1994 Fall TV Preview Tuesday
Will Tim Allen's boffo 'Improvement' hammer Kelsey Grammer?
When Kelsey Grammer heard first that NBC was moving his Frasier to Tuesdays to duke it out with Roseanne, then that ABC was switching Roseanne with Home Improvement to really thump Frasier, he was not, he claims, ”annoyed. No, I was startled that, after just one season, we were causing mighty programming – people such consternation.”
*Improvement‘s Tim Allen, on the other hand, says bluntly, ”We resented the change. We’ve worked very hard for this and, why, because we’re starting to enjoy it, do we have to move?” Allen modifies this thought a bit later — ”On the other hand, it’s a compliment. It’s great to be part of a powerful night” — but it is clear that the fall season’s most dizzying programming whirl is causing two of television’s biggest stars some concern.
* Allen is sitting on the top-rated series in prime time, a position that means a lot of moola for his advertisers and for Allen himself when the show airs in syndication in the fall of 1995. ”I happen to be a strategy boy, and it’s a good (network) strategy,” says Allen. ”But personally, I don’t like (the possibility of) losing No. 1 status. If Frasier takes any of our audience, it opens up the top and 60 Minutes could regain it.”
* For Grammer, it’s a source of worry that the momentum of his young show may be hobbled by Home Improvement‘s massive appeal. But once NBC had decided to move Frasier to Tuesday, he didn’t want the network to shift his show yet again to escape Improvement. ”I had a talk with one of the boys upstairs,” he says, ”and said it’s my inclination to keep the show where it is this season no matter what happens. After all this hoopla, let’s not confuse or annoy our audience by moving us again-let’s just stay there and fight it out.” Still, NBC programming honcho Warren Littlefield leaves himself an out: ”Are we locked into Tuesday at nine for the next decade? No. Nothing is contractually or morally bound.”
With an average of 36.3 million weekly viewers versus Frasier‘s 25.9 million, Home Improvement seems to have a lock on the male audience. ”Unlike most sitcoms, it gets men to watch, just like Cheers did,” explains ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert. But it’s also the No. 1 show among women 18 to 49. (”It’s a juggernaut,” says Fox Entertainment chief Sandy Grushow, who had successfully counterprogrammed with Melrose Place on Wednesdays, but now will likely see Fox’s fledgling Tuesday movie night grounded.) Allen himself thinks his show’s secret lies in the word family. ”We’re a family that functions, that love each other, and that work out their problems,” he says. ”People are comfortable with our family and the interplay. And we’re not going to f — – with that.” In keeping with that strategy, you can look forward to meeting Tim Taylor’s mother (uncast as of press time) and brother (William O’Leary) this season.
Grammer also invokes the concept of the clan in discussing what Frasier will be up to this season: ”We’re going to keep the show focused more on our lovely dysfunctional family, and not turn it into WKRP in Cincinnati.” While a chunk of the series will still be set in Frasier’s radio station, Grammer says the emphasis will be on the psychiatrist’s home life: ”Frasier will continue to grow up, to understand his father better, to get closer to his brother, maybe end up in a relationship with a woman.” A woman other than Bebe Neuwirth’s Lilith, that is, but fear not: Lilith will be back for at least one episode.
David Hyde Pierce, who plays Frasier‘s brother, Niles, reveals that the Crane family could get bigger: ”There may be something about Niles wanting to have a baby with Maris.” In addition, says Frasier executive producer David Lee, ”There’s our Feydeau farce episode, where Frasier ends up on a date with his male boss, the station manager.” And there’s the episode that Lee and producing partner Peter Casey are calling the Bridges of Madison County episode, in which, as Lee explains, ”Frasier becomes reunited with his piano teacher, who initiated him into the world of sex when he was 17. But Frasier is 41 now and she’s ” says Casey, ”like 70.”
Anything else? Oh yes, says Casey. ”Eddie’s going to lose his cojones on the show.” What? It seems that poor dog will be neutered after the little devil impregnates a Lhasa Apso in the apartment building. And Tim and Kelsey thought they had problems. –KT and Kate Meyers