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Our Frasier Remake Will Beat Paramount+'s Reboot to the Punch

Jacob Reed discusses his project, which recreates Frasier's Season 1 finale with help from hundreds of artists.
  • Our Frasier Remake (Photo: Harry Chaskin)
    Our Frasier Remake (Photo: Harry Chaskin)

    It’s the biggest fans of a beloved TV show who are set up to be the most disappointed when a revival or reboot comes around. In some instances, die-hard devotees would rather see nothing at all than a season of television that diminishes their favorite characters. In the case of the Frasier reboot, one fan decided to create his own dream remake to soften the blow.

    Jacob Reed’s Our Frasier Remake is a frame-by-frame recreation of “My Coffee With Niles,” the Frasier Season 1 finale, made from hundreds of six- to 12-second contributions from animators, puppeteers, filmmakers, illustrators, and other creatives. The script and storyboard stay the same, but the visuals of each section (which Reed calls batches) depict a different version of the scene and each character.

    “It's kind of like if Adult Swim rebooted Frasier,” Reed tells Primetimer.

    The entire 22-minute episode was split into 185 sections — as of publication, there are still about a dozen batches up for grabs for artists who want to participate. The final episode will debut on October 11, one day before Paramount+’s Frasier reboot premieres, staying true to the project’s unofficial tagline: “Before they mess with the show we love, we’re doing it first.”

    Primetimer talked with Reed about his Frasier fandom, the struggles of working on the project during dual industry strikes, and his hopes for the Frasier reboot.

    When did you first get into Frasier and what was it about the show that drew you in?

    My first watch of Frasier was whenever it was on. It was on for nine years, so I was in middle school for at least part of that and high school for part of that, but I really started watching it in high school. I always liked it and thought it was funny. But then over the years, I mean, I couldn't tell you how many times I've watched the entire show. Usually I go like Season 3 through Season 6 because it took a couple of seasons to really find its footing. I'm always kind of either watching Frasier or during a three- or four-month break in between Frasier watches. It's my comfort show that I'll put on in the background. I won’t only do it in the background, but it's also a show that I know so well that I'll watch it in the background.

    I have a couple of friends like Frasier and we talk about it, I guess. But other than that, I haven't talked extensively about Frasier with any fans. So, one thing that's been cool about meeting all these different people is hearing how much it means to everyone. I'm hearing how this same kind of warm fuzzy place it has in my heart is what it means to everyone else. And in my opinion, as a comedy writer and director, it is one of the funniest shows that's ever been on TV. It's just like a joke per minute — so, so funny.

    Frasier fans do always seem to be a little more quiet about their fandom than people who love Friends or even Cheers.

    Even in working on this project and running all of the social channels for it, and I'm always trying to think of, “Oh, what's like a catch phrase?” There's not a lot of that, right? Like Friends, Seinfeld, those shows, especially Seinfeld, introduced or if they didn't introduce they codified phrases into the popular vernacular. That's not something that Frasier did.

    Frasier, there’s so many interesting things about it. They started using those title cards because they didn't want to do establishing shots for whatever reason. That, plus the way it’s paced, a lot of the scenes are much longer than normal sitcom scenes. The episode that we're remaking, “My Coffee With Niles,” is essentially like a play, it all happens in real time. And there's so many of those Frasier farce episodes, like when they go up to the cabin, that feel more like theater than it does like a sitcom. It's just a little less sticky as far as pop culture, but I think that it's so funny that it has a real staying power.

    What was it about this particular episode that made you want to remake it?

    For a while I was like, “What episode?” How do you pick the right episode? I looked at, like, a bunch of lists of top 10 Frasier episodes, and then I thought, what are my favorite episodes? and I rewatched a bunch of them. And there's a couple things about this episode that I really liked. The first is that it was well, I mean, the biggest thing is it's the Season 1 finale. And to me, I haven't read anything that confirms this, but to me it feels like after this huge long-running show like Cheers and then spinning it off and doing Frasier, the subtext is: “Here we are. Was it worth it?”

    The whole episode is a conversation between Niles and Frasier in real time. The first commercial break is when Niles goes to the bathroom. The second commercial break is when Frasier goes to the bathroom. So, for a half-hour period, if the two of them are talking, you're witnessing it, right? They're having a conversation about happiness and what does it mean to be fulfilled, and to me, the subtext is, was this worth it? Was it worth it to make a spin-off of Cheers, and are we happy with this decision? And I like that it's not an obvious yes. It takes the whole episode for Frasier to kind of answer, you know, I am happy. I feel like that's a question we all ask ourselves and it’s super relatable, but especially almost exactly three decades after that episode aired, now, with a new version of Frasier, to me, that's kind of the same question: Is it worth it to make that show?

