As of this moment, Frasier and Buffy are officially homeless. By yesterday's midnight deadline, neither NBC's Frasier nor the WB's Buffy the Vampire Slayer had successfully renegotiated their contracts to remain on their respective networks. As a result, Paramount (owner of Frasier) and 20th Century Fox (Buffy's keeper) are now free to shop their coveted properties elsewhere — although NBC and the WB retain the right to match the first offer made.
"I don't think NBC wants the show to go somewhere else, but you never know," Frasier star Kelsey Grammer hedges to TV Guide Online. "The machinations of the network mind... Who knows about them?" The former Cheers star — who reportedly is demanding the Peacock renew his series for three more seasons (thereby ensuring it will run as long as Cheers, the show it spun off from) — jokes that he's "been working a lot longer than anybody else at NBC has."
Insiders peg CBS (Paramount's sister company) as the network most likely to snatch Frasier, although Grammer says there's also a chance UPN (another Paramount relative) could step up to the bargaining table. "It would probably be a good thing for UPN," laughs Grammer, who's confident Frasier will thrive regardless of where it ends up. "One great thing about the audience for Frasier is they have proven to be loyal... Frasier's numbers always held up under any attack."
In addition to Grammer's demands, Paramount is said to be asking NBC to shell out $5.5 million per episode — up from the current $3 million price tag. Industry sources confide to TV Guide Online that NBC balked at those numbers. In fact, network execs are so pessimistic about the prospects of an agreement that they're already preparing to downplay Frasier's importance. "They're working on the spin for the press about how the show skews old, doesn't help them at 10 pm, and that they aren't really sorry that they've lost it," the insider reveals. "That's not to say they have lost it — but they're already working on the spin in case they do."
Although there's considerably less green being fought over in the Buffy talks, the stakes remain just as high. According to Variety, Fox wants the WB to pay somewhere between $2.3-$2.5 million an episode for the hit drama, up from its current $1 million asking price. However, the most the network seems willing to cough up is $1.6 million. "I think it's 50/50, but I'm optimistic that it will fall our way," a WB rep says. "We love the show, we want the show back, and we think we made a very fair offer."
Should Buffy move to another network (insiders predict 20th Century would likely keep the show in the family and sell it to Fox, although ABC and UPN also have expressed interest), the WB would lose not only its Tuesday night anchor, but its signature series.
Whatever the outcome, Buffy creator Joss Whedon doesn't expect a Hollywood ending to the drama. "I'm not optimistic that anybody in any suit will be happy with anything," he sighs. "I think the WB will not reach an amicable arrangement, but I believe they will reach an arrangement... and I believe whatever happens, I will make the show."
Is Whedon concerned how his Buffy spin-off Angel would fare were it to be stranded alone on the WB? "I don't think it would help Angel, but I believe Angel can stand on its own," he says. "I'm not particularly worried — I'm never particularly worried. I'm either going to make the show or they're going to tell me to stop. As long as I'm trying hard to make it good, I don't notice anything else."