Sitcom alum goes very convincingly dramatic as corrupt Chicago mayor
Between "Cheers" and "Frasier," Kelsey Grammer spent 20 years playing pompous, erudite, clumsy psychiatrist Frasier Crane. In the history of live-action American primetime television, no one has ever played a character for more years (though "Gunsmoke" star James Arness, who shares the year record with Grammer, played Matt Dillon for many, many more hours). Television is a business where you tend to get typecast by executives and viewers if you play the same character for 3 or 4 years, and where the big stars are usually asked to play a similar character the next time they come up to bat. (Check out Tim Allen as a crankier, meaner Tim Taylor on "Last Man Standing," for instance.)
Given the staggering duration of the Frasier character, it would be easy for Kelsey Grammer to spend the rest of his career playing variations on that theme: Frasier is a librarian! Frasier is an overly-educated auto mechanic! And, in fact, that's more or less what he did after "Frasier" ended, first with "Back to You" (Frasier is a local TV news anchor!) and then "Hank" (Frasier is a destitute ex-CEO!), both of them canceled after a single season.
With "Boss," the new Starz drama that debuts Friday night at 10, no one will be having the Frasier is the mayor of Chicago! reaction. Same man, same familiar face and stentorian voice, but the performance and show are worlds removed from the role that made him rich, famous and a four-time Emmy winner.
And in this case, that's a very good thing.