|Dr. Lilith Sternin|
|Cheers and Frasier character|
Bebe Neuwirth as Dr. Lilith Sternin
"Second Time Around"
(season 4, episode 17)
"Guns N' Neuroses"
(season 11, episode 9)
|Portrayed by||Bebe Neuwirth|
|Family||Betty Sternin (mother)
Blaine Sternin (half-brother)
|Spouse(s)||Frasier Crane (ex-husband; 1988–1993, re-enacted in 1992)
Brian (ex-husband; 1994–1998)
|Significant other(s)||Dr. Louis Pascal (lover)|
|Children||Frederick Crane (son, with Frasier)|
|Relatives||Martin Crane (ex-father-in-law)
Niles Crane (ex-brother-in-law)
Lilith Sternin, M.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., A.P.A. (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.
Creation and development
A stereotypical "intelligent, ice queen" Lilith Sternin was supposed to appear in one episode of the fourth season, "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 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. This role earned Neuwirth two Emmy Awards as an Outstanding Supporting Actress in 1990 and 1991
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.
In her first episode "Second Time Around" (1986), Lilith's date with Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) does not go well. Lilith disdains Frasier's activities at the bar and the bar itself. Frasier responds to her hostility with some of his own, leading her to walk away. 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 "How to Win Friends and Electrocute People" (1988), Lilith decides to learn to drive. Sam attempts to give her driving lessons, but quickly learns that she is aggressive and dangerous behind the wheel, showing a recklessness that Sam and eventually Frasier find frightening.
In "The Stork Brings a Crane" (1989), Lilith gives birth to Frederick during the taxi ride home after false labor in the hospital, tolerating the pain by biting down on one of the driver's fuzzy dice. In "For Real Men Only", Frederick has a bris on the pool table at Cheers, and Lilith is revealed as Jewish. In Frasier, Frederick has been raised Jewish.
In Wings episode "Trains, Planes, and Visiting Cranes" (1992), Lilith and Frasier visit Nantucket to host a self-esteem seminar and put their son Frederick under the nanny Dagmar's care. At the airport, they meet Helen (Crystal Bernard), who wants a refund from him because one of his earlier seminars was no help to her. Frasier has a no-refund policy, but on Lilith's persistence, invites Helen to attend his upcoming seminar without charge. Later, the seminar is disrupted by Helen's behavior. After unsuccessful attempts to calm down attendees, Frasier loses control and lashes out at them. Realizing his mistake, he reverses his policy and offers refunds.
Final years in Cheers
On 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), Frasier threatens suicide, but though Lilith swears that she will not leave him for Pascal and their marriage can be saved, this promise evaporates when she learns Frasier's threat had not been a serious one. Lilith leaves him to live with Pascal in Pascal's experimental underground eco-pod, based loosely on the real-life Biosphere 2.
In "Is There a Doctor in the Howe?" (1993), a distraught Frasier is drawn to Rebecca Howe. At the end of the episode, they are in Frasier's bed about to have sex when Lilith unexpectedly returns. In the following episode "The Bar Manager, The Shrink, His Wife and Her Lover" (1993), Lilith storms out the room to go to Cheers, demanding the others tell her how long Frasier and Rebecca have been having an affair. The other characters had no idea, as the affair had 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 abandoned 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 after all this, her pathetic sobbing wins him over, suggesting a reconciliation can occur.
"Many years later" scene
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 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."
Lilith has child custody of Frederick, and reconnects with Frasier in "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 at a lasting reconciliation. Throughout the series, Lilith reappears on occasion, often rekindling her 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 her. 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. Niles and Lilith even have a sexual encounter, which further aggravates her relationship with Frasier, who had thought until then that he and Lilith had a chance at reconnecting. 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.
In "Adventures in Paradise, Part Two" (1994), Lilith's fiancé Brian (James Morrison) an MIT seismologist, is introduced. The later episode "Room Service" (1998) reveals that Lilith is recently divorced from Brian after he came out of the closet. She and Niles, also recently divorced from his wife Maris, become drunk and then make love in her hotel room. They feel major regret the following morning, especially when Frasier, not knowing of the encounter, arrives with the belief that he and Lilith can reconcile, only to be shattered and angry when he learns the truth.
In "Lilith Needs a Favor" (2003), Lilith wants a baby and begs Frasier to donate his sperm so Fredrick will have a full sibling, but Frasier turns her down to avoid re-creating the past. She ends up flirting with a similarly pale and dry-witted physicist named Albert (Brent Spiner). The results of this encounter, if any, are unknown.
Her final appearance
In her final Frasier episode, "Guns 'N Neuroses" (2003), 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.
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. For 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. Lance Mannion in his Typepad blog depicted Lilith and Frasier as re-created separate halves of "[snobbish]", self-serving Diane Chambers.
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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