Niles Crane

Niles Crane
Niles Crane
Dr niles crane.jpg
First appearance "The Good Son"
Last appearance "Goodnight, Seattle"
Portrayed by David Hyde Pierce[1]
Occupation Psychiatrist
Family Martin Crane
Hester Crane
(mother; deceased)
Frasier Crane
Ronee Lawrence
Spouse(s) Maris Crane
Mel Karnofsky
Daphne Moon
Children David Crane
(son; by Daphne)

Niles Crane, M.D.,[2] Ph.D., A.P.A. (born 1957) is a fictional character on the American sitcom Frasier, a spin-off of the popular show Cheers. He was portrayed by David Hyde Pierce. Niles is the younger brother of Dr. Frasier Crane, the son of Det. Martin Crane and Dr. Hester Crane, husband of Daphne Moon, ex-husband of Maris Crane and Dr. Melinda Karnofsky, former brother-in-law to Nanette Guzman and Dr. Lilith Sternin, and uncle to Frederick Crane.

While it had originally been intended that Frasier be an only child, Pierce was hired because Frasier producers saw his headshot and commented on how much he looked like a young Kelsey Grammer. Unlike Frasier, part of whose background comes from Cheers, Niles' background is established over the course of Frasier.[3]

Pierce described Niles as "what Frasier would be if he had never gone to Boston and never been exposed to the people at Cheers."[4] In "The Show Where Sam Shows Up" Sam said to Frasier, "He looks just like you did when I first met you." In "Cheerful Goodbyes" Carla, Cliff, and Norm all remark on how Niles resembled Frasier from when they first met him.



Niles was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1957, to Hester Crane, a psychiatrist, and Martin Crane, a police officer. Like his older brother Frasier, Niles was named for one of his mother's lab rats.[5] Also like Frasier, Niles was an unusually sensitive child and a frequent target for bullies. As a result he was quite close to his older brother, and at the same time fiercely competitive with him. Like Frasier, Niles preferred fine arts, music, and intellectual pursuits to physical activities like sports. He was also an established philanthropist.

After attending the private Bryce Academy with Frasier, Niles' success in school led to matriculation at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut[6] as an undergraduate, where he was a member of the selective Phi Beta Kappa Society,[7] and studied for a year[8] at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England as a graduate student.[9]

Niles describes his profession as "the saving grace of my life".[10] He has a Jungian practice, and specializes in marriage and family therapy.[11] (While substituting for his brother on the radio, he announces "While Frasier is a Freudian, I am a Jungian. So there'll be no blaming mother today!")[12] Niles is an authority on clinical psychosis,[13] has had his research published in several psychiatric journals, serves on the board of the American Psychiatric Association, and four of his clients have been elected to political office.[14]

Niles often compares his own career to that of his brother, and early in Frasier's career as a talk show host makes frequent jokes about the "fast-food approach to psychiatry" that Frasier practices through his radio show. Niles sometimes admits, however, that he envies how his "big shot radio host"[14] brother is well-known,[13] his face appears on "the side of buses", and he helps many "people who need it",[15] while no one appreciates his own work.


Uh, I'd like a, a petite filet mignon, very lean; not so lean that it lacks flavor, but not so fat that it leaves drippings on the plate. And I don't want it cooked. Just lightly seared on either side, pink in the middle; not true pink, but not a mauve either, something in between. Bearing in mind, the slightest error either way, and it's ruined.
— Niles to waitress[8]

Niles, like Frasier, is fastidious, snobby and fussy, has gourmet tastes, and was described by a professional interviewer by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as Obsessive-compulsive.[16] He frequently wears Double breasted suits and suspenders rather than single breasted which Frasier often wears. Although Frasier also plays the piano, when they make music together Niles plays while Frasier sings.[17] He is an admirer of the fine arts including opera, theatre, and classical music, drinks fine wine and enjoys French food which he himself cooks, and frequently obsesses about knowing the right people and climbing the social ladder. At the cafe he frequents with Frasier and other friends and family members, Niles' usual is a latte with a "whisper" of cinnamon,[18] and occasionally chocolate shavings or nutmeg. However he says at one point that nutmeg "inflames my stomach lining". According to Daphne he "would eat a worm if it had a French name", and Frasier comments, "I'm a teamster compared to you!"[19]

