When the Frasier revival/reboot was announced, fans of the classic NBC sitcom immediately noticed something was missing: Niles, Frasier Crane’s younger brother played by David Hyde Pierce. The character was just as pivotal to the original series as Kelsey Grammer’s radio psychiatrist, so Niles’ absence has been particularly glaring. However, having Niles missing from the reboot wasn’t the original plan.
According to showrunners Joe Cristalli and Chris Harris tell it, Hyde Pierce was engaged in talks to reprise his role as Niles. The show would have centered on the two Crane brothers opening a “black box theater,” but in the end, Pierce ultimately took a pass.
We talked to David Hyde Pierce a couple of times. He was in a tough position. Everybody wants to see him as Niles, but he doesn’t want to step back into those shoes. He felt like he didn’t have anything new to bring to the character. He read versions and gave us notes and thoughts, and he acknowledged it was funny and we found the tone the original did so well. It just wasn’t for him.
With Pierce opting out, the show runners had a little more “creative freedom” and there are no hard feelings about Pierce’s decision. “He’s not the bad guy in this, and he was so lovely about it,” Cristalli said.
Viewers, on the other hand, are not loving the Frasier reboot so far. Early reviews have not been impressed, and the lack of Niles is palapable.
“Far from a catastrophe, the revival is still a disappointment,” Ben Travers wrote for IndieWire. “Because it so clearly lacks, for starters, the original’s zany energy. Frasier, at its peak, has a remarkably quick wit, deploying a flurry of jokes and quips that undercut the Crane brothers’ pretentious tendencies via their escalating embarrassments.”
Frasier streams new episodes Thursday on Paramount+.