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Tuned In: 'Frasier' will fold

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HOLLYWOOD -- Good night, Seattle, and the rest of America, too. The doctor will leave the building one last time in May. NBC confirmed that "Frasier" will end its 11-year run at the end of the current television season.

NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker made the announcement yesterday on the "Frasier" set, stage 25 at Paramount Pictures.

"No show has meant as much to the quality and the perception of NBC as this show," Zucker said.

NBC's contract with Paramount for production of the series expires in May and it was expected this would be the end.

Star Kelsey Grammer, who has played Frasier Crane for 20 years beginning on "Cheers," said he did have conversations with Zucker about continuing. "They didn't work out," Grammer said, snickering. "I would never say anything about money."

Most of the cast members said they haven't begun to think about life after "Frasier," although star David Hyde Pierce has some plans.

"I know I have jury duty," Hyde Pierce said.

"They're no longer buying our excuse," Grammer said. "We're stuck."

Viewers control 'Todd'

Lesson No. 1 for network executives: Don't promote a reality show about a guy who's so inept at running his own life that he's willing to take his cues from viewers and then not make him available to the press. It doesn't go over well.

A half-dozen reporters walked out of a press conference for FX's "Todd TV" (10 p.m. Jan. 21) last week when FX president Peter Liguori used this lame excuse: "Todd is not a personality. He's a regular guy. ... So we all agreed, let's not have Todd here now, 'cause we're not positive Todd can really handle this type of situation."

That doesn't hold water when the network has no compunction about making the guy a marionette-like TV star.

"I believe America has a better head on its shoulders than I do," says aimless 30-year-old waiter Todd Santos in a clip shown to critics before the stormy press conference.

One critic asked if viewers will be able to choose between having Todd mutilate himself or jump off a tall building.

"We are going to be controlling some of the questions going on," Liguori said. "The questions aren't how we can torture this human being. In many ways, the questions are how can we better this human being."

That statement is at odds with what an announcer in a "Todd TV" promo declares: "You can't screw him up any worse than he is, but you can sure try."

"You could decide whether his roommate should be Felix Unger or the drill sergeant from hell, depending on what you feel is best for this life to get him motivated," said David Goldberg, president of Endemol, the company producing "Todd TV" for FX.

Santos was one of 1,200 people considered for the lead role for which American viewers will direct the show's story lines. Santos will receive a $5,000 stipend each week if he does what viewers command (he has the option of saying no).

"He's working as a waiter because he really does lack direction in life, and he's not just saying that to get on the show," said co-executive producer Tom Forman. "This is a guy who was a ski bum in Vail for a bunch of years and now is a beach bum in Hermosa. He really is at a point in his life where he'll be the first to tell you, he's kind of sick of being a bum but doesn't know what to do next.

"You know, America gets to play Dr. Phil," Forman said. "That's really what it is."

Santos is doomed.

VH1 reunites bands

VH1 has a new series that looks pretty entertaining: "Bands Reunited," premiering 10 p.m. Monday. Host Aamer Haleem and a camera crew track down members of '80s bands that long ago broke up and persuade them to reconvene for a reunion show.

Members of the band Berlin ("Take My Breath Away" from "Top Gun") are featured in the premiere episode. Singer Teri Nunn hadn't spoken with fellow band member John Crawford in many years after having a falling-out.

"He's been in my life longer than both of the guys in my marriages," Nunn said of Crawford. "And it was like a divorce."

She said an outside force, such as VH1, was necessary to motivate her to reunite with the rest of the band.

"Being in a band, it's either going to be intense love or massive hatred," Nunn said. "There's no middle. With him it went that way when we were together for 13 years. I loved him, I hated him, it was never neutral."

For other Berlin members, it wasn't a falling out, just a drifting away that kept them apart.

"If you think about where you were 20 years ago, you were going to a university or what have you, and you have friends you think you're gonna have forever," said bandmate Dave Diamond. "And 20 years later you find that your lives are so different that each of you has moved on to something new and different and you're not out of touch for any reason of animosity, it's just the way paths lead you."

For the show's host, approaching these one-time chart toppers cold leads to some apprehensive moments.

"There was a lot going on where you just didn't know what you would get," Haleem said. "I didn't get punched and no dogs bit me, but there were some moments there where, supposedly, my voice went up an octave or two."

Mike Score of A Flock of Seagulls rejected VH1's invitation initially, but Haleem kept pushing him.

"I think when the shock of everything around him wore off and he realized what was going on and it was just a one-night-only gig -- because he's still touring right now with a different version of Flock of Seagulls that doesn't include the original band members -- he said, 'OK, I'll do it.' "

Other bands that VH1 approached, which Haleem would not name, turned the network down.

Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 .

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