Cheers to trying a spinoff you've never heard of before Frasier
Frasier has matched the popularity of its parent show, Cheers, but this is the second attempt at a spinoff show focusing on one of the titular bar patrons.
For a sitcom as wildly popular as Cheers, it's no surprise that the network experimented with a spinoff, but Frasier is actually the NBC show's second spinoff attempt. Frasier's bar-focused resident psychiatrist, Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), returns home to Seattle to reconnect with his family and become a talk show host on a local radio station. Frasier premiered in 1993, ran as long as its parent series Cheers, and quickly became an iconic sitcom.
Aside from a few returning Cheers characters appearing in Frasier, viewers of the Kelsey Grammer sitcom could be forgiven for thinking it was an original property. This sitcom about snobby talk show host Fraser Klein and his complicated relationship with blue-collar father Martin (John Mahoney) is so well-defined that Fraser steps out confidently. Cheers shadow. What's often forgotten, however, is that Frasier is actually the second Cheers spin-off, following a failed attempt six years ago.
The Tortellis, Cheers' Original Spinoff Predates Frasier
The Tortellis, like Frasier, is a family sitcom about Cheers waitress Carla (Rhea Perlman), the sloppy ex-husband Nick Tortelli (Dan Hedaya) and his wife Loretta (Jean Kasem). The Tortellis premiered on NBC's Cheers Midway in January 1987 Season 5, six years before Frasier's premiere. The spin-off series guest-stars Cheers' Norm (George Winter), Cliff (John Ratzenberger) and Kara and follows Nick as he relocates to Las Vegas in an attempt to win back his wife Lore Tower (Jean Cassim).
Nick's redemption arc is triggered by Loretta leaving him and a disturbing dream that he is immortalized in hell due to his previous misdeeds. The show's comedic roots as Nick trying to be a better person while running a legitimate TV repair business in Las Vegas didn't sit well with viewers. The Tortellis aired just 13 episodes on NBC, the last in May 1987, which paled in comparison to Frasier's 11 seasons.
Why The Tortellis Was Canceled, But Frasier Succeeded
Nick Tortelli's dysfunctional family did not attract audiences like the Crane family did, and the show's ratings were low. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel even criticized Tortels for damaging cultural stereotypes, suggesting that the Italian American Defamation League would have some tough words to say about the spinoff. Frasier continues the story of a beloved patron at the Cheers pub, while The Tortellis focuses on a character who will always be a thorn in the bar Carla's side. Frasier Crane has many flaws, but his vulnerability and insecurities endear him to audiences.
The culture clash between highbrow Fraser and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and their sleazy cop father Martin has more comedic potential than Nick Tortley's dysfunctional family of Italian-American stereotypes . Ultimately, what makes Frasier successful is that it fills the void left by "Cheers"'s finale, which NBC estimates 40 percent of its U.S. audience tunes in to. Tortellis premiered in the heyday of Cheers, and audiences are still enjoying weekly installments of Sam (Ted Danson) and his colorful staff and patrons, unlikely to stick around to watch it made up of secondary recurring characters.