|Dr. Lilith Sternin|
|Cheers / Frasier character|
from the Cheers episode "Sisterly Love" (episode 167, 1989)
|First appearance||Cheers: |
"Second Time Around"
(season 4, episode 17)
"The Show Where Lilith Comes Back"
(season 1, episode 16)
|Last appearance||Frasier: |
"Guns N' Neuroses"
(season 11, episode 9)
|Portrayed by||Bebe Neuwirth|
|Family||Betty Sternin (mother)|
Blaine Sternin (half-brother)
|Spouse||Frasier Crane (ex-husband; 1988–1993, re-enacted in 1992)|
Brian Patchett (ex-husband; 1994–1998)
|Children||Frederick Crane (son, with Frasier)|
|Relatives||Martin Crane (ex-father-in-law)|
Niles Crane (ex-brother-in-law)
Lilith Sternin (formerly Sternin-Crane) is a fictional character on the American television sitcoms Cheers and Frasier, portrayed by Bebe Neuwirth. The character first appears as a date for Frasier Crane, though mutual hostility and discomfort causes the evening to end badly. Several months later, Lilith meets Frasier again and, with some help from Frasier's ex-fiancée, Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), they start a romantic relationship, eventually living together, marrying, and having a son, Frederick.
In the final season of Cheers, Lilith has an affair with another man and leaves Frasier. The affair later unravels and Lilith returns, seeking reconciliation with Frasier. Although Cheers ended ambiguously with regard to Frasier and Lilith's marriage, at the beginning of the spin-off series Frasier, their divorce had been finalized, with Lilith gaining custody of Frederick and remaining in Boston while Frasier has moved back to his hometown of Seattle. Lilith occasionally appears in Frasier, sometimes with Frederick.
Role in Cheers
Lilith first appears in the Cheers episode, "Second Time Around" (1986), as Frasier Crane's (Kelsey Grammer) date. In the episode, their first date does not go well. Lilith walks out of the date because she disdains the bar as Frasier's location for their date and Frasier's activities at the bar. In "Abnormal Psychology" (1986), they feel mutual attraction again when he becomes accustomed to her makeover, done by Diane Chambers. At first reluctant to start over again, they then decide to go for another date. For years they live together since, as first shown in "Dinner at Eight-ish" (1987). "Our Hourly Bread" (1988) reveals that they wed one month before the episode. (In "Smotherly Love" (1992), they re-enact their wedding to please Lilith's mother Betty (Marilyn Cooper), who was irritated that she had not been present for their marriage.) In "The Stork Brings a Crane" (1989), Lilith gives birth to Frederick during the taxi ride home after false labor in the hospital.
The tenth-season Cheers episode "I'm Okay, You're Defective" (1991) features two plots: one subplot about Lilith pressuring Frasier to finalize his will and one main plot about Sam Malone's concern that his sperm count may be low. The episode's epilogue is described as "Many years later" with an elderly Lilith and adult Frederick (Rob Neukirch) sitting for the reading of Frasier's will. The lawyer opens the sealed envelope and is surprised to find Sam's sperm count report, which turns out stable. In response to the mix-up, Lilith bitterly remarks, "That damn bar."
In the eleventh and final season (1992–93), in "Teaching with the Enemy" (1992), Lilith admits her affair with another man – Dr. Louis Pascal (Peter Vogt). In "The Girl in the Plastic Bubble" (1992), Lilith leaves Frasier, with him contemplating suicide until she promises to him that the marriage can be saved, to live with Pascal in Pascal's experimental underground eco-pod. In "Is There a Doctor in the Howe?" (1993), a depressed Frasier almost has sex with Rebecca Howe in their bed until Lilith unexpectedly returns. In the following episode, "The Bar Manager, The Shrink, His Wife and Her Lover" (1993), Lilith storms out of the room to go to Cheers, demanding the others tell her how long Frasier and Rebecca have been having an affair. The other characters have no idea as the affair has barely started that very evening. Lilith reveals that the eco-pod experiment with Pascal was a disaster — Pascal turned out to be claustrophobic, among other mental problems — and she abandons the project to return to Boston. Frasier and Rebecca, and eventually Pascal, converge on Cheers in pursuit of Lilith. Pascal, armed with a pistol, demands Lilith return to him, threatening to shoot Frasier and the others. Lilith demands that he shoot her first, which causes him to back down and surrender to police. Although Frasier initially refuses to take Lilith back, her pathetic sobbing wins him over, suggesting a reconciliation can occur.
Role in Frasier
In the spin-off Frasier, however, Lilith and Frasier turn out to have been divorced. Furthermore, Lilith has custody of Frederick. In the opening scene of the 1993 pilot episode of Frasier ("The Good Son"), Frasier is hosting his call-in radio show and relates the following:
Six months ago, I was living in Boston. My wife had left me, which was very painful. Then she came back to me, which was excruciating. ... so I ended the marriage once and for all, packed up my things, and moved back here to my home town of Seattle.
