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‘Frasier’ turns 200

NBC devotes most of Tuesday evening to show

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In the midst of his 18th season of playing Dr. Frasier Crane, Kelsey Grammer has yet to grow tired of the role.

"It's as simple as life itself. I get up every morning clearly devoted to discovering something new each day," said Grammer, who played Frasier on "Cheers" for nine years before spinning him off into his own show. "It's funny, but I don't tire of the character because he offers as many possibilities as life itself does. He just happens to be a fantasy, that all.

"There's never been a time when we've tried to stop his growth as a human being. So it seems we're always finding some new way to challenge his imagination or his world of thinking. We keep him fresh."

While you can easily argue that "Frasier" isn't as fresh as it once was, it remains among the most popular programs on TV. On Tuesday, the sitcom celebrates a milestone few shows ever reach — its 200th episode.

And NBC devotes two-thirds of the evening to "Frasier," airing a pair of repeats from 7-8 p.m., followed by the 200th episode from 8-8:35 p.m., followed by a highlights-and-outtakes show (hosted by Bob Costas) from 8:35-9 p.m. on Ch. 5.

The 200th episode revolves around Frasier's 2,000th radio broadcast — and him obsessing over the fact that he has all but one of those radio shows on tape. In addition to a return appearance by Dan Butler as Bulldog, the show features Adam Arkin as an obsessed Frasier fan and Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates as himself.

"As performances go on our show, he was right up there with the best of them," Grammer said of Gates.

"Probably no one could play Bill Gates better," co-star David Hyde Pierce interjected.

As for the show's actors and producers, they're planning a party to mark the milestone.

"We'll take the time out to celebrate a job that's been well done over the years," Grammer said. "There is great love in our lives and some sadness due to David (Angel)'s death."

(Angel and his wife were among those killed when terrorists hijacked their plane and crashed it into the World Trade Center.)

"But, certainly, the years behind us have been fruitful and rewarding and incredibly gratifying," Grammer added.

Not that they're going away anytime soon — "Frasier" has already been picked up through the 2003-2004 seasons, which will equal the 11 seasons "Cheers" was on the air and give Grammer a total of 20 years.

Not that the cast hasn't at least started to think about life after "Frasier." Like Grammer, Pierce, who plays Frasier's brother Niles, said he's filled with nothing but joy and gratitude for his role on the show.

"The flip side is that it's a little hard to face the knowledge that we have so much more behind us than we do ahead of us," Pierce said. "That however long the show goes, it's not going to be 200 more. And to see the light at the end of that tunnel is a very sad thing."

"Yeah, it is," Grammer said.

E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com