Also like his brother, Niles is very intelligent. His IQ is 156, well over the Mensa threshold.[10] Unlike Frasier, Niles has a long list of phobias and medical conditions, many of which are clearly psychosomatic. Most prominently, he is quite mysophobic, given to wiping his hands after human contact and wiping down chairs in public places before sitting on them, it is revealed in one episode that the root of this is a babysitter who told him scary stories about insects that would crawl in through his ears and eat his brains, and lay their eggs on furniture. (When he tells this and other contamination horror stories to a group of third-graders, they think he is wonderful for knowing such "cool" facts.) He has nose bleeds when he tells a direct lie, and he faints at the sight of his own blood.[20] When extremely stressed, Niles is prone to panic attacks and fits of hyperventilation. On more than one occasion, he's fainted. His divorce from Maris causes stress-induced narcolepsy.[21] He also suffers from a long list of allergies, some exceedingly rare.

Physically weak and very uncoordinated, Niles is seemingly hopeless at sports and videogames,[2] barely able to catch objects even after simple throws (unless Daphne, or occasionally Martin, is doing the throwing; then he is remarkably nimble). However, in some episodes he is shown to be fair at basketball. On one occasion, while attending a basketball game, he is fortuitously invited on court during the game's intermission to try his skill (or luck) at scoring from half court, and much to the astonishment of his brother and father (and himself), Niles makes the impossible throw (Earning himself the temporary moniker of "Half-court Crane"). The brothers are often seen coming or going to squash matches, though Martin once commented in disbelief, "You have to wonder what happens on that squash court." Accompanying Martin on the shooting range one day, Niles discovered that he is an excellent marksman. He is a fair fencer, and has had some lessons in kickboxing. On other occasions he has expressed interest in lifting weights and taking karate lessons, but these ventures are typically laughed at by his father and brother and often amount to nothing. He is also a master speller, having come close to winning the national spelling competition as a youth[22] and spell-checking the graffiti in a bathroom stall at a local coffee bar with a red marker.

When Niles suffers a walking heart attack he is not aware of it for several days, because he experiences referred pain and believes he has a toothache. After a dental checkup finds nothing wrong Frasier's producer Roz Doyle tells him that it is probably a sinus infection, but he knows that there is a one-in-ten-thousand chance it is his heart. When a number of extremely unlikely events occur to or around him, he consults a doctor[23] and immediately enters a hospital for surgery.[24]

Niles drives a Mercedes-Benz E320[25][26] with the license plate 5HR1NK, while Frasier drives BMW models.[18][27] The brothers share political views that differ from their father's.[28]

Role in the series

Niles is Frasier's constant companion and rival. The tensions between the brothers began during childhood; Frasier resented the younger Niles distracting their mother from paying attention to him, and Niles disliked the older Frasier reaching career and life milestones first.[14] Nonetheless, they meet every day at Cafe Nervosa, where they discuss their lives and various other topics. Niles and Frasier often collaborate on projects, which frequently and comically lead to complete disaster. Some examples are the book—ironically, about sibling rivalry—that they attempt to write,[14] the restaurant they purchase and attempt to transform into an exclusive eatery,[29] and Frasier's brief period in private practice next door to Niles' office.[30]

His romantic life is another area explored throughout the series, and it is tragically plagued with grief and misfortune.[31]

