Looking for Frasier hot takes in 2017? The New Statesman has you covered. In “Martin Crane’s Hideous Chair Was The True Star Of Frasier,” author Helen Lewis argues that the crusty, puke-colored armchair that John Mahoney’s Martin slouches in throughout the show’s run is “the single most meaningful object in the whole of 1990s comedy.”
It’s a compelling argument, too, especially if you, like Lewis, see the true emotional arc of the acclaimed sitcom to be that of Martin rather than Frasier himself. Of the character’s second wind he finds in the finale, she writes, “He’s the child—once dependent, he is now able to leave home and make his own way, leaving Frasier as the Empty Nester.”
Because, more than just a ’90s yuppie comedy, Frasier was really a story about family and values. The chair, Lewis argues, is the central representation for that approach:
But here’s the thing: doesn’t that chair look more comfortable to sit on than the expensive suede couch - “an exact replica of the one Coco Chanel had in her Paris atelier”? This is a metaphor for how family relationships are battered, worn and cosy rather than beautifully best-china pristine, and it’s a damn sight more subtle than Ross getting a monkey as a baby-substitute.
It’s the examples from the show she finds that really hammer her point home. Many of Martin’s most vibrant, moving speeches pinpointed the chair as one of his last viable connections to his late wife, whom he spends a great deal of the series learning how to live without. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how good the writing was on Frasier, a show that was about so much more than “Maris” jokes or cracks about the symphony.
As we hope our own delving into the ’90s this week has helped show, sitcoms of that era were doing some next-level shit.