LOS ANGELES – After 11 years of solving many of Seattle’s problems and few of his own, radio shrink Frasier Crane – in the end – followed his heart out of town.
The multiple Emmy-winning NBC series, “Frasier,” bowed out Thursday with an hour-long episode filled with slapstick comedy, warmly emotional moments and a subtle romantic twist at the end.
Frasier, played by series star Kelsey Grammer, saw his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Niles’ wife Daphne (Jane Leeves) greet the birth of their first child. Family patriarch Martin Crane (John Mahoney) got married to Ronee (Wendie Malick)
Frasier decided to leave Seattle and accept a new job in San Francisco.
“The reason I’m leaving is because I want what all of you have right now – a new chapter,” Frasier told his television family.
Yet the final scene showed Frasier in a plane touching down with the pilot announcing, “Welcome to Chicago.” That’s the city where his potential soul mate Charlotte (Laura Linney) had just moved to.
The ending offered hope and mystery: was unlucky-in-love Frasier finally making the right move? The curtain closed, leaving it to the audience’s imagination.
It could also set up a potential spinoff someday. Television viewers followed Grammer’s character in Boston from its inception on “Cheers,” to the 11-year run in Seattle on “Frasier.” Grammer has said he’d be open to someday revisiting the character he’d played in prime-time for 20 straight years.
The hourlong episode, “Goodnight, Seattle,” the phrase with which Grammer’s character often ended the closing theme song, was preceded by a series retrospective at 8 p.m. on NBC.
Although “Frasier” didn’t equal the just-ended “Friends” as a ratings leader or cultural phenomenon, it held a place as one of the most successful spinoffs ever.
Psychiatrist Frasier Crane, one of the barflies on “Cheers,” made a smooth transition to top banana and the strong center of a smartly drawn supporting ensemble.
Witty repartee and giddy slapstick marked the comedy. Both were blissfully evident during the finale, featuring a dog swallowing a ring, a drunken 6-year-old ring bearer, and a birth and wedding in a veterinarian’s office.
“Most of America, frankly, is much smarter than television assumes they are,” Grammer recently told The Associated Press.
“Frasier” matched the 11-year run of “Cheers” and won a record 31 Emmys, including five consecutive trophies as best comedy series and a trio of acting awards each for Grammer and Pierce.
If its finale frenzy didn’t approach that of “Friends,” it wasn’t for lack of effort on NBC’s part. Both shows had their own “Dateline NBC” specials and ample promotion on “Today” and other NBC vehicles.
The ratings weren’t expected to equal those of last week’s “Friends,” which drew 52.5 million viewers and ranked as the fourth most-watched series finale in TV history.
CBS’ “M*A*S*H” (106 million) and NBC’s “Cheers” (80.4 million) and “Seinfeld” (76.3 million) remain the finale leaders.
Viewership for “Friends” justified the $2 million advertisers ponied up for a 30-second spot. On “Frasier,” the ad rate reportedly was closer to $800,000 per half-minute.
Radio psychiatrist Frasier Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer, reacts with horror to the thought of what his unscrupulous agent might have done during the final episode of “Frasier.”