This is why you need to read the comments. Readers pose interesting questions. Others respond. And occasionally a show's creator weighs in with the real scoop. That's what happened today. David Lee, one of the co-creators of FRASIER responds to a discussion thread.
Here's the original comment:
Michael R, Singapore said...
I have always wondered where the idea came from to spin-off the Frasier character into his own show. Was the idea first to spin-off a CHEERS character, then producers/writers met to discuss which one? How close did we come to getting CLIFF or WOODY? Personally, I thought the show would flop because I thought Frasier was insufferable on CHEERS and the most unsympathetic character to base a show around. So, how did you know that he was the one to spin off? Though I still hate Frasier (the character), I was shocked at how good the show was just by the supporting characters and the writing.
Brian Phillips said:
To answer "Michael R, Singapore"
"I have always wondered where the idea came from to spin-off the Frasier character into his own show."
In Kelsey Grammer's autobiography, Grammer said that the original show that he wanted to do after "Cheers" was a variant on "The Man Who Came To Dinner". He would play a bed-ridden screenwriter (or producer, I forget), who ruled the roost from his bed and made life miserable for all the other people in the house. NBC's Brandon Tartikoff either read the script or saw a pilot and he told Grammer, "I think comedies should be funny."
Having taken that note to heart, he decided that it would be best to go with a character that the audience already knew and liked. I don't recall whether the spin-off was pitched to him before he tried the bed-ridden curmudgeon idea or not, though.
And now the REAL answer, graciously submitted by one of the gentlemen who actually MADE the decision -- David Lee.
The decision to spin the character of Frasier off CHEERS was actor driven at first. Kelsey had done a guest spot on WINGS and won and emmy for it. He decided he'd like Angel Casey and Lee (that would be me) to develop a series for him. We did not want to do a spinoff at first, so we pitched him an idea based on a Malcolm Forbes type mega millionaire who is injured on his motorcycle. The series would revolve primarily about his relationship with his home health care worker (are you starting to see echoes of what would later evolve?) It was not about him driving the household crazy, though I'm sure that would have happened. Kelsey liked it. We pitched it to John Pike, then head of Paramount TV, and it was he who uttered the ""I think comedies should be funny" line. (This was, I thought, a ridiculously dismissive comment. Think of pitching a series about a medical unit in the midst of the carnage of the Korean War and the response being ""I think comedies should be funny.")
Still, we abandoned the idea (it was never a script or an outline.) Pike then pushed us toward the spin off. He said we had a tremendous asset and we might want to take advantage of it. We agreed, but with the caveat that there would be no other characters spun off from the show. So that is why you never saw CARLA! or NORM! or CLIFF!
PS Peter David and I always credit John Pike with really being the executive who made that show happen, despite the thousands of people who would lay claim to that credit. Sadly, he was fired by the time the first episode aired.
Thanks again to David Lee. I now owe him eight lunches, five dinners, and a Manny Ramirez bobblehead.