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Cheers, Doctor

Tuning in to the 'Frasier' exhibit at Paramount's Great America


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WHEN Frasier debuted in 1993, television sitcoms were still the workhorses of entertainment. These days, in the wake of TiVo, reality TV and video games, they're more like the seahorses of entertainment: smaller, weirder and more nervous.

Regardless of network TV's Rome-is-burning downturn, the character of Frasier stands as one of the greatest in sitcom history. If we count his days on Cheers, Kelsey Grammer played the same character for 20 years. Only James Arness of Gunsmoke can match that claim. As a quote on the wall of a new Frasier exhibit at Paramount's Great America puts it, "When a series such as Frasier is on television for 11 years, it becomes more of a part of our culture than just a simple TV show."

So much more, evidently, that it deserves its own museum-style exhibit: "Frasier: The Art, The Legacy, the Retrospective."

Biter hadn't been to Great America in probably 15 years—back when Cheers was still on TV. Turns out there's much more to the gargantuan park than wild rides, oversized stuffed animals, cotton candy and Beyoncé posters. Yes, Frasier fandom has invaded Santa Clara. We just had to go see if Daphne's underwear was part of the exhibit. And don't even get us started on Roz.

When it comes to spinoffs, Frasier proved skeptics wrong and lasted for over a decade. But, "Why Great America?" we hear you cry. Well, Paramount Theme Parks is a subsidiary of Paramount Television, the show's producer, and Great America is Paramount's closest theme park to Hollywood geographically, so the exhibit came to Santa Clara. It runs through Aug. 22. The exhibit is by no means worth Great America's ridiculous $47.99 admission price alone, but if you have a family and you happen to be there, check it out. There are some pretty illustrious tidbits for your viewing pleasure.

Martin's cane is on display, as is the infamous ratty chair he spent so much time in. The actual desk that Frasier manned while on the air at KACL radio all those years is right there for you to gawk at. In case you didn't know, the "ACL" is named after the show's creators, Angell, Casey and Lee.

Also on display is Frasier's front door—a fake wooden prop that represented his 1901 Elliot Bay Towers apartment in Seattle. There's also a Café Nervosa table-and-chairs setup—complete with cups and aprons—from that now-famous coffee shop where Frasier, Niles and folks conveniently gabbed during all those episodes. Several televisions in the exhibit play various episodes including the pilot, many celebrity cameo appearances, interviews and outtakes.

And then there's the Script Wall. Genuine copies of scripts from all 264 episodes adorn one particular partition. Titles include The Maris Counselor, Odd Man Out, The Dog That Rocks the Cradle and How to Bury a Millionaire. The partition boldly states that "it all comes down to the writing." That's why the show lasted so long.

Each character is also portrayed as a silkscreen on wood, in pure Warholian fashion. Several magazines with Frasier et al. on the cover grace another partition. For the VIP opening reception, a rep from Ben Lomond's Coffee Concepts served espresso drinks with names like "Love Roz a Latte" and "Coffee Psychiatrist's Helper."

The entire exhibit leaves you with a cheesy sentimental feeling. You feel sad that the show is actually gone—and coming from Biter this means a lot. You leave wondering what other dead sitcoms might generate such an exhibit.

Probably most stunning of all are the 31 gold-plated Emmy awards the show won—they're underneath a glass case in the far corner of the exhibit. Frasier surpassed the previous record of 30, set by The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s.

"Frasier: The Art, the Legacy, the Retrospective" at Paramount's Great America, noon-5pm daily, runs through Aug. 22, free with park admission.

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From the July 21-27, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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