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Worth watching -- Brendan Frasier on ''Scrubs''

Worth watching — Brendan Frasier on ”Scrubs.” Ken Tucker singles out the ”Mummy” man for his portrayal of a wise guy who gets leukemia

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Brendan Fraser, John C. McGinley, ...
Scrubs: Paul Drinkwater

Worth watching — Brendan Frasier on ”Scrubs”

It was fun to see Glenn Close parody celebrity photographer Annie Leibowitz a couple of weeks ago on ”Will & Grace,” and rather embarrassing to see ”The Carol Burnett Show”’s Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence hobble their way through an episode of the comedically hobbled ”Yes, Dear.” But it took Brendan Fraser’s two-week stint on ”Scrubs” (concluding May 14) to prove that using guest stars during sweeps can actually enhance, rather than disrupt, a show. Fraser (playing the ex-brother-in-law of John C. McGinley’s Dr. Cox) is giving his all as a practical joker who just been told he has leukemia.

Most guest stars trade on their famous personae, doing what amount to extended cameos — they rely on their images to do the work. These past few weeks have been stuffed with stars coasting. Anyone catch Dan Aykroyd on ”According to Jim”? Or, back to ”Scrubs,” the quartet of ”St. Elsewhere” actors that filled up four hospital beds to achieve too few laughs? And did anyone tune in to last week’s ”That ’80s Show” just to see Morgan Fairchild or now-’80s-punchline Deborah/Debbie Gibson? From the Nielsen ratings, it doesn’t look like it.

I must admit, I really enjoyed seeing Carole King perform a small role in last week’s ”Gilmore Girls.” King, who sings the show’s theme song as a duet with her daughter, Louise Goffin, slipped easily into the part of a music-store owner, proving her acting chops while providing some baby-boomer nostalgia that didn’t come off as cloying.

But Brendan Fraser has, with the help of the ace ”Scrubs” writing team, been doing the best sweeps-period acting. His character began the episode as a non-stop wisecracker who is feeling more kindly toward Dr. Cox than he is to Cox’s ex — who happens to be his own sister, played by Christa Miller (”The Drew Carey Show”). Like Michael Douglas on a recent ”Will & Grace,” though, Fraser is using his TV vacation time to expand his range. He shows more emotion in this sitcom than he was permitted to expose in the entirety of, say, ”The Mummy.” There’s no doubt that this was just a lark for Fraser, and a treat for viewers — it’s not as if he’s going to turn his back on feature films and become the male Marcia Gay Harden. (The ”Pollock” Oscar winner not only plunged right into TV on the likely-to-be-canceled ”The Education of Max Bickford,” but is also in a pilot that could conceivably be picked up for next season.) No, Fraser’s a movie star, but he’s also a craftsman who knows he can ply his trade in any medium, if the script is good enough.

Are there any other sweeps cameos you’ve particularly liked or hated?