Actress Bebe Neuwirth reprises the role, Lilith, in several episodes of Frasier. In her debut Frasier episode, "The Show Where Lilith Comes Back" (1994), Lilith calls Frasier during his radio show, which surprises him, and mocks Frasier's psychiatric advice to his callers, especially one who overeats and whom Lilith attempts to help. Later at his apartment, Lilith reminds him about their times together during marriage. They make love at one point, but end up regretting it, strongly indicating no chance of a lasting reconciliation. Throughout the series, Lilith reappears on occasion, often rekindling hers and Frasier's lingering emotional bond, sometimes over concern about the future of Frederick (Trevor Einhorn), who also made recurring appearances.
A running gag through Frasier is that Frasier's father and brother, Martin Crane (John Mahoney) and Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce), are never pleased to see Lilith. Martin finds her "weird" and usually shouts out in shock when he unexpectedly sees her in his and Frasier's apartment. Niles resents her for mocking the vows at his wedding, but forgives her when she apologizes. Lilith's presence frightens Martin's dog Eddie, terrifying the normally defiant dog into obedience. Martin's live-in physical therapist, Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves), who fancies herself as having minor psychic abilities, routinely suffers debilitating headaches when Lilith is in town, citing an evil spiritual presence.
Lilith marries her fiancé Brian (James Morrison), an MIT seismologist who appears in only one episode "Adventures in Paradise, Part Two" (1994). The later episode "Room Service" (1998) reveals that Lilith is recently divorced from Brian after he came out of the closet.
Her final Frasier episode is "Guns 'N Neuroses" (2003), where Lilith's colleague Nancy (Christine Dunford), sets Frasier up on a blind date with Lilith, having no idea of their mutual history. However, the two meet up for a drink while Lilith is in Seattle and, when it overruns, they both end up cancelling on the blind date (never learning they had been set up with each other) and, when the two are interrupted by a loud argument between a young married couple in the next room, Frasier and Lilith successfully resolve the couple's dispute, then spend the night together watching television and finally falling asleep together on the couch. The next morning, they part ways as loving friends without restarting their romance.
Creation and development
A stereotypical "intelligent ice queen" Lilith Sternin was supposed to appear in one episode of the fourth season of Cheers, "Second Time Around" (1986). However, she was brought back in the fifth season and became a recurring character thereafter. Over the years, like Diane Chambers, an educated Lilith is often mocked yet "manages to put people in their place."
Cheers and Frasier writers Ken Levine and David Isaacs found the chemistry of Frasier and Lilith "special" enough to compare them with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy mixed with "Prozac" and to comfortably write stories about. Nevertheless, Neuwirth viewed this role as detrimental to her acting talents and career, which motivated her into quitting Cheers in favor of mostly Broadway. However, she still recurringly appeared as Lilith in the spin-off Frasier.
I find Lilith very innocent, very sweet, very naïve. She's socially inept. She has no idea how to react with other people. She's shy and uncomfortable with people. She's a scientist, she's very analytical, she's very honest. And she loves her husband [Frasier] very, very much. ... And she loves her child Frederick, too.— Bebe Neuwirth, The Associated Press, May 1992
The Frasier episode "Wheels of Fortune" (2002) reveals that Lilith has a half-brother, Blaine (Michael Keaton), whom Frasier despises due to Blaine's relentless swindling.
According to an April 1–4, 1993, telephone survey of 1,011 people by the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press (now Pew Research Center), before the Frasier premiere and the Cheers finale, Sam Malone (Ted Danson) was voted a favorite character by 26 percent, and Frasier Crane and Lilith Sternin were voted favorites by 1 percent each. In response to a question of spinning off a character, 15 percent voted Sam, 12 percent voted Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson), 10 percent voted Norm Peterson (George Wendt), and 29 percent voted no spin-offs. Frasier Crane, whose own spin-off Frasier debuted in September 1993, was voted 2 percent to have his own show.
Bill Simmons, who at the time worked for ESPN, deemed Lilith Sternin as one of his least favorite characters of Cheers. Nevertheless, Martha Nolan from The New York Times called Frasier and Lilith "repressed" when married together in Cheers. Josh Bell from About.com called Frasier and his ex-wife Lilith Sternin one of the "best sitcom divorced couples" of all-time.
Steven H. Scheuer from Sarasota Herald-Tribune considered Lilith's significance to and marriage with Frasier "fun" to watch, especially when, in "Severe Crane Damage" (1990), she used comparisons between "the duller good boy" Frasier and "the interesting bad boy" Sam Malone as "psychiatric examples of the good boy-bad boy syndrome". Faye Zuckerman and John Martin from The New York Times called their marriage in Cheers a hilariously "[perfect mismatch]". Television critic Kevin McDonough from New York praised Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth's performances as "repressed individuals" and "separate couple on TV" with "acidic and hilarious" chemistry together.
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