After a decade as the most talked-about character on NBC's Frasier, if not in television history, Maris Crane may finally be ready to show her face. "About a third of the way through this season," teases executive producer Christopher Lloyd, "there's a big, life-altering event involving Maris once again making trouble in Niles's life" and, he adds, there's "a chance" that we'll at last get a gander at the mystery woman. Ah, but who could possibly portray her, given the seemingly impossible qualities she is said to possess? "It's virtually impossible to find a human being who contains all [of Maris's] attributes," Lloyd acknowledges. Nonetheless, we've come up with a few unusual suspects:
Calista Flockhart: The McNugget-eschewing erstwhile Ally McBeal definitely has the right, slight figure to raid Maris's closet. As a girl, Niles's missus dreamt of a career as a ballerina. Too bad, he explained, "the poor thing could never get her weight up enough."
Lara Flynn Boyle: The disbarred Practice attorney not only apparently follows the same diet plan as Maris, she's also earned a similar reputation as an attention-getting party girl. "[Maris] exhausts easily," Niles once remarked, "under the pressure to be interesting."
Andrea Parker: If any actress in Hollywood glowers better than Less Than Perfect's resident ice queen, we haven't seen her. And Maris is a part that calls for an extremely big chill. "Maris is like the sun," brother-in-law Frasier has observed. "Except without the warmth."
Juliet Landau: Having gone batty as Drusilla on Buffy and Angel, Martin Landau's little girl could easily channel Maris's comparably tame neuroses. For instance, "Maris is unable to have pets," Niles revealed. "She distrusts anything that loves her unconditionally."
Kathie Lee Gifford: Although Regis's former foil is a mite vivacious to do dour Maris justice, she is said to share the rich witch's appreciation for good help. "When our stable boy's appendix burst," Niles noted, "[Maris] had him driven back to the border at her own personal expense."
Julia Duffy: The tube's top snob (Newhart) would fit right in turning up her button nose with the brothers Crane. Heck, we can just see her reliving Maris's "harrowing incident" in the sky. "She was bumped from first class," Niles admitted. "She still wakes up screaming."
Montgomery Burns: We know The Simpsons's miser is a little cartoon-ish and a gent to boot. But put him in a Chanel dress, and the notorious weakling is an ideal candidate to play Maris, who, Niles observed, "once sprained her wrist from having too much dip on a cracker."
Valerie Mahaffey: Truth be told, whenever Maris is mentioned, we picture this veteran of Northern Exposure, Seinfeld and ER. Alas, we fear she might be given a complex by our admission that we associate her with a woman infamous for her "ferret eyes and disturbing hair." If it helps, we know a couple of good shrinks. additional reporting by Michael Ausiello