They’ll be there for you. For the May 6 ”Friends” finale, ”they” are viewers, who are expected in such numbers that the show has scored record fees for ad time for a non-Super Bowl show. For the ”Frasier” finale a week later, ”they” are guest stars, who’ve been invited by the bushel to attend the wedding-themed episode.
NBC has kept the plot of the ”Friends” sign-off under wraps, though we suspect it’ll have Joey moving to Los Angeles (where fall’s ”Joey” spinoff will take place), Monica and Chandler moving to the suburbs and celebrating the birth of their soon-to-be-adopted child, and a resolution to the Ross-and-Rachel runaround. Still, despite the lack of suspense, the hour-long episode is expected to draw 40 to 50 million viewers, Reuters reports. As a result, NBC has been able to demand an average of $2 million for each 30 seconds of commercial time. That’s a record for a sitcom, approaching Super Bowl numbers (this year’s game earned $2.3 million per ad slot for CBS) and surpassing the $1.7 million NBC earned for each ad during the ”Seinfeld” finale in 1998. That show drew 76 million viewers, far more than are expected for the ”Friends” farewell, but in the six years since Jerry and pals left the air, a media environment with many more home entertainment options has made it much harder to draw any kind of sizable audience. So advertisers will pay a bigger premium now than they did then for what looks like a sure thing.
The ”Frasier” finale on May 13 isn’t likely to draw such numbers (its weekly audience is about half the size of the ”Friends” audience), though on-screen, the show will be more populous than ever, with many guest actors joining Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves, and Peri Gilpin in the hour-long episode. NBC has also been more generous with plot details. The show will center on the planned nuptials of papa Martin and Ronee (Wendie Malick). After Martin mistakenly books the reception hall for the wrong day, Frasier and Niles take over the wedding planning, but with just days to spare. Meanwhile, expectant mom Daphne gets a visit from her brothers. ”Without a Trace” star Anthony La Paglia will return in his Emmy-winning role as Daphne’s brother Simon, and he’ll bring along two brothers we haven’t met yet, played by ”Harry Potter” star Robbie Coltrane and ”Gosford Park”’s Richard E. Grant. Also along for the ride are Laura Linney (returning as Frasier’s current love, the unavailable Charlotte), Jennifer Beals, and, aptly, ”American Wedding” star Jason Biggs. Just keep him away from the cake.