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What ‘Frasier’ got wrong about Seattle

Lake Chelan is not pronounced “Lake shah-LONN”

The writers on Frasier had kind of a rep for their sloppy inaccuracies. It begins even before the show starts, with Cheers-era Frasier Crane, whose dad was a dead scientist and not an alive cop in Seattle. (The actor who played Martin Crane, John Mahoney, even had a guest role on an episode of Cheers as a piano player, and Frasier somehow doesn’t manage to recognize him as his own father.)

But for Seattleites who were living here when the show was still in production, the geographical inaccuracies were always the most delicious ones. Here’s a certainly incomplete list of what the writers messed up about Seattle and the Northwest in general.

Frasier’s infamous view

The Seattle skyline as pictured from Frasier’s high-rise condo, located in the fictional Elliott Bay Towers somewhere in downtown or Belltown (allegedly), is a scientific impossibility. The angle, with the Space Needle in foreground and the skyscrapers in the background, is from north of downtown Seattle looking south. There are no high-rise condos north of the Space Needle, just one very massive hill, Queen Anne Hill. In order to get the view that he has, Frasier would need to have a ground-level house about halfway up the south slope of Queen Anne Hill. Let’s say, ahem, Queen Anne Avenue and Highland Drive. (The photo was taken with a super duper zoom lens from Kerry Park on Highland Drive.)

To be fair, Frasier does say he lives “on the Counterbalance” in one episode, which is also known as Queen Anne Avenue, so that part would jive with the view—but later episodes contradict this, saying his condo is downtown.

The frozen Space Needle

This was fixed after the first season, but initially, when the Space Needle was shown in the background shots at Frasier’s condo, the elevator was always shown in the same spot: frozen in the middle.

Cafe Nervosa’s location

The Crane brothers’ favorite fancypants coffee shop, Cafe Nervosa, is supposedly located at Third Avenue and Pike Street, which was always funny to imagine back in the day—those two overweening popinjays hanging out at Third and Pike, an area with a seedy enough reputation that the FBI got called in over what the Seattle Police Department called an “open-air drug market.” Now, there actually is a cafe there today, but it’s a Starbucks, and it wasn’t there when the show was in production. Maybe their haunt was supposed to be… inside the Ross Dress for Less? Or the Musicland/Sam Goody that was on that corner in the 1990s?

Fun aside: The inspiration for Cafe Nervosa was rumored to be the gloriously exposed-brick underground cafe at Elliott Bay Book Company, back when it was located inside the Globe Building in Pioneer Square.

Where is the condo located again?

In the episode “Dark Victory,” during a blackout, Martin says that the power is out all over South Seattle, but they’re clearly in Frasier’s condo, which couldn’t be in South Seattle and also have a view like his.

Overselling the Monorail

The characters on the show speak regularly of the Monorail as though it’s some vast, wide-reaching light rail system that goes all over the city, a la the L in Chicago, instead of a one-mile-long airport-grade shuttle that runs between the Space Needle and a mall.

Going the wrong way

Speaking of the Monorail, in “The 1000th Show,” which was filmed on location in Seattle, an electrical problem shutting down the Monorail system, making Dr. Crane late for his “Frasier Crane Day” rally. However, while Frasier and Niles are stuck on the stopped train, another train zooms by in the background. Also, the stopped train they’re stuck on is on the western track, which heads to Westlake Center, but they’d boarded it with the intent of heading to the rally at the Seattle Center, so they were going the wrong way anyhow.

Where are these fancy Seattleites?

Frasier and Niles were always hobnobbing in and among an unrecognizably blue-blooded, East Coast-flavored high society, e.g., their fellow richies were shown in $5,000 designer suits and often even tuxedos. But as we all know, Seattle’s billionaires are much more likely to rock North Face jackets and cargo shorts. (By the way, did you hear that Canlis has dialed back its famously strict dress code in recent years? Guess why.)

That’s not the way the ferry—or the sun—goes

More than once, someone on Frasier would be taking the ferry to work in Seattle, across Puget Sound, and the sun will be seen behind them. But the sun rises in the east, not the west!

That’s not Seattle!

At one point in “Love Bites Dog,” Daphne and Martin visit a shoe store in downtown Seattle and a very tall palm tree can be seen in the distance. (That’s because, like the vast majority of the series, it was filmed in Los Angeles.)

Crossing state lines

In “An Affair to Forget,” Niles says he had to turn around at the Washington/Oregon border because he had fruit in the car, but of course, there is no checkpoint at the Oregon/Washington border. The nearest one is at the California/Oregon border. This mistake could have been made because the show was filmed in LA, so someone may have assumed that the Oregon border checks for fruit all around—when in fact, it’s California that checks for fruit, due to its colossal farming industry and the fear of introducing new kinds of foraging insects.

Lake what now?

Many of the Pacific Northwest’s geographical place names are mangled by the show’s cast—in the same fruit-smuggling scene, Niles pronounces the state name’s as “Ore-uh-GONE”—but perhaps the most flinch-worthy example of this is in “Death Becomes Him,” when Frasier and a doctor’s receptionist discuss when the doctor will be returning from Lake Chelan, both of them pronouncing it “shah-LONN.”

Sorry, we don’t have conditioning

In “Daphne Hates Sherry,” Marty says the heat wave in Seattle will probably cause brownouts, but Seattle doesn’t typically experience brownouts because so few houses and apartment buildings have air conditioning—especially back in 1997, when the episode aired.

What’s your school’s name again?

This one’s a bit of a reach: Niles and Frasier supposedly went to John Adams Junior High, which doesn’t exist in Seattle. It’s mostly worth mentioning just because there almost is! We’ve got a Jane Addams Middle School and an Adams Elementary School, although it wasn’t specified which member of the historical Adams family the latter is named for). Also, it’s referenced several times in various episodes that both Crane brothers attended to Bryce Academy as kids, which has never existed either, at least not in Seattle.

Mercer Island Zoo?

In “The Zoo Story,” Frasier hires an agent named Ben who does pro bono work for the Mercer Island Zoo. There was not in 1998, nor has there ever been, a zoo on Mercer Island.

You have to go to California for that

In “The Dinner Party,” Daphne is planning to go to a soiree at the British Consulate. There is no British Consulate in Seattle, just a government office. Washington State is served by the consulate in San Francisco.

Where’s the rain?

And lastly, although there was a fair bit of drizzle portrayed, especially in the first couple seasons, it was never raining nearly often enough in Frasier’s version of Seattle. At least not enough for my liking, anyhow.

This article initially listed the Cranes being worried about travel between the U.S. and Canada without passports; this would have been a genuine concern for Daphne, who is not a U.S. citizen.

Seattle Center

305 Harrison Street, , WA 98109 Visit Website

Westlake Center

, , WA 98101

Space Needle

400 Broad Street, , WA 98109

Kerry Park

211 West Highland Drive, , WA 98119 Visit Website

Pioneer Square

, , WA 98104