hearts as well.