What would “Frasier” be without Roz?
Sure, the satirically snobby Seattle-based “Cheers” spin-off was centered on radio psychologist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) and his fraught relationships with his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and father Martin (John Mahoney) while self-sabotaging his hopeless romantic pursuits. Yet the crux of the series, its most necessary foil, came from Frasier’s radio producer Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) who did not hesitate to mock Frasier’s out-of-touch privilege and many misfires.
The announcement that Peri Gilpin is reprising her role as Roz for one episode in the “Frasier” Paramount+ revival ignites a surge of hope for a spinoff that’s otherwise without most of the original core cast.
The best parts of “Frasier” are its women, and that needs to be recognized in the present day, especially since it actually was at the time of its first airing. While current shows like “The Idol” are rumored to be shying away from the “female perspective,” “Frasier” embraced the hilarity of gender politics and satirical sexual encounters with an ahead-of-its-time attitude. Roz’s presence is key to both the gender representation in the series and its dynamic as a whole. She is the audience insert, a relatable voice of reason that grounds the series as its own moral compass.
Niles’ estranged wife Maris is never seen, with her elusive physical ailments compounding each season. Frasier’s ice queen ex-wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) is an underutilized gem of the series in her own right; however her inclusion in the show hinges on Frasier’s love life and their shared son Frederick. (Neuwirth will also be reprising the character in the revival.)
Martin’s physical therapist Daphne (Jane Leeves) is the object of Niles’ lust while her role in the Crane family dynamic is due to her employment and living with Martin as his in-home caregiver.
Roz is the only female lead that stands on her own plot-wise, and for good reason. A sex-positive career woman, Roz doesn’t need to be employed by a Crane man or date one. Sure, she does hook up with Frasier in one later episode but she’s technically his boss and even gets promoted to station manager in the series finale.
Roz doesn’t shy away from mocking Frasier’s bumbling attempts to find love and she constantly outwits both Frasier and Niles under the guise of her “street smarts” undercutting their idealized ivory tower view of the world. And while she gets plenty of flack from Niles for her own sex life, that also provides a sense of timeless commentary on the autonomy and empowerment of women.
So, what propels Roz among the icons of feminist ’90s TV?
Aside from her scene-stealing quips across the course of the series, Roz’s fully-realized character opens up about heartbreak, dating across socioeconomic levels, class struggles, and even becoming a single parent after contemplating not keeping the baby. Roz is the daughter of the Attorney General of Wisconsin and implies she has an uncomfortable relationship with her own family. She frequently uses sarcasm to undercut her own insecurities or deprecate herself. Her own search for love, albeit approached in a different way than Frasier’s, yields the same results: The duo are both educated singles trying to find someone to match their level. Frasier understands this about Roz, and it’s high time audiences do too.
Roz’s role in the TV landscape at the time was the NBC network equivalent to HBO’s complicated heroines like Carrie Bradshaw, with “Sex and the City” overlapping with “Frasier” from 1998 to 2004. Even dashes of Charmaine Bucco from “The Sopranos” can be found in Roz’s sensibilities as a fast-talking, no-nonsense radio executive.
The trope of a female producer traces back to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970), and rom-com films “Bridget Jones’ Diary” (2001) and “Someone Like You” (2001) would take up the mantle. As one of the few women at the radio station, Roz is the token voice in the workplace for feminist politics and perspectives, and better yet, she’s Frasier’s equal in more ways than one.
Roz’s return to “Frasier” marks what would hopefully is a resurgence of fandom for the iconic character, and a reminder of the impact of the character’s mark on TV. Let’s just hope Roz is not an accessory in the revival, with TV backtracking decades later for a slog on the legacy of an acclaimed, smart series.