Although it was common knowledge in the industry that the eleventh season of Frasier would be its last, NBC did not make a formal declaration of the series' cancellation until late December of 2003. The decision had largely been made by star Kelsey Grammer, who had been playing the role of psychiatrist Frasier Crane for nearly 20 years (counting the character's previous tenure on Cheers) and felt it was time to move on. Truth to tell, the series had been declining in viewereship and quality over the past few seasons, but season eleven made up for its recent shortcomings with some of the best Frasier episodes ever.
The first installment picked up where season 12 left off, with Frasier's former producer Roz (Peri Gilpin) returning to radio station KACL, ostensibly because she didn't like her new job but actually because she hoped that Frasier would dump his latest amour, the beautiful but tactless Julia Wilcox (Felicity Huffman). This he did, only to enter into another bumpy relationship with Charlotte (Laura Linney), the owner of a failing matchmaking service. Whether Frasier and Charlotte would remain together or whether she would cut things off and return to Chicago was a major source of comic suspense throughout the season. Elsewhere on the romantic front Frasier's recently married brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), was anxious to start a family with his cheerful cockney bride Daphne (Jane Leeves), who was still employed as part-time caregiver for Frasier and Niles' ex-policeman dad, Martin (John Mahoney). Inevitably Daphne became pregnant, a plot development cooked up to accommodate the real-life pregnancy of actress Jane Leeves. This being a sitcom, the nine-month gestation was fraught with anxiety, not least of which involved Niles' former wife Maris, who though still an unseen presence managed to raise a ruckus by killing her hot-blooded lover Esteban. In fact, ex-wives dictated several Frasier scenarios during Season Eleven, with Frasier having memorable confrontations with both his first wife, children's entertainer Nanny G (here played by Laurie Metcalf), and his second spouse, domineering psychiatrist Lilith Sternin (who else but Bebe Neuwirth?). Also appearing was the issue of the Frasier- Lilith marriage, their son Frederick, played this time around by Trevor Einhorn. The most surprising amorous development during this season, sixtysomething Martin Crane fell in love with sexy lounge singer Ronee Lawrence (Wendie Malick), who as a teenager had been Frasier and Niles' babysitter! Ultimately, Martin proposed to the much-younger Ronee, setting a wedding date for July -- which thanks to a last-minute snafu had to be bumped up to May, coincidentally just in time for the birth of Daphne's baby. Frasier's final episode, the 60-minute "Goodnight, Seattle," may well enter the annals of TV history as the series finale to end all series finales. It took some doing, but this episode managed to incorporate virtually every "Last Show" cliché known to man, setting each one of them on its ear with a clever and unexpected twist: The chaotic wedding where everything that could go wrong does go wrong, the heroine going into labor at the wrong time in the wrong place, the leading man facing a profound change of job and location, and a "will they or won't they?" romantic entanglement -- all wrapped into a neat and hilarious package and topped off with a surprise ending. Just as in its glory days, Frasier bade farewell to its fans by garnering a whole new crop of Emmy awards, including honors for series regulars Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce and guest star Laura Linney, as well as statuettes for Outstanding Art Direction for a Multi-Camera Series, Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing, and Outstanding Multi-Camera Sound Mixing. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi