Quick! Drag the koi pond! Maris Crane is missing!

Actually, Maris Crane has always been missing. The thin ("very thin") and Caucasian ("very Caucasian") wife of Dr. Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce) has never actually been seen on "Frasier" - although she's been a frequent presence on the show.And the unseen Maris plays a major part in a don't-miss episode of this excellent, Emmy-winning comedy (8 p.m., Ch. 5).

As the show opens, Niles is in an absolute tizzy. He can't find his beloved, if domineering, wife anywhere.

Eventually, it turns out that she's just forgotten to notify him before she took off for an East Coast shopping trip. But Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) isn't willing to let it go at that. He goads Niles into standing up to Maris - who promptly throws her husband out of the house and files for divorce.

This is very funny stuff. And

that's not even counting Roz's (Peri Gilpin) problems with a Trekkie or Daphne's (Jane Leeves) shepherd's pie, which isn't fit for Mormon consumption.

(You'll just have to watch to find out why.)

And Maris has become, without doubt, the greatest unseen character in the history of television comedy - even better than Vera on "Cheers" or Carlton your doorman on "Rhoda."

If you can't be home to watch "Frasier" tonight, set that VCR.

LIARS: If you've seen the promotional spots that NBC has been running for tonight's episode of "Frasier," you've seen that network's advertising department at its worst once again.

Basically, those spots are false advertising.

In promoting the breakup of Niles and Maris' marriage, our prevaricating friends at NBC invite viewers to tune in for a full hour of "Frasier" - leaving the obvious, inescapable impression that viewers can expect an all-new, hourlong episode.

Not true.

That episode runs its normal 30 minutes and will be followed by a "Frasier" repeat.

If you're waiting for NBC News to run some sort of story about such false advertising, don't hold your breath. This isn't the first time NBC has done this sort of thing - it's not even the first time the marketing people have done this exact thing with "Frasier."

Nonetheless, they should cut it out. Or maybe just get jobs selling snake oil.

And those of you who've noticed that local NBC affiliate KSL-Ch. 5 is running a BYU basketball game at 8:30 p.m. needn't worry about missing half of this pivotal episode of "Frasier" - just the repeat that follows it.

THE PRICE OF LOVE: Fox's latest made-for-TV movie deals with teenage prostitution in a way you may not expect.


Not that "The Price of Love" (7 p.m., Ch. 13) is an easy movie to watch. Nor is it intended for young children.

And parents who try to regulate what their older kids watch will want to watch this with them.

What makes "Price" particularly difficult to watch is that, while the story is fictional, at the same time the circumstances are pretty much identical to those experienced by thousands of American children.

Newcomer Peter Facinelli turns in an excellent performance as 16-year-old Bret, a boy with no place to go when his abusive stepmother kicks him out of his home and he discovers his grandmother is unable to take him in. He ends up on the streets of Hollywood, hanging with a bunch of runaways.

(The cast of the movie includes a number of real-life Hollywood street kids in minor roles and as extras.)

But even this dead-end life of begging on the streets and squatting in a vacant house is short-lived. Unable to go home to parents who don't want him and unable to get work because he's under age, Bret is soon befriended by young male hustlers (Jay Ferguson