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In May, "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer was on the set of an upcoming made-for-TV movie when he got a phone call from NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield.

"Warren called me while on the set of that particular endeavor and said, `Oh, hi Kelsey. How are you doing?' " Grammer said." `Good, Warren, how are you?' "

" `Uh, we're moving the show to Tuesday.' "

Thus the star of last year's biggest new hit learned that he'd be going up against perennial ratings-powerhouse "Roseanne" in the fall. And what was his immediate reaction?

"I thought, `Well, that'll be kind of a challenge, won't it?" Grammer said.

(Grammer denied reports that he was so miffed by the move that he refused to go to New York for the announcement of the schedule change. "The truth was I was in the period of time when I get to see my daughter and I didn't want to travel around a lot," he said. "I had planned some things to do with her and she takes precedence in my life.")

While it shocked a lot of people in the television industry, the "Frasier" star said he wasn't completely surprised.

"It did not come as a surprise to me totally," Grammer said. "I said, `Well, you know, I had a feeling something like that might happen.' And then we rolled with it."

Other members of the "Frasier" creative staff and cast admitted they were indeed more than a bit surprised.

" `Another Mai Tai,' is what I said," quipped executive producer David Lee.

"I think, `You've got to be kidding!' was the first thing out of my mouth," said executive producer Peter Casey.

"I was really shocked," said John Mahoney, who plays Frasier's father, Martin. "I just thought, `Well, you don't get very long to rest on your laurels, do you?' "

Mahoney also admitted to being "sort of afraid."

"But then as the show's gone one, the more I think about it I'm not afraid of doing it anymore. But it's still a challenge."

The one thing nobody on "Frasier" is doing, certainly, is conceding defeat.

"I think we have a fabulous show," Grammer said. "I don't mean to come from a position of being cocky about it, but I'm very pleased with it . . . and I think it'll hold up against anybody."

"I don't think any one of us ever thought that we would just go in there on Tuesday night and demolish `Roseanne,' " Mahoney said. "I mean, that's an impossibility, because she's got a great show, too.

"But I think there's an audience there for us, and I think the show's good enough that we'll do OK."

FRIENDLY RIVALRY: Mahoney is a member of Chicago's Steppenwolfe Theatre, as is Laurie Metcalf, who co-stars as Roseanne's sister. And the subject of the schedule change came up this summer.

"Yeah, we've talked about it," Mahoney said. "And they're all extremely, extremely confident, and (Metcalf) sort of patted me on the back (and said) she was sorry about this, as if our career is going straight down the tubes.

"And I just said, `Yeah, Laurie, I know. And it's too bad. It was looking so good for a while.'

"But inside I'm just thinking to myself, `You're the one I feel sorry for . . . ' "

MARIS REMAINS UNSEEN: One of the memorable characters on "Frasier" has never been seen - Maris, the wife of Frasier's brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce).

The producers said that early on, they thought that eventually they'd bring on an actress to play Maris, but they've changed their minds.

"She's become vivid to me, and . . . I'm not sure that everybody else has the same vivid character in mind," Casey said. "I think at this point, I don't want to see her."

"I think it would be an injustice to people's imaginations," Grammer said. "Everybody has their own carved-out identity for this woman."

"Even the cast," Mahoney said. "For every one of us, the picture is so different."

"Although, if Roseanne would do it . . ., " Pierce interjected.

THAT'S GRATITUDE: "Frasier" was recently voted Outstanding Comedy by the Television Critics Association. And that award will have some affect upon the show's star.

"It means I have to have the brownest nose in town for quite a while," Grammer quipped to the critics. "I love you guys!"

DEVELOPING CHARACTER: The producer/creators of "Frasier" admitted that not all the characters were completely settled in their minds when they began working on the show. The least defined was Frasier's radio-show producer, Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin).

"When we started, we didn't have an idea what that character was about, and now we do," said Peter Casey, one of the show's executive producers. "I mean, it was a very confusing character for us, and we just decided to let the actress sort of bring a great deal of herself to it."

Which is at least mildly insulting, seeing that Roz became best known for her rather adventurous romantic life.

"That's not that you're, like, cheap, Peri, or anything," Casey quickly interjected.

"I told them my dating stories and the rest is history," Gilpin deadpanned.

PSYCHIATRIC CONFUSION: Kelsey Grammer isn't a psychiatrist, he just plays one on TV.

But, in real life, he does see a psychiatrist. And that resulted in a rather interesting situation not long ago.

Grammer said he was in his psychiatrist's office waiting for someone to join him when he heard the door to the outer office open and close.

"And I opened up the door and it turned out to be two other people," he said. "And I said, `Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else. Excuse me.'

"And as I walked back in I suddenly realized they must think, `Oh, my gosh! He's got a practice! He's a real psychiatrist!' "

NO TRADE SECRETS: Grammer said his analyst doesn't offer him advice about playing a psychiatrist.

"I'm there to get help," he said. "We don't disclose trade secrets.

"I don't tell her how to act, and she doesn't tell me how to play a therapist."

Both his psychiatrist and her husband are fans of the show, however.

"And it kills her that it's her husband's favorite show and she can't tell him she works with me," Grammer said.

MAYBE, MAYBE NOT: Ted Danson, Grammer's former "Cheers" co-star, has made no secret of the fact that he'd love to appear on "Frasier" as his old character, Sam Malone. That might or might not happen.

"Ted is an old friend and we worked with him on `Cheers,' " said executive producer Peter Casey. "And we feel that if we come up with a great story to have Sam visit Seattle that we'd love to have him on the show."

"But it has to be a great story," said executive producer David Lee. "It just can't be, `Oh, I was passing through and I happened to run into Frasier in the Cafe Nervosa.' "