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Frasier appoints Niles lord of the ring

You know we're in Sweeps Month when big events such as weddings, births and divorces happen right there on your favorite sitcom.

Tonight on 'Frasier,' you just might see all three as Niles (David Hyde Pierce) finally gets ready to pop the question to his lady love, Daphne (Jane Leeves). I'm not going to spoil the ending (the beginning?). Suffice it to say that vintage 'Frasier' is in the offing.

It's one of those special episodes that herald the start of a new story arc. Could a possible engagement become funnier than the romance leading up to it? On 'Frasier,' anything is probable.

A lot has been said about the obvious ebbs and flows in the humor quotient during the nine years, 21 Emmys and 203 episodes racked up by NBC's powerhouse comedy. This episode isn't a belly-laugher, but if you're a 'Frasier' freak, you just don't want to miss it.

No matter what's said about the sitcom Ñ which centers on pop shrink Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer, but you knew that) and his brother, shrink Niles Ñ it's still the smartest sitcom of them all. And the characters? The most neurotic, which proves to be a wonderfully satisfying combination.

Does Grammer deserve to pull down his $1.6 million weekly paycheck? Does David Hyde Pierce earn his $1 mil per episode? Why not? It ain't my money.

And week after week, the Nielsens conclude that 'Frasier' is the top-rated Tuesday night series, giving NBC its widest margin of victory ever in the Tuesday 9 p.m. time slot.

Tonight, Niles goes to elaborate lengths in preparing for the big moment. He hires a choir, a string quartet, two midgets dressed as angels and chef Wolfgang Puck (playing himself) to prepare an elaborate dinner.

But when Daphne comes home, that's when the hysteria hits full throttle, and the finer things in life for the cultivated brothers turn upside down, as usual.

The interplay between Puck and Frasier ('I couldn't help but notice the crab cakes are getting a bit brown') is merely a backdrop to what transpires in Niles' living room. One given: Puck is better at being a chef than playing one. No can act.

Will Niles' future be funnier than his divorce from Maris, who ran off with their marriage counselor? It's a safe bet it will.

Pete Schulberg is the host of 'Portland's Morning News' on KPAM (860 AM). Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..