Scientologist ‘Cheers’ Star Kirstie Alley Refused to Appear on ‘Frasier’ Because He’s A Psychiatrist
Beyond being a practicing psychiatrist, I’d imagine that Dr. Frasier Crane drew the ire of the Church of Scientology when he stole the slogan of their wiretapping campaign Operation Snow White for his catchphrase: “I’m listening.”
It’s no secret that the Church of Scientology attracts (or actively recruits) actors with dreams of ubiquity. Superstars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta serve as the public-facing figureheads of the controversial religious organization while the actual movers and shakers of the church, such as its head David Miscavige and his definitely-not-missing wife Shelly, use their notable followers’ fabulous fame to attract aspiring celebrities to their restrictive, rule-filled faith. One of the most famous tenets Scientologists hold dear is their fierce opposition to psychology and psychiatry, with the un-disappeared Miscavige once claiming, “A woman is safer in a park at midnight than on a psychiatrist's couch.” Frasier Crane thinks that she’d be even safer with a glass of sherry in her hand and a dashing radio star on her arm.
The late, great Kirstie Alley counted herself among the many celebrities who follow the teachings of Scientology — and, when she learned that her breakout TV show Cheers would have a spin-off focused on the sophisticated psychiatrist who frequented the titular tavern, she made it clear to the showrunners that her church-chosen convictions could not allow her to appear on the new show. Upon the announcement of Frasier, Alley called Cheers writer/producer and Frasier co-creator David Lee to bluntly inform him that Rebecca Howe would not be in his new project. “My response,” Lee reported, “was, ‘I don’t recall asking.'”
Even as Frasier exploded in popularity and, arguably, eclipsed its progenitor’s greatness, Alley and Lee both stuck by their mutual decision to steer clear of each other. The neurotic businesswoman Rebecca Howe was the only main character from Cheers to never appear in Frasier, though her character did earn a lone mention from Sam Malone in the aptly titled Frasier episode “The Show Where Sam Shows Up,” wherein it’s revealed that Rebecca’s husband, plumber Don Santry, left her after she gave up her career to focus on their family. Sam reveals that Rebecca is “back at the bar” — but not to work.
Despite Alley’s decision to abstain from a Frasier cameo, the show’s star and reboot co-creator Kelsey Grammer had nothing but adoration for his once-and-never-again co-star. After Alley passed away last December, Grammer told USA Today, “She was a magnificent person (and gave) a wonderful performance in Cheers. She was remarkable,” adding of his intention to honor her in his new series. “I did say to the writers of this incarnation of Frasier, I said, 'If we find a character that can do what Kirstie Alley did in Cheers, we will be a very lucky group of people.' So it is in the back of our minds.”
So far, there doesn’t seem to be a character in the new Frasier that obviously emulates Rebecca Howe — an omission that is, in all likelihood, the best way the show could have honored the late Alley. Though Scientologists are fond of reincarnation, they’ll still hate psychiatry in their next lives.