Niles' first wife is Maris, the selfish, haughty, highly-strung, anorexic, and unstable daughter of a wealthy Seattle family, who is never seen on the show, despite being referred to frequently. Maris demonstrates her extremely paranoid and controlling nature throughout the series. Her lack of respect and affection for Niles leads to separation, followed by serving Niles with divorce papers as a bluff; when Niles signed them she was shaken and agreed to couples counseling.[5] However, after appearing to make progress, Niles discovers Maris has begun an affair with their couples' therapist, Dr. Shenkman, ultimately leading to him making the second and final decision for divorce. Maris attempts to reconcile with him by sending him expensive gifts, but Niles remains steadfast in his decision for divorce and Maris responds by shredding their financial settlement document - she turns it into the wrapping paper for her final gift to Niles - a five-cent piece in a jeweler's box along with the poem 'Roses are red, your heart is fickle, when I'm through with you, all you'll have is this nickel' - and proceeds to nearly bankrupt Niles. He is forced to sublet his suite at the Montana and move into the low-rent Shangri-La; while it is far below his usual standard of living, he realizes this is the initial price to pay for being free of Maris and it's worth the sacrifice. After hiring laid-back Donny Douglas to end the bitter, drawn-out process, she finally agrees on a settlement when he threatens to expose that her family's wealth is not in timber lands but in urinal cakes. A running gag involves Niles speaking affectionately about Maris, despite her poor treatment of him.

After a period of dating, Niles becomes involved with Mel Karnofsky, Maris' plastic surgeon; despite being more compatible than his ex-wife, Frasier nonetheless can see Mel's true colours in her subtle yet masterful manipulation of Niles' affections towards her. After dating less than six months the two elope, but the marriage falls apart after only two days when Niles confesses his love for Daphne Moon, his father's physical therapist, to whom he had been secretly attracted throughout the series' first seven seasons. His confession occurs the night before her wedding to Niles' divorce lawyer Donny Douglas. The relationship spawns a huge ordeal, prompting Donny to respond by suing both Daphne and Frasier, while Mel forces Niles to participate in a prolonged charade of a happy marriage for the sake of appearances, until he finally loses his temper and shouts out the truth during an important dinner party - that his marriage to Mel was a sham and he refuses to put Daphne through the torture of hiding their love any longer.

Niles' most significant relationship on the show is with Daphne, perhaps an unlikely attraction given the significant differences in their tastes, temperament and social standing (he once referred to her as a "working-class Venus"). His infatuation for her begins the moment they meet.[8] For numerous reasons during the first six seasons of the show, however, Niles is unable to confess his feelings for Daphne, who remains unaware of his love for her (despite her professed psychic abilities).

Curiously enough, although Niles is a Jungian therapist, he shows no inclination to incorporate the paranormal into his personal belief system. He does not believe that Daphne is clairvoyant; a true Jungian would, taking the collective unconscious into consideration. In an eighth-season episode,[32] Daphne actually has her psychic powers evaluated. Once Niles hears her explain how she came to believe she was psychic, he understands that she needs to believe it, and he asks not to know the test results.

Niles' feelings for Daphne are the basis for many gags on the show, including the numerous ways he demonstrates how besotted he is with her (such as being entranced by the smell of her hair or staring at her rear end when she bends over), but develops over the course of the series into an important plot line. Pierce engaged in innumerable bits of nearly unnoticeable stage business, displaying Niles' almost trance-like attraction to Daphne even when audience focus of attention is not on the pair.

After Niles and Daphne became engaged, this high degree of infatuation was used to incorporate Jane Leeves' real-life pregnancy and weight gain. Daphne felt pressured to live up to the 'perfect' image Niles had imagined; she responded by overeating and gained sixty pounds. Jane's maternity leave was written into the show in an arc where Daphne reached her breaking point and realized she needed help for her weight problems, so the Crane boys send her to a health spa where she can lose weight and receive counseling (an in-joke in the season 8 episode 'It Takes Two to Tangle' had Niles quipping "she's already lost 9 pounds and 12 ounces," the birth weight of Jane's baby girl Isabella).

