Wednesday, May 09, 2018


Reader “Luke” pointed me to an article where the writers of THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR said the inspiration for the banter between Iron Man and Dr. Strange was the interplay between Frasier and his brother Niles on FRASIER. I found that very flattering until I read the article.

First off, let me say I heard the two writers, Stephen McFeely & Christopher Markus, speak at the WGA screening of AVENGERS. They both seem like very bright, cool individuals.

So I don’t know if my issue is with them or how what they said was reported in the article. Here’s the quote from the article:

“Frasier was influential in our decision to put Stark and Strange together,” said co-writer Stephen McFeely in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment. He revealed that their interplay with each other was based on Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) and his just-as-obnoxious brother, Dr. Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce).

My problem is this: I wouldn’t characterize either Frasier or Niles as “obnoxious.” Would you? A little arrogant perhaps and a tad full of themselves, but hardly “obnoxious.”

Also, Frasier and Niles were essentially allies. In AVENGERS, Iron Man and Dr. Strange are no fans of each other. They’re sparring partners, not bantering brothers. Yes, at times the Frasier boys have a tiff, but I would never classify them as “opponents.”

I guess what bothers me, and again I don’t know who exactly used the term “obnoxious,” but FRASIER tried really hard to give its characters dimension and give its relationships depth. So to see Frasier & Niles reduced to a one-word description --- that I don’t even believe is accurate – was a little disappointing.

Still, it’s nice that McFeely & Markus were fans of FRASIER. Too bad the show isn’t still going. We would have loved to have Thanos call in to Frasier’s radio show.


tavm said...

Randy Skedvelt, or however he spells his last name, had a similar issue concerning the way Laurel & Hardy were described in reviews of his movies. At their usual home turf of Hal Roach Studios, anyone writing about and for them there called them "grown up children" which to Randy was an endearing term. But at 20th Century-Fox, where Stan & Ollie went to after leaving Roach, the scriptwriters gave them contemptuous nouns like "jerks" and used descriptions to reflect that term. Stan hated that experience so much he said to author John McCabe, "Those Fox people, you can give it to them good!"

Pizzagod said...

Obnoxious was a poor choice of words.

I found the similarities between Niles and Frasier full of subtleties that was fascinating. Sometimes one would have more of the annoying qualities, sometimes one would be more naive because they operated in a different world.

Fraser seemed to be more rooted in the "real" world, while Niles (who I always assumed was the brighter of the two) was on a higher level, but was handicapped because he didn't deal with the "dregs" of humanity as Fraser had.

Like the people on WKRP, I felt that I knew them.

LinGin said...

Apropos of your last post, them's fighting words!

Curt Alliaume said...

That was one of the things I really loved about Frasier. Almost every other sitcom had one of three types of characters to move the story along:

1) an antagonist (or jerk, or a**hole). Examples: Frank Burns, Phyllis Lindstrom, Dan Fielding.
2) an idiot. Examples: Chrissy Snow, Mallory Keaton, Joey Tribbiani.
3) a child.

Frasier didn't have any of those - and there weren't a lot of series that could make that claim. Occasionally any of the five regulars would act like a jerk, or an idiot - but it was never a regular part of anyone's character.

VP81955 said...

If they were "obnoxious," the audience wouldn't show empathy for them. And we do, although in real life we might find them pretentious Ivy Leaguers who need to be taken down a peg.

DougG. said...

Frank Burns is obnoxious. But to say Frasier & Niles are that sounds to me like someone who's never watched FRASIER. Or someone who tried watching it in high school and just wasn't mature enough to get it.

McAlvie said...

As I read the article, McFeely called the characters arrogant. It was the writer of the article who said they were obnoxious. I guess he isn't a fan of Frazier, or doesn't know the difference between the words; but he shouldn't have twisted what McFeely said.

AJ Ford said...

Call in segment would be perfect for Red Nose Day. Just call up your friend Richard Curtis and make it happen.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

As unpleasant as it must be to see characters you wrote and were fond of being dissed, the reality is that every critic has the right to their opinion.

(Sometimes, they were.)

K said...

I fear obnoxiousness, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.

Y. Knott said...

Clearly it's the opinion of the writer of the article, not the writers of the movie. I'd bet cash money that the writers of the movie would bristle at the idea that they find Frasier and/or Niles "obnoxious". (I mean, the Crane brothers *could* be obnoxious in certain circumstances...but it wasn't their default setting.)

Jeffrey Graebner said...

The article that Ken linked to is on an aggregation site that largely publishes paraphrased reports on interviews conducted by other news outlets. The original interview with the screenwriters is at this link and they never used the word "obnoxious".

I actually think the comparison was a pretty good one. Stark and Strange are clearly on the same side and working toward the same basic goal during the film. The conflict that arises between them all pretty much comes from the two characters' high opinion of their own ideas.

Philco said...

Pizzagod: I read once (maybe on this blog?) that Frasier was Niles if Frasier hadn't hung out at Cheers. Years of Cliff, Norm and Woody will season a man.

Tim said...

I loved "Frasier" but often thought of Niles and Frasier as obnoxious. However, I grew up in the midwest and I suspect what is considered obnoxious is different there than Hollywood.

Jon B. said...

Obnoxious is not the right word to describe Frasier and Niles. But I can see using it, because in a sense they were. Was Michael Scott obnoxious on The Office? More so, yes, but regular viewers understood him to be insecure and misguidedly big-hearted. Remember Dabney Coleman as Buffalo Bill? Bingo! That's obnoxious.

