Nonreality TV

May 05, 2004

THERE ARE DAYS, most everybody has them, when the best way to smooth the rough edges before bedtime is with a little bit of comfort television.

No news. No investigative reports. No athletic competition. No violence. No corporate cutthroatedness. And absolutely no half-clad pseudo-survivalists eating bugs.

We yearn in these moments for something funny, something friendly, something familiar, maybe a little heart-warming and not so complicated it can't serve as background for reading mail or checking homework.

On those days ahead, we are likely to sorely miss the gang of Friends, who bow out tomorrow night after 10 years on the air, and Frasier, another NBC sitcom that signs off next week at the conclusion of its 11th season.

With so much nighttime network television now devoted to cheesy and cheap reality programs, Friends and Frasier offered clever entertainment that while not always brilliant could be trusted not to offend.

Oh, sure, the six Friends got a bit tiresome. Though approaching middle age, they still lived like unusually immature twentysomethings in a universe oddly lacking for diversity. Their banter never quite matched the witty elegance of Frasier. But Kelsey Grammer's character had been around the block and then some - having spent an earlier life on a barstool at Cheers - giving his misadventures a richer texture. Plus, he was backed by a supporting cast every bit as strong as the Central Perk crew of Friends.

Even so, both shows were a treat to be savored at the end of a stressful day - at minimum a retreat.

The popularity, inexplicable to non-fans, of shows that feature real people degrading themselves for a date, a job, or some other prize combines with low production costs to threaten the future of all higher-quality programming.

Mr. Grammer, when pressed on the point in a recent interview with television writers, said he wasn't sure "anyone else is interested in sophisticated comedy anymore," but predicted "they will be again."

In the meantime, though, there will be a particularly lonely ring Tuesday to his standard sign-off: "Frasier has left the building."


An editorial Monday gave an incorrect date for the entry of Greece into the European Union. Greece joined the organization in 1981. The Sun regrets the error.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.