Frasier: Gale Adler
Ken Tucker
February 14, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

”Frasier” outclasses its competing sitcoms

Tuesday’s ”Frasier” is well worth watching, a clever parody of the recent Gwyneth Paltrow romance ”Sliding Doors,” with Kelsey Grammer’s lonely, overearnest Frasier slipping in and out of love with an alluring woman played by Charlotte Ross. The episode is just fine by itself, but look around at the lousy sitcoms surrounding it this evening and ”Frasier”’s achievement seems downright miraculous.

What a load of junk there is. On ”Frasier”s network alone, there’s ”3rd Rock From the Sun” and ”DAG” — respectively, a veteran and a rookie of equally embarrassing overstatement. ”Frasier” is followed by the recently premiered ”Three Sisters,” whose comedy depends on you finding the depiction of single women as desperate predators funny. I say, ”No, thanks.”

On Fox, they’ve managed to turn the once charming ”That ’70s Show” from a sharp witted show about disco era adolescence to a vulgar morass whose plot tonight turns on — tee hee — Donna’s ugly oversized panties. That’s just Fox’s warmup; it’s followed by ”Titus,” a braying, witless enterprise that makes one wish Roseanne were still dominating the working class sitcom field.

On ABC? The conclusion of that hokey, pointless two parter ”Dharma & Greg” that commenced last week. I don’t know what’s worse: the show’s trumped up strain on the main characters’ marriage or the cringingly vapid ”Once & Again” style, black and white interview commercials being used to promote it. Follow ”D&G” with a new episode of arid, awkward ”The Geena Davis Show” and you’ll feel depressed — if you’re not already asleep. (Want a real laugh during that 9 to 10 p.m. hour? Watch E!’s ”True Hollywood Story” — 60 minutes on the life of Carmen Electra!)

Around this time last year, I needled ”Frasier” in print for not being the top quality comedy it once was. This season, compared to the competition on Tuesday nights, the show looks like the work of Noel Coward crossed with Woody Allen in their primes. The next time you bemoan the current reality TV trend, keep in mind that the sitcom genre isn’t really offering network programming too many worthwhile scheduling alternatives.

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