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Here's How 'Frasier' Marked A Turning Point For LGBTQ Characters On TV

The Kelsey Grammer-led series set the stage for "Will & Grace" in its nuanced take on queer issues, writer Matt Baume notes.

Some 15 years after its 11-season run wrapped, NBC’s “Frasier” remains one of the most beloved sitcoms of its time and a pop cultural landmark. In 2018, the series ― a spin-off of another beloved comedy, “Cheers” ― was even cited by “Avengers: Infinity War” screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely as having influenced their blockbuster film.

With talk of a “Frasier” reboot once again making headlines, Seattle-based writer and editor Matt Baume examined one of the show’s oft-overlooked legacies. In the latest episode of his “Culture Cruise” video series, Baume noted that the sitcom made impressive strides in terms of depicting LGBTQ issues on mainstream TV, paving the way for other progressive-for-their-time shows like “Will & Grace.” 

Baume traced the show’s first LGBTQ-inclusive story arc back to a Season Two episode called “The Matchmaker.” In it, the recurring gay character of Tom Duran (played by Eric Lutes) is led to believe Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), who is straight, has asked him out on a date. 

Along with later episodes like Season Four’s “The Impossible Dream” and Season Five’s “The Ski Lodge,” “The Matchmaker” is dated in its specifics. But Baume asserted that all are noteworthy, as they opted to take a matter-of-fact approach to LGBTQ characters who were no longer leading lives of crisis. 

Watch the latest “Culture Cruise” episode below. 

“Queer characters experienced an incredible change throughout the 1990s ― first generally seen as a source of anxiety, then a fact of life, then objects of desire, and then finally mainstream and normal,” Baume told HuffPost. As for “Frasier,” he said the show “was along for the entire ride through the ’90s, with more gay episodes than probably any other show until ‘Ellen’ and ‘Will & Grace.’”

Because “Frasier” aired for 11 seasons, the show “can serve as a sort of timeline of queer representation, showing how attitudes changed year over year as we went from the homophobia of the ’80s to inclusive shows that became commonplace in the 2000s,” he added. 

Baume is the author of the 2015 book “Defining Marriage: Voices From a Forty-Year Labor of Love.” His “Culture Cruise” videos have taken an in-depth look at LGBTQ lives as seen on such era-defining TV shows as “The Golden Girls” and “The Simpsons.” 

In January, the series was applauded by New York Times writer Margaret Lyons, who called it “thoughtful and thorough.” 

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