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5 Shows like Frasier: Speaking of Sanity

James Thomas itcherTV shows like ‘Frasier’ deal with characters that are intellectual, entertaining, and often frustrated. Anyone who likes to watch dilettantes aware of the power of words get tied up in their own sagacity should check out shows like ‘Becker’, ‘NewsRadio’, and ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’. ~ James Thomas

Good Evening Mr. Crane

Dr. Frasier Crane has been on television for many years as a psychiatrist before getting his own television show where he works as a radio host. On his radio show, Frasier shares his sage advice with the masses.

This show is very meta-textual sort of like a narrative turducken with a show inside of another show, which is part of what makes the show ‘Frasier’ great. I came to know Frasier Crane as the classy stuffed shirt you could have a beer with while talking about wine in ‘Cheers’ but in this show, he’s much more developed.

The persona that ‘Frasier Crane, the psychiatrist’ presents to the world is very different from the Frasier Crane at home who is persnickety, pretentious, disorganized, and licentious. But the power of his radio persona makes for some very cerebral comedic moments.


Shows Similar to ‘Frasier’…

‘Becker’ (CBS, 1998-2004)

As in many series similar to ‘Frasier’, ‘Becker’ revolves around a man living in a city with more style and class than he has negative opinions. What I like about ‘Becker’ is the clever way it deals with misanthropy and New York City. If you’ve never been to New York, you may think these two things don’t go together but they have a special relationship in the grumpy city that never sleeps.

Despite hating people, John Becker is a doctor and a successful one. He keeps his practice going by browbeating his patients into actually taking their medicine. As the show progresses, he learns that try as he might, he can’t get past the fact that in a city like New York, everyone needs people no matter how much they want them to go away.

I think Ted Danson handles the character really well by delivering an unbelievable curmudgeon trapped in a city with too many people.

Similarity Match: 90%
Both Becker and Frasier are effective doctors who try and help as much as they can. But ‘Becker’ is determined to keep them healthy, hearty and far away from him.

‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ (CBS, 1978-1982)

There’s a certain sort of mystery around radio stations and back in the seventies when ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ was on the air and that weird magic was much more respected. Similar to many TV shows like ‘Frasier’ where a radio host take center stage this show dealt with lots of issues that were controversial at the time.

What I like about the show is the music that adds a certain warm quality to the comedy and the interactions between characters like Les Nessman and Johnny Fever. There is an interesting play on sophistication vs counter culture in the show as the hippie radio station maven sucks up all the oxygen from the more traditional show host.

Video may have killed the radio star, but this show proves it didn’t go down easy.

Similarity Match: 90%
Like ‘Frasier’ a lot of the action in ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ takes place in a radio station with smart people delivering sage advice while trying to hold in their anger. However, in this show politics and social issues are at the forefront of the narrative.

‘NewsRadio’ (NBC, 1995-1998)

Watching ‘NewsRadio’ and the people at WNYX at work, I could tell that they were meant to be a close-knit family – and that family was definitely a dysfunctional one. The show felt like a pirate ship filled with characters out for themselves to a degree but nice enough not to stab each other in the back until the job was done.

The show revolved around the life of a character named Dave Nelson who had the responsibilities of herding the cats that made up the staff at WNYX. Fans of the show thoroughly enjoyed the way each character bounced off the other. And they especially enjoyed the presence of Jimmy James, the station owner who made Dave’s life an interesting, living hell.

This show works so well for so many reasons, but one of the best things about it is the presence of Evelyn William McNeil played by the dearly departed Phil Hartman.

Similarity Match: 85%
As in ‘Frasier’ the focus is on a bunch of professionals working at a radio station and features an ensemble cast constantly sniping at each other. But in ‘NewsRadio’ the focus is not on one overpowering presence as it is with Dr. Crane.


If You Like ‘Frasier’, You Will Like…

‘Frasier’ is a show about a classy educated person who is likable despite his pretentious nature.

The following shows deal with the origins of this type of character and some examples of fish-out-of-water awkwardness but are either set in very strange circumstances or at a stage where that pomposity is unrecognizable.

‘Cheers’ (NBC, 1982-1993)

This is the show that brought us Frasier Crane in the first place and a collection of some of the most lovable drunks anyone will ever meet. The show ‘Cheers’ was an American institution for many years and to me, evidence that being a barfly can be a good thing.

Set in the cleanest dirty bar in Boston, the show encapsulated all the best of the 70s and the slick progress of the upcoming 80s in a way that was fun and evocative – and it showed me the proper way to pour beer! As in many TV series like ‘Frasier,’ the banter was always perfect even between people from different classes such as Fraser and the bar waitress, Carla.

To see where the good Dr. Crane got his start and why he so amiable toward people of all classes, check out this show.

‘Cheers’ features the character of Dr. Crane in his television debut and the same sort of awkward comedy. However, in this show, other characters with more of a working class sensibility are showcased.

‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ (NBC, 1992-2001)

This show takes place in a galaxy far away from the mundane world of the likes of ‘Frasier’ and ‘Cheers’ but it contains some of the best dialogue I’ve ever heard on television. ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ is a show about aliens on an expeditionary mission to the primitive and primal planet of Earth.

In order to blend in, they take on the role of the most innocuous but potentially threatening group they can find in the form of an average American family.

Similar to the characters in shows like ‘Frasier’, the cast is made up of people who know how to carry their lines and fully embody even the most awkward, grating character traits.

One of the standout characters has to be the oldest alien on the show, Tommy Solomon, who has been forced to inhabit the youngest body. Imagine having to go through puberty all over again.

This show is far out from the world of a big city psychiatrist like Frasier Crane. However, the juxtaposition of these intelligent aliens forced to interact with normal humans makes for some similar gut-busting moments as are found in ‘Frasier’.


The Doctor Is In

Frasier is an ensemble show that is built around a personality that got his start on one of the biggest television shows in American history. However, the Frasier from ‘Cheers’ is a bit different when he is at home.

Do you find it entertaining to see the different sides of a character?

Let me know in the comments below.

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