As Frasier celebrates its 200th episode tonight (9 pm/ET on NBC), so does Kelsey Grammer's Dr. Frasier Crane toast the 2000th installment of his fictitious radio call-in show. What a pity, then, that such an auspicious occasion should be sullied by a shameless plug.
By now, we're more than accustomed to November sweeps stunt-casting. But it smacks of blatant cross-promotion when NBC casts its business partner, Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, to visit the highly-rated Frasier just in time to talk up his new Windows XP program. (Don't forget, NBC and Microsoft co-own MSNBC.)
Basically, a flimsy storyline has fellow Seattle resident Gates dropping by Frasier's show to offer congrats, only to take over the airwaves with tech talk. Sure, Frasier does call Gates an "egomanical gasbag" but not before the honcho has promoted Windows XP to the hilt. Couldn't Gates have simply bought some commercial time like everyone else?
Asked for their take on Gates's cameo, Grammer and TV sibling David Hyde Pierce
are evasively diplomatic. "Bill Gates was splendid," Grammer says. "He was amiable, clear and as performances go on our show, he was up there with the best of them." Quips Pierce: "I think no one could play Bill Gates better." Adds Grammer: "Certainly no one had more qualifications, yes."