So, Frasier Crane, how come your show lost $200m?

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The Independent US

But a year after the final episode of Frasier was aired, the award-winning sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer is at the centre of a Hollywood-style dispute over how it failed to turn a net profit.

Two talent agencies representing the show's co-creators have filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures, claiming that they have been cheated out of their share of the profits from the show.

They are demanding to know why Frasier ended up $200m (about £110m) in the red, despite being one of the most successful shows in television history, which ran for 11 seasons.

The Los Angeles-based Jim Preminger agency and the Kaplan Stahler Gumer Braun agency of Beverley Hills represented the creative team behind Frasier - Peter Casey, David Lee and David Angell (who was killed in the 11 September terrorist attacks). Their clients are not involved in the lawsuit.

They are seeking unspecified damages from Paramount over the alleged breach of a deal that would have given them a share of net profits as part of their commission package.

According to the lawsuit, filed on 29 September in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Frasier generated gross revenues of more than $1.5bn, including nearly $830m in licensing fees from the NBC network, which broadcast the sitcom in the US. In the UK it was shown on Channel 4, where it regularly attracted audiences of three million.

In its lawsuit Paramount claimed that far from making a net profit, the series - which ran from 1993 to 2004 - lost $200m.

The agencies say they have proof that Paramount did pay a share of net profits to an unnamed third party and are demanding to know what has happened to their share.

Sheldon Eisenberg of the Bryan Cave law firm in Santa Monica that filed the suit, told the LA Times: "Paramount's calculations [in relation to the third party] showed that the series had earned net profits in the tens of millions of dollars. My clients were never told about that."

Paramount has described the case as "without merit" and vowed to defend its position.

It is not the first time that the issue of the division of profits from an ostensibly highly successful creative venture has come to the fore in Hollywood.

The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is suing Time Warner's New Line division over profits from box office receipts, DVDs, computer games and other merchandise from the Oscar-winning trilogy.

Ben Keen, chief analyst at Screen Digest, said: "Hollywood is a very litigious place and often disputes arise over precisely this kind of issue. It's a long-running theme in Hollywood generally that definitions of whether profit has been made on any production become somewhat opaque in the number crunching that goes on.

"The overall business of a studio is to maximise revenues and profits across their entire roster of production and distribution, not necessarily an individual show.

"That can sometimes lead to tensions between stakeholders in one particular show and the studio, which has a wider set of economic and business goals."

Frasier was created when fellow NBC series Cheers came to an end and writers Casey, Lee and Angell came up with the idea of a spin-off starring Grammer's character after he has returned to his home town of Seattle.

The quirky interplay of Frasier Crane, his brother Niles - also a psychiatrist - their ex-policeman father Martin, his healthcare worker Daphne Moon and Crane's perennially unlucky-in-love colleague Roz Doyle was a hit with viewers and critics alike.