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Grammer hosts a mild comedy series

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The Sketch Show cast comprises, clockwise from top, Paul Tompkins, Lee Mack, Malcolm Barrett, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kelsey Grammer, and Kaitlin Olsen.

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The "doctor" is in, but if you want an appointment with him you'd better hurry, because he might not be around very long.

Kelsey Grammer, best known to TV viewers over the past 20 seasons as the psychologist Dr. Frasier Crane in Cheers (1984-93) and its the spinoff show Frasier (1993-2004), is returning with a new series that begins at 9:30 p.m. tomorrow on Fox.

But he's chosen a peculiar vehicle for his return to network television. Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show is a fast-moving, half-hour show full of sight gags, one-liners, and bad puns. It's based on a successful British comedy program called The Sketch Show and has even imported one of the original British cast members, Lee Mack, who turns out to be the best thing about the Americanized version.

Others in the cast include Mary Lynn Rajskub (who played the morose Chloe on Fox's 24), Kaitlin Olsen (Drew Carey's Green Screen Show), Paul Tompkins (Mr. Show), and Malcolm Barrett (Luis).

Each show crams in as many as 30 vignettes, and many of them last only a few seconds. They range from silly to stupid, and there's little to no vulgarity, making it a family-friendly show - but a surprisingly tame production from the edgy network that brought us In Living Color and Mad TV.

Most of the sketches are accompanied by canned laughter, which does nothing to make the lame ones seem funnier. A few of the pieces, however, are quite clever, such as a cocktail party for people with phobias.

Grammer makes a few cameo appearances as well, poking fun at his Frasier character in one sketch in which he pours out his troubles to an uncaring psychologist who mocks him.

Fox has ordered only a dozen episodes of The Sketch Show, which may be about right. Though the concept was "borrowed" from a show that's been going strong for two seasons in Britain, sketch comedy has always fared better over there than here in the colonies, where the last truly successful television sketch show was Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which went off the air more than 30 years ago.

Grammer's attempt to re-energize the genre seems destined about as long as one of his show's sketches.

Contact Mike Kelly at: mkelly@theblade.com or 419-724-6131.

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