A hot-button episode of the NBC laffer “Frasier” has gone missing in syndication this year, and the show’s exec producer and writer are questioning the reason for its absence.
An episode from the sixth season of “Frasier” guest-starred Christine Baranski in a role for which she was Emmy-nommed. Titled “Dr. Nora,” the seg parodied radio-TV host Dr. Laura Schlessinger. But unlike every other episode from “Frasier’s” sixth season, it has not aired in syndication this year.
When season six (episodes 121-144) began its syndie cycle in December 1999, “Dr. Nora,” episode No. 138, did air. Since then, however, episode 137 was followed by 139 in January, June, July and September. The “Dr. Nora” episode is scheduled to re-enter the syndie run in February.
While episodes of shows in syndication sometimes do air out of order, it is usually because they relate to a specific holiday or theme week.
“To me, it’s clear what they’ve done (taken the show out of rotation), and I wish they’d cop to it and explain to us. As executive producer, I would like to know why it was done and who did it,” said “Frasier” exec producer David Lee, who noted that residuals for the many people involved in the episode will be affected, including writer Joe Keenan and Katy Garretson, who made her “Frasier” directorial debut with the episode.
One theory that circulated Monday as to why “Dr. Nora” did not air while others from the same season aired four times is that Paramount took the show out of rotation at the request of a miffed Schlessinger, whose embattled syndie yakker is also produced and distribbed by Par.
Gay org voices suspicions
“Since Paramount began producing ‘Dr. Laura,’ there has been a suspicious absence of ‘Dr. Nora’ in the Paramount-produced ‘Frasier’ syndication lineup,” said Scott Seomin, entertainment media director of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which has targeted Schlessinger for what it deems anti-gay rhetoric.
The primary schedules for “Frasier” are issued to TV stations that have bought the program about four-six weeks prior to the airdate, then a feed is sent of the programs closer to airdate.
The programming decision to remove “Dr. Nora” — at least in the January instance — would have come at a time when Schlessinger likely had more pull with the studio, as her show was still considered a promising upcoming product. Now, however, the “Dr. Laura” TV yakker is suffering from disappointing ratings, and such a scenario would be more difficult to conceive.
Par and reps for Schlessinger both insisted Monday that Schlessinger did not make any such request. Schlessinger’s spokeswoman said the suggestion is “totally false.”
Par denies Laura involved
While declining to explain why “Dr. Nora” did not air this year, a Paramount spokesman did issue a statement: “We received no request from Dr. Laura to rest the episode. The ‘Dr. Nora’ episode of ‘Frasier’ aired last December, and it will air in February and for its full complement of syndication runs.”
Keenan, like Lee, was frustrated with Paramount’s lack of explanation and said he felt most badly for the others who worked on the show who will be owed residuals, like Garretson. “You’d think the studio wouldn’t punish the show that wins Emmys to appease the one that wins enemies,” Keenan said.