Dr Loser said...

I wouldn't worry too much about anything said by somebody involved with comic-book blockbusters says, Ken.

It's a different universe. They have different attitudes and rules.

They are not like us.

DBenson said...

An accurate analysis. Pierce said in an interview something to the effect that Niles was Frasier if Frasier never went to Boston.

Also, Frasier had the ability to mellow out slightly, or at least accept some defeats with a Jack Benny / Oliver Hardy resignation.

Andrew said...

This reminds me of one of my favorite Frasier-Niles conversations. "Elitist" is surely a better word than "obnoxious."

Frasier: Niles? Do you think I'm elitist?
Niles: Of course I do. You needn't worry about that.
Frasier: No, not in the good way. At work today, I discovered an
injurious graffito about me. Scrawled on the men's room
Niles: No.

Frasier pulls a piece of toilet paper from his pocket to read from.

Frasier: Yes. Quote:
There once was a man, Frasier Crane,
Who says he can feel your pain.
But he acts like a snob,
To the guys at his job,
And I think he's totally lame.
Niles: That's terrible! There's a tense shift, an approximate
rhyme, the scansion leaves a lot to be desired...
Frasier: Niles, you're missing the point! I have always striven to
be approachable, the embodiment of the words "If you can talk
with crowds and keep your virtue..."
Niles: "Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch."
Frasier: Exactly!

The waiter brings Frasier's coffee and muffin.

Frasier: Thank you. If maligner truly knew who I was, he'd have found
that a more apt characterization than "snob."
Niles: Assuming he's familiar with Kipling.

They snicker.

Frasier: What are the odds?

Bill K said...

Jeffrey Graebne nailed it. If you watch the original interview the word "arrogant" is used, but never obnoxious. It's actually an interesting comparison and worth watching the original interview if you are interested in the topic at all. \

Peter said...

The writers at least have good taste in having been fans of Frasier.

In the last place I worked, I had a loathsome, unpleasant and arrogant colleague who was obsessed with Friends. I mentioned I liked Friends but always preferred Frasier. Her reaction was to say she watched one episode and didn't like it at all. That just proved what an idiot she is. I'll admit it felt rather satisfying to know this moron didn't get Frasier. I've always believed it's a show that only people who have a sophisticated sense of humour can appreciate.

If you think I'm being unfair, her other favourite show was Strictly Come Dancing, which is the British version of Dancing with the Stars, her favourite movies were the Fast and Furious franchise, and her favourite stand up comedian is Michael McIntyre, who for those of you outside of the UK is a painfully bland, anodyne family friendly comedian.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I was forced to get out the Webster's and look up the word "obnoxious." In the strictest dictionary definition it really does not apply to Frasier and/or Niles. Even Roget's seems to agree. However, over the years people have have come to believe the word is a synonym for annoying or irritating. (not in the literal, skin lesion sense) The characters can be those things. I admit that I've used the word incorrectly. And I'll bet these guys went to college, too.

Colin Stratton said...

I think you are reading too much into it. Poor choice of words, I agree. Loveable snobs would have been more appropriate. Take it as a compliment. But if you ever have the opportunity to talk to the man, ask him exactly what he meant

Diane D. said...

The part of the comparison I wouldn’t have liked was that Dr. Strange and Ironman didn’t like each other (I take your word on that), because Frasier and Niles certainly did, but I don’t think obnoxious is far off the mark. They were considerably beyond pretentious, but lovable, and their relationship was captivating. Frasier was at his most hilarious when he was being obnoxious—-think about the episode where he was supposed to choose a little jingle for his show and he ended up with a 20 piece orchestra to produce it—-omg one of the funniest; or when he produced a radio drama reminiscent of the 1920s where Niles had to play like 10 parts—-and did it to perfection. That was one of the most amazing shows they ever did.

Pete Sutcliffe said...

As a Frasier fan, I would definitely describe Frasier Crane as obnoxious. I was shocked that his character made for such a great show (a testament to the writing). As for Niles, the worst I'd say about him is conceited, but also charming. Being trapped in an elevator with Frasier is my definition of hell. Niles on the other hand, would be fun to be stuck with.

MikeN said...

>Thanos call in to Frasier

If you knew more about the subject, I'd love to see you write this. I'd probably love it anyways!
There was a scene after one of the movies which had Tony Stark talking to Dr Banner as a psychiatrist. Perhaps you could get yourself a writing job on the next movie Ken, this time between Thanos and the guy who defeats him, World Breaker Hulk.

5w30 said...

Whenever I see a reference to "The Avengers" it immediately shows my age. Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee ... with Honor Blackman in earlier monochrome episodes.

Anonymous said...

As others have said, Frasier and Niles could be obnoxious, but they weren't obnoxious people.

One of the great strengths of Frasier is how you can sympathise with everyone at different times and different places.

When I first watched it (as an obnoxious arrogant teenager) I was very much on Frasier and Nile's in arguments against Martin. Then when I rewatched it in my twenties I was on Martin's side, because I began to see in myself some of the brothers' bad habits. Then, when I reached my thirties, I realised that everyone had a point most of the time and everyone was in the wrong some of the time.

Bryan Thomas said...

Personally, I thought there were a few episodes where they were close to obnoxious at times (exasperating might be a better word), but they were beloved enough I kept tuning in and it was only usually episodes where they were at odds for most of the episode and it kept escalating. Generally, though they were not. And they were so much more, so complex and multidimensional that it was easy not to just write them off because of it.