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Why switching ''Frasier'' to Tuesdays is a shrewd move

The best part, says Ken Tucker, is that Must See TV will now include the wonderful ”Will & Grace”

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Why switching ”Frasier” to Tuesdays is a shrewd move

The prospect of a Thursday-less ”Frasier,” after two post-”Seinfeld” seasons during which Kelsey Grammer and company were the sturdy tent-pole of NBC’s increasingly dowdy circus of entertainment, isn’t nearly as dismaying as is the announcement of another season of ”Daddio.” Let’s face it, the often excellent ”Frasier” has become a slave to its own plot devices.

You know the ones: Radio personality Dr. Crane banters with Roz about being a slut; Frasier’s dad does something vulgar that embarrasses our hero and his brother, Niles; Niles and Daphne… oh, you know what they NEVER do, but of course NBC is promoting the hell out of Thursday’s season ender by implying for the umpteenth time that the couple REALLY, REALLY WILL profess their love for each other THIS time.

This has even been a very good season of ”Frasier,” as far as both the jokes and the acting are concerned. The patter is snappy, and it’s truly a wonder that both Grammer and David Hyde Pierce as Niles manage to find endless permutations of witty fussiness. But I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that, had I not looked at a bunch of recent episodes to write this piece, I wouldn’t have been aware of its continued quality, because that silly Niles-Daphne subplot has driven me away. Usually, I watch ”Friends,” I watch ”ER,” and I spend the intervening 90 minutes goofing around with my family.

However, with ”Will & Grace” flip-flopping time periods and ”Frasier” moving to Tuesdays, that will change. I don’t think I’ve missed an episode of ”Will & Grace” all season — aside from the show being good, you almost can’t help it, since NBC repeats the heck out of this NBC owned series (a miscalculated potential viewer turn-off). Under the continuing direction of the shrewd James Burrows — a crowd-pleaser who knows the value of subtlety — ”W&G” has become a first-rate show for both verbal and physical comedy. It’s so across-the-board amusing, my 10 year old laughs at it as much as anyone else in the family, and she doesn’t even get any of the gay-themed yuks that gild this hearty lily.

Right now, ”W&G” has a little bit of everything: The relationship between gay Will (Eric McCormack) and straight Grace (Debra Messing) is hilarious, emotionally complicated, and rings true; the campy, complementary supporting characters of Jack (the endlessly inventive Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) manage to bust your gut as you think, They’re getting away with stuff that Ellen DeGeneres and the final, fascinatingly pro-gay seasons of ”Roseanne” never did, and they’re getting big ratings to boot.

Still, moving ”Will & Grace” to Thursdays at 9 is a risk for NBC; although ”Frasier”’s ratings dropped a bit over the past season, it’s still got a large, loyal audience. But giving ”Will & Grace” that time slot also rewards a young show that’s only getting better. I’ll be back in front of the set Thursdays at 9 again come the fall.