Visiting the set, part 2

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I went to the Frasier set twice at Paramount studios. Both visits occurred during the 11th season. The first visit was in mid-January 2004. They had just returned from a month off for the holidays. The actor who played the father lived in a suburb of Chicago; and Kelsey Grammer had a home in Hawaii. So for them, this was coming back to L.A. and back to work at the same time.

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Kelsey told us all before filming began that NBC had called him to say the network would not be renewing the sitcom. He wanted to do a 12th season. There were seven more episodes left. He said the scripts were good, and he was confident they would be ending on a good note. He said he felt the tenth season was the worst and was glad they’d improved the quality in the final year.

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Most of the behind the scenes personnel had been with him on Cheers. Many of them had worked together for two decades. Kelsey tied Jim Arness (Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke) for playing the same character in primetime for twenty seasons– nine years on Cheers plus eleven on Frasier.

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The first episode I saw was called ‘Boo!’ where Martin the father had a heart attack. It was a comedy-drama, less laughs than usual. In addition to the apartment set, there was the coffee shop set where some scenes took place. Jane Leeves, the actress who played Daphne, was still on maternity leave. But because she had found out they were being cancelled, she came to the set unannounced. They wrote her into the very last scene. She ended up appearing in every episode, though she was not supposed to be in this one.

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I returned in early March for another filming. It was called ‘Detour’ and was the last regular episode. That time a guest actress had to be fired, because there had been problems with her during rehearsals. So Kelsey flew in a gal with little or no previous TV experience who had been making a name for herself back east in the theater. She did a great job and Kelsey was immensely grateful to her. After this last regular episode, they still had a flashbacks show to assemble, then the 90-minute finale.

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I learned some interesting things from Mathilda DeCagny, the trainer who owned the terrier that played Eddie the dog. Because the show had run so many seasons, the original dog (Moose) had become too old and had to be retired. So Moose’s son (Enzo) took over. Enzo did not have the exact same coloring or number of spots. Mathilda had to add some freshly colored spots on the dog’s fur before filming to fool viewers into thinking it was the same animal.

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