Though he was initially reluctant to do so, Kelsey Grammer allowed his Cheers character, Dr. Frasier Crane, to be spun off into a separate series in 1993. Millions of Frasier fans are glad that he did. Since I certainly count myself among those fans, I thought I'd share more about how the series came to be.
1. Why the first idea didn't work
Early in 1993, Kelsey Grammer approached David Lee, David Angell, and Peter Casey (the brains behind the sitcom Wings) and asked if they'd be interested in creating a show for him. Grammer knew that Cheers' days were numbered, and thought it was time to strike out on his own. Both he and the creative team thought that any use of the Frasier Crane character would encourage unfair comparisons to Cheers, so their initial ideas involved Kelsey playing a paralyzed media mogul cared for by a street-smart nurse in a Manhattan penthouse. Paramount hated the idea and convinced all concerned that they'd be nuts not to capitalize on the built-in Cheers audience.
2. The Secret Behind the Show's Setting
Once it was agreed that Grammer would continue as Dr. Crane, the creators still wanted to distance themselves from Boston and the whole "crossover syndrome." They knew that the network would insist on having both Wings and former Cheers characters make guest appearances if the show was set anywhere in Massachusetts, so they moved Frasier across the country to Seattle. The gourmet coffee scene was taking root in that area, which provided a central meeting place for the characters. The creators didn't want Frasier Crane to work in private practice, which had already been done in The Bob Newhart Show. Grammer's resonant voice seemed natural for radio, so the concept of a call-in psychiatry show seemed natural. WKRP in Cincinnati had been set at a radio station, however, so writers needed to develop some sort of home life for Frasier.
3. The Real Life Inspiration
As it happened, David Lee was an only child and his father had recently suffered a debilitating stroke. Lee had to move back in with his mom for a while to help care for his dad during his rehabilitation. That situation gave him an idea. Why not have Frasier suddenly be forced to care for an aging parent? This role was filled by John Mahoney as Frasier's father Martin, a retired policeman who'd been injured in the line of duty. Not only would this angle provide the series with plots revolving around him at home, it also allowed the creators to incorporate one of their original ideas from their first series pitch "“ a home health care worker.
4. Daphne Moon or Daphne Luna?
The production team had Rosie Perez in mind to play Martin's nurse during their original pitch. But Warren Littlefield, then the president of NBC, thought that British actress Jane Leeves was perfect for the role. Kelsey had reservations about Jane; he thought an English character in such a role might be too reminiscent of Nanny and the Professor. But after a series of screen tests, it became apparent that Leeves brought the perfect mix of quirkiness, fun and warmth to the character and was hired.
5. How Poor Phoebe Got Fired
The role of Frasier's producer was the least developed when the pilot script was written. A casting call was announced and the role was eventually whittled down to two actresses: Lisa Kudrow and Peri Gilpin. The producers found Kudrow to be extremely funny, and able to make even the most mundane lines sound hilarious, so she was hired. During the first few days of rehearsals for the pilot episode, however, the writers found themselves having to re-write the characters of Roz and Frasier. It seemed that while Lisa was funny, she just couldn't play "forceful." It soon became apparent that that the role of Roz would have to fall to someone who, although less educated than Dr. Crane, would be in control of things at the radio station. They needed a character who could hold her own whenever Frasier became too pompous, and that someone was Peri Gilpin. Lisa was a trouper when the news was delivered, and landing a role on Friends the following year certainly helped to ease her pain.