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After some brief talk of keeping the show going for a 12th season next fall, NBC said Monday that its five-time Emmy-winning comedy Frasier will call it quits in May. This was widely assumed to be its last season, but in recent months Kelsey Grammer, who has portrayed the high-strung psychologist Frasier Crane for 20 years since the character originated on Cheers, had said he was open to continuing. "The finances would not have worked for another season," said NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks. Frasier won the Emmy for best comedy for five straight years, from 1994 to 1998. Its exit means that NBC will go into next season without both of the popular urbane comedies that have defined it as a network for the past decade. The last episode of Friends will also air in May. Frasier lost popularity as it aged, but it remained a mainstay on Tuesday nights for NBC, averaging 11.1 million viewers a week. The network has tried, and failed, to develop other long-lasting hit comedies. The show's ratings slide has continued despite a critical revival this season when the original writing team of Christopher Lloyd and out scribe Joe Keenan returned after being gone for three years. "It will end on a high note," Marks said. NBC was paying Paramount, the show's producers, an estimated $5.2 million per show licensing fee. As with most long-running shows, costs were mounting and there was discussion of Grammer taking a pay cut to continue another season. This season marked two milestones important to Grammer: His 20-year run playing Frasier Crane--a character introduced during the third season of Cheers--ties James Arness of Gunsmoke for the longest stretch an actor has played a single character in prime time. Frasier will also have lasted 11 seasons, the same duration as Cheers.