    I'm not saying it's not, but we live in a world where the fastest way to get something greenlit seems to be if it's based on something that was already super, super-successful. I know I've read like a ton of interviews about Kelsey Grammer, like really being the engine to make this show happen again, it wasn't like a foregone conclusion, so, I don’t mean to belittle it. But as someone who writes and produces and creates things, I do wonder sometimes like what it's doing to the entertainment industry as a whole for only projects that are based on preexisting IP to be greenlit. So I've been telling people that this is as much a celebration of Frasier as it is a critique of remaking stuff over and over and over and over. And if you are going to remake it, I think this is a remake where the fact that it's remade is as front and center as possible. Instead of shying away from the fact that it's a remake, it literally is changing what it is every six to 10 seconds.

    How did you come up with this concept for the remake?

    It’s just too much work for one person [laughs]. This is one of many in a long line of what has become almost like its own form of art, which is really cool, is these kind of collaborative fan remakes. I think Star Wars Uncut was the first one back in mid to late 2000. There's a bunch of friends of mine who were involved in the Our Robocop Remake and Our Footloose Remake. Once I started to ask for other people to participate, I really felt like I didn't have a choice about what the name of it had to be. I felt like it had to be called Our Frasier Remake because of the other projects that came before it, and that was like the language that the internet would know.

    What was the process of breaking down the scenes into sections people could choose to animate?

    Knowing that probably people would do animation, I wanted to keep it short, and I thought a lot about what's the right amount of time to have it change where it feels like it's always changing, but it doesn't feel so frenetic that you can't follow it. Years ago, I did this kind of viral Internet project called the Six Minute Project, and so I guess the number six was in my head. So I was like, “what if it was just six seconds?”

    I started there and then I went through the episode. First I measured where all the six second cuts would be, and then I went and adjusted them all a little bit so that it wasn't in the middle of a line or in the middle of a joke. I definitely considered the resources that people might have. So if like six seconds of the shot is on Frasier and then six and a half seconds, it cuts to Niles, then I would be like, well, I don't want to cut it right at six and then give someone the next batch where it's a half a second on Frasier, so if they're making a puppet, they have to make a Frasier puppet for like half second, so let’s just adjust it so it cuts when the camera cuts.

    I am letting people do multiple batches. My rule is that you can only do two back to back in the same style, and there's a bunch of people who have done that so it's maybe a 10- or 12-second chunk of their style. But after that, I just don't want it to feel like we're going back to something we've seen before. I want it to feel like it's always changing and evolving.

    How are you hoping this approach changes the way people watch the episode?

    What I hope people get out of it is just joy. It seems like the kind of thing that would just be really fun to watch. I think if people partake in marijuana, they would probably have a special enjoyment of it. I mean, I guess my wildest dreams, sure it would be cool to introduce new audiences to Frasier, but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that's a power that I have. But equally maybe unrealistic is I would love it if this was the reboot treatment more shows got, iInstead of “what's the Sex and the City gang up to 30 years later?” And let's stumble through that and find their footing. Just as an audience member, I would love to watch a season of Seinfeld using this approach, I would love to watch Sex and the City like this. I wish the mindset was more like, well, what other things can we do to take advantage of the massive amounts of creativity that there is out there and use it to celebrate something that's old instead of just rehashing it?

    What has it been like working on this during the dual strike in the industry?

    It's kind of both hard and easy because there's so many talented people who aren't working and are available to do fun sh*t. But on the other hand, we're also all in the same boat of, nobody knows where their rent-slash-mortgage-slash-bills money is coming from. I wish that our industry was set up to pay people fairly, period. But I also wish that projects like this that are more fringy, like sometimes it feels like things like this can only exist during a strike mostly because everyone working on it would have a job, including me.

    Do you feel you may be tangentially promoting the Paramount+ Frasier reboot with this project?

    I can’t tell. A lot of people have commented on what we’re doing and said, I didn’t even know there was a reboot, but this looks cool. Part of me is like, there’s no way that some guy in his garage who spent maybe a couple hundred dollars on Instagram ads is the one who’s helping Paramount. It’s much more likely that they’re going to help us. And there’s a little bit of tongue-in-cheek snarkiness to releasing it to the day before they release theirs.

    It was always the plan to try to get it out before them, but once they released that trailer that even had hand-drawn style animation, then I was just like, alright, shots fired, we’re coming for you guys. But I should also say, I wish no disrespect to anyone working on that show. I can only imagine — one, it’s so hard to work on anything or get anything made, but the bar is set so high with Frasier, how do you clear that? It’s an almost impossible task. I definitely am rooting for them.

    Do you have any predictions or hopes for Paramount+’s version of Frasier?

    I hope that it feels as different from Frasier as Frasier did from Cheers. I don't think I'm going to be rushing to watch it. I just don't want it to be bad. I hope it's really good.

    Our Frasier Remake premieres October 11 on YouTube, Vimeo, and other social media channels.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Our Frasier Remake, Cheers, Frasier