Of all the crossover episodes in the history of television, The John Larroquette Show’s odd little Frasier cameo is one of the strangest. These days John Larroquette is best known for his roles on shows like Blood & Treasure, The Librarians and Me, Myself and I. Back in the 80s and 90s, however, Larroquette was known for his four-time Emmy winning turn as prosecutor Dan Fielding on NBC’s long-running legal sitcom Night Court. That led to his very own NBC star vehicle, The John Larroquette Show, which aired for three-and-a-half seasons between 1993 and 1996.
The premise revolved around recovering alcoholic John Hemingway (Larroquette) as he takes a job as the night shift manager at a seedy bus depot in St. Louis, Missouri. Alongside his attempts to stay sober, The John Larroquette Show focused on his interactions with the people he meets on the graveyard shift like secretary Mahalia (Gilmore Girls’ Liz Torres), sandwich bar worker Dexter (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, NCIS: New Orleans) and high-class escort and love interest Carly (Gigi Rice).
Described as a ‘sitcom noir’, The John Larroquette Show was quite atypical at the time and a good deal darker than most of its contemporaries. Its dark tone appealed to critics who lauded the first season, but it didn’t sit so well with audiences and ratings suffered as a result. In an attempt to win over viewers, the tone was lightened over subsequent seasons. The black humor was toned down, the setting was changed from night shift to day shift, Carly gave up escorting to run a bar and John was given a more ‘wholesome’ love interest in the form of nurse Catherine (Alison LaPlaca).
Another attempt to boost ratings came with The John Larroquette Show’s season 3 opener “More Changes” and its Frasier cameo – if it could even really be called a cameo. In the episode, John is having relationship issues with Catherine and speaks to a psychiatrist over the phone at the insistence of his secretary Mahalia. Thinking he’s calling a private practice, John spills his guts and reveals his full name only to realize he’s speaking to Dr. Frasier Crane live on his radio show. Funny right? Except Frasier’s guest appearance was made up of stock footage of Kelsey Grammer so it was only a crossover in the very loosest sense.
The Frasier ‘cameo’ did nothing to improve ratings, unfortunately, and The John Larroquette Show was eventually canceled halfway through its fourth season. It was an odd way to go about it considering the show had proper guests appearances from the likes of comedian Bobcat Goldthwait and Betty White reprising her Golden Girls role. Yet Frasier’s cameo was kind of cheap and haphazard by comparison. While it wasn’t the main reason The John Larroquette Show was canceled, Frasier’s faux guest appearance probably didn’t help.