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Is ''Frasier'' on the way out?

Is ”Frasier” on the way out? With ratings low and costs high, the show may join fellow NBC cornerstone ”Friends” in rerun heaven next year

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Kelsey Grammer
Kelsey Grammer: Chris Haston

Has radio psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane sipped his last latte and counseled his last listener? According to Variety, insiders at both NBC and Paramount Television, which produces ”Frasier,” are saying that neither party is likely to renew the series’ licensing deal after it expires in May 2004. That means that NBC will lose both of its cornerstone comedies next season, as network entertainment president Jeff Zucker has confirmed that the recently renewed ”Friends” will end in 2004 as well.

Blame ratings and expenses. While ”Frasier” remains a top 20 show, its ratings have slipped, particularly with the weak new ”In-Laws” as its Tuesday night lead-in. Also, ”Frasier” costs NBC roughly $5.2 million an episode. According to Variety, NBC would prefer to shrink that licensing fee, given the show’s decreased audience, but Paramount is unlikely to accept a smaller fee on a show that’s so expensive to produce. Much of Paramount’s cost comes from the Crane brothers; Kelsey Grammer is TV’s highest-paid actor, earning a reported $1.6 million per episode, while David Hyde Pierce reportedly earns between $750,000 and $1 million per episode.

If ”Frasier” leaves the air in 2004, Grammer will have played the character for 20 years, and his ”Cheers” spinoff will have matched the original show in longevity (11 seasons). ”Frasier” has also won arecord 30 Emmys. Of course, as ”Friends” fans know, there’s always the possibility of a reprieve.