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Laugh at tonight’s `Frasier’ - don’t be offended by it

SHARE Laugh at tonight’s `Frasier’ - don’t be offended by it

I've heard from a couple of Utahns who were offended when tonight's episode of "Frasier" (8 p.m., Ch. 5) first ran a few months ago - but I don't think they should have been.

This is yet another delicious half hour featuring Frasier Crane's (Kelsey Grammer) dastardly agent, Bebe Glazer (Harriet Sansom Harrison). Frasier's contract at the radio station is up for renegotiation, and he's determined to conduct this round of talks in an entirely forthright, upstanding and moral fashion.

So, obviously, he doesn't want the duplicitous Bebe to represent him. She is, after all, a woman who once faked a suicide attempt to better Frasier's negotiating position.

Although Bebe wants desperately to represent him, Frasier insists he's sticking with his new representation - a nice, pleasant, honest young man who also happens to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

(They don't use that terminology, but they don't leave you guessing about his religious affiliation. He's referred to as a Mormon.)

There's some very funny stuff here, including the new agent's publicity stunt-gone-bad - a bit at the zoo with a crane that's being named after Frasier. But while the Mormon guy is a comedy flash-point, neither he nor his religion is mocked.

Two things left me particularly pleased with the portrayal of this LDS character. First, he did not turn out to be a hypocrite. In the vast majority of television shows and movies that portray Mormons or anyone of religious beliefs, somewhere along the line that character betrays his or her own values in the pursuit of a goal.

That's when religious belief is mocked.

And, second, the fact that the writers of this episode obviously didn't think that a non-hypocritical Mormon was qualified to be liar, a backstabber, a cheat, an over-bearing jerk - an agent - is nothing but a compliment. LDS viewers should have been insulted if it had gone any other way.

This is a funny half hour with as positive a portrayal of a religious person as you're going to find on a television comedy. All that's required to enjoy it is a sense of humor.

SCARY STUFF ON `FRONTLINE': If you're in the mood to be frightened rather than amused, the season finale of the PBS series "Frontline" (8 p.m., Ch. 7) is more than a bit scary.

"Fooling With Nature" outlines a case for a most dreadful scenario - lower IQs, reduced fertility, genital deformities and abnormalities in the immune system brought on by synthetic chemicals in the environment.

The hour visits the issue from various sides - scientists who believe it has already affected the animal kingdom and will affect humans next; scientists who believe it has already affected humans; and scientists who are rather skeptical about the whole hypothesis.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the controversy is that while scientists are still debating the issue, politicians have already acted upon it. (How's that for something out of the norm?) Congress has passed a law mandating that the EPA screen chemicals for their possible detrimental effects.

But one of the experts sums it up rather nicely when she says, "When I look at this as a scientist, I see an interesting hypothesis. Needs further investigation. As a wife and a mother, when I look at this issue I get a little bit nervous."

As will you if you tune in.

YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING: NBC has confirmed that it will set aside four hours for the broadcast of the Emmy Awards on Sept. 13.

That's right, four hours.

OK, fine, it's the 50th anniversary of the awards. But four hours of any awards show is about two hours too much.

And NBC West Coast President Don Ohlmeyer was apparently unaware that he was being funny when he said, "The traditional awards presentation will be as exciting as ever - but there will also be much, much more."

That's what we're afraid of - that the awards will be just as exciting as ever.

LIKE A HOLE IN THE HEAD: Here's something we really, really need - yet another televised awards show.

Fox will present the "TV Guide Awards Show" next March. What an honor receiving one of those will be, given the declining editorial quality of that magazine.

Not coincidentally, both Fox and TV Guide are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

GOING FOR THE GOLD: The "Ally McBeal" soundtrack - a 14-track CD featuring Vonda Shepherd's original recordings - has already gone gold, shipping more than 500,000 units.

It's a great album. (But then, of course, I'm obsessed with "Ally" and everything associated with it.)

IS NICE LOSING STEAM? "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" recently switched executive producers, with Roni Selig (late of ABC's "The View") replacing Hilary Estey McLoughlin.

The change might have had something to do with the fact that Rosie's ratings are in decline. Which does not correspond to the fact that this remains by far the most entertaining, watchable talk show on daytime TV.