Frasier: Gail M. Adler
Gary Susman
January 13, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Now that ”Frasier” is officially winding down in May, will Kelsey Grammer’s lovelorn radio shrink finally find a romantic happy ending? While the show’s writers have said they haven’t yet figured out how to conclude the series, the show is introducing a last-minute love interest for Dr. Crane, a character to be played for at least three episodes by ”Mystic River” costar Laura Linney. ”She’s a matchmaker who Frasier turns to in desperation,” executive producer Joe Keenan tells TV Guide Online. Keenan says it’s possible that — after Diane, Lilith, and countless other romantic misfires over the last 20 years — Frasier could end up with Linney’s character. ”We’re exploring how far to go [with them],” Keenan says.

Meanwhile, Grammer, until recently TV’s highest-paid performer, is about to become an out-of-work actor. But he may already have a summer job lined up. TV Guide reports that he’s in talks to take over Nathan Lane’s starring role on Broadway in ”The Producers” this summer, after Lane and Matthew Broderick end their limited-run return to the roles they originated. Who would take Broderick’s place? ”I don’t know,” he tells TV Guide. ”That’s one of the questions.” How about his soon-to-be-similarly unemployed TV brother David Hyde Pierce? ”That’s a funny idea,” Grammer says. ”I’m not sure if the audience is ready for that yet.”

Grammer had suggested last fall that he’d be interested in a 12th season of ”Frasier,” but the show’s ratings had slipped 30 percent this year, leading NBC to issue on Monday the long-expected announcement that the radio shrink would be hanging up his headphones at the end of this season. ”The finances would not have worked for another season,” a network spokesperson said, referring to the $5.2 million licensing fee NBC pays per episode, including nearly $2 million per show to Grammer. ”Frasier”’s 11-season run will tie that of its parent show, ”Cheers,” and the character’s 20 years in primetime tie the record held by James Arness’ Marshal Matt Dillon on ”Gunsmoke,” which CBS aired from 1955 to 1975.

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