Niles is frequently jealous of Daphne's boyfriends (and even his own nephew, Frederick, who nurses a crush on Daphne as a pre-adolescent). Niles does tell Frasier repeatedly that he is over Daphne when she accepts Donny Douglas' proposal of marriage, and proceeds to marry Mel in a kind of rebound, but admits that he still loves Daphne when on the eve of her wedding, Frasier tells him that Daphne knows of Niles' feelings and reciprocates them. When the two do attempt a relationship, they must reconcile their many lifestyle differences. Fortunately, in the end the couple finds compatibility, and many of Niles' nervous eccentricities diminish as he finally manages to maintain a stable relationship.

Ultimately Niles and Daphne are together 1 year before Niles proposes in the 9th season. The two end up getting married in Reno, Nevada at the end of season 9, after Niles tries to reconcile Daphne's mother and father. His plan ends in failure, leaving Daphne in doubt about married life, since her mother and father's marriage ended after 40 years together. However, Daphne's father reveals that no matter how many times he tried to get rid of Niles from his pub, Niles kept coming back until he finally agreed to come back to America with him all in an effort to make Daphne happy; an extreme act of love that he himself (Daphne's father) never did for her mother. With the sudden realization that Niles' love runs so deep that when he says he'd do anything for her, he literally means it, Daphne goes over to Niles apartment in the spur of the moment and demands he marries her right then and there stating the reason "Because you'd do anything, even put up with my insane family to make me happy. Because you traveled half way around the world to make my dreams come true, even the impossible ones. And because I can't spend one more second without being your wife Niles Crane, because I adore you." The two then left in the night to go and find a place to wed. The series ends two years into their marriage with the birth of their son, David, who is born at a veterinary clinic. However later in the future, the two will have daughter (as is revealed in the season 10 episode "Room With A View") and have a long happy marriage.[24]

Niles' last line in the series is "I'll miss the coffees."


  1. ^ Shales, Tom (1996-04-06). "Pierce Doesn't Even Like Niles Crane". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  2. ^ a b "The Apparent Trap"
  3. ^ "David Hyde Pierce: From mind games to Molière...". Independent (London). 2010-07-19. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  4. ^ Gates, Anita. "Yes, America Has a Class System. See 'Frasier.'" The New York Times, 19 April 1998.
  5. ^ a b "Are You Being Served?"
  6. ^ David Hyde Pierce also attended Yale.
  7. ^ You Can't Tell a Crook by His Cover
  8. ^ a b c "Dinner at Eight"
  9. ^ Branch, Mark Alden. "The Ten Greatest Yalies Who Never Were" Yale Alumni Magazine, February 2003.
  10. ^ a b "IQ"
  11. ^ "Some Assembly Required"
  12. ^ "Frasier Crane's Day Off"
  13. ^ a b "Crane vs. Crane"
  14. ^ a b c d "Author, Author"
  15. ^ "Morning Becomes Entertainment"
  16. ^ McFarland, Melanie. "Local professionals weigh in on 'Frasier'", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 13, 2004. Accessed October 9, 2008. "Niles basically has obsessive-compulsive disorder, Walker said. He can't leave anything alone. Remember the episode where he tries to iron his pants and ends up setting the couch on fire?"
  17. ^ "Martin Does It His Way"
  18. ^ a b "Police Story"
  19. ^ Retirement Is Murder"
  20. ^ and only his own, presumably, as he successfully completed medical school and would have had to deal with the sight of others' blood hundreds of times.
  21. ^ "Room Service"
  22. ^ "War of the Words"
  23. ^ "Bristle While You Work"
  24. ^ a b "Rooms With A View"
  25. ^ "The Crucible"
  26. ^ "Seat of Power"
  27. ^ "Semi-Decent Proposal"
  28. ^ "The Candidate"
  29. ^ "The Innkeepers"
  30. ^ "Shrink Rap"
  31. ^ Lesser, Wendy (2000-11-26). "TELEVISION/RADIO; Couples Who Aren't (or Who Shouldn't Be)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 
  32. ^ "The Wizard and Roz"

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