02/19/2002 at 12:00 AM EST
The creative minds behind NBC's "Friends" and "Frasier" were smart, and those behind ABC's "Dharma and Greg" were not, says The New York Times in a report on why cast members of the 8-year-old "Friends" deserve their $1-million-per-episode paychecks for next season, as was negotiated last week. The Times says the Thursday night hit show's ratings' resurgence is thanks to its plot twists: Monica (Courteney Cox Arquette) and Chandler's (Matthew Perry) marriage, Rachel's (Jennifer Aniston) pregnancy by Ross (David Schwimmer) and Joey (Matt Le Blanc) suddenly falling in love with the mom-to-be. The same held true with "Frasier," said the paper, given this season's activation of the long-dormant romance between Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves). "You want to take the characters to places where they can stay fresh from a writing standpoint," David Crane, who helped develop "Frasier," told The Times, though he added, "it's never a sure thing." Sure enough, The Times chronicles, on "Dharma and Greg" at the end of last season, Dharma (Jenna Elfman) fell for another guy, then had a car accident, nearly died and came back this season in a wheelchair. Viewers didn't take kindly to the plot twist, and the show's ratings dropped.