June 15, 1998 12:00 PM

NBC (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

NBC’s recent announcement that Frasier (now in reruns) will inherit the coveted Seinfeld time slot next fall (Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET) was a welcome one. Bravo, as those erudite Crane brothers, Frasier and Niles, would no doubt say. But for diehard fans of the departed New York Four, a caveat: The Seattle Seven (pictured above) may not be your cup of latte. Frasier is a comedy of manners (its zingers drolly delivered, many with literary references), whereas Seinfeld, with its loud if lovably crass ensemble, was more of a comedy of bad manners.

That said, Frasier did manage to commit a few egregious faux pas this past season, its fifth. A date-swapping bedroom farce set at a ski lodge reduced the characters to frantic cartoon figures. The 100th-episode visit to the real Seattle (where Frasier is set) was padded and pointless. But the show delivered when Roz (Peri Gilpin) did: Her season-long pregnancy ended with a tender labor-room scene, as Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) cradled her baby. And the Niles-Daphne romance, heretofore just a big tease, got a good jump-start when the shy shrink (David Hyde Pierce) and his British maiden (Jane Leeves) finally sat down to a quiet dinner à deux. It’s just one more sign that this witty sitcom is maturing nicely—and will make new friends on Thursdays.

Bottom Line: A witty, worthy successor to Seinfeld

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