After some brief talk of keeping the show going for a 12th season next fall, NBC said Monday that its five-time Emmy-winning comedy, “Frasier,” will call it quits in May.
This was widely assumed to be its last season, but in recent months Kelsey Grammer, who has portrayed the high-strung psychologist Frasier Crane for 20 years since the character originated on “Cheers,” had said he was open to continuing.
“There were very good reasons to do it and very good reasons not to do it,” said Christopher Lloyd, one of the show’s writers. “Ultimately, everybody sized it up and said, ‘Let’s go out on a high note.”’
“Frasier” won the Emmy for best comedy for five straight years, from 1994 to 1998.
NBC was paying Paramount, the show’s producers, an estimated $5.2 million per show. As with most long-running shows with veteran casts, costs were mounting and there was discussion of Grammer taking a pay cut to continue another season.
“The finances would not have worked for another season,” said NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks.
Its exit means that NBC will go into next season without both of the popular, urbane comedies that have defined it as a network for the past decade. The last episode of “Friends” will also air in May.
“Frasier” lost popularity as it aged, but it remained a mainstay on Tuesday nights for NBC, averaging 11.1 million viewers a week. The network has tried, and failed, to develop other long-lasting hit comedies.
The show’s ratings slide has continued despite a critical revival this season when the original writing team of Lloyd and Joe Keenan returned after being gone for three years.
“I think we established a certain standard and we kept it,” Lloyd said. “We showed, at a time when television was clearly starting on its downward path toward mediocrity, that you can still tell intelligent stories.”
A spinoff of a “Frasier” character into another series is always possible, but Lloyd said that he hasn’t discussed it with NBC. Matt LeBlanc, who plays Joey Tribbiani on “Friends,” has already agreed to continue playing the character in another series.
The writers are only now beginning to decide how to end “Frasier.”
Will Frasier’s ex-wife, Lilith, make a reappearance? Will relationship-challenged Frasier finally find happiness?
Lloyd isn’t saying.
“You’re never going to make everybody happy,” he said. “Everyone has certain ideas about how they’d like the characters to end. There are certain basic expectations — you’ve got to send people off into the sunset — but I’m not sure that’s appropriate for some of the characters.”
This season marked two milestones important to Grammer. His 20-year run playing Frasier Crane — a character introduced during the third season of “Cheers” — ties James Arness of “Gunsmoke” for the longest stretch an actor has played a single character in prime time. “Frasier” will also have lasted 11 seasons, the same as “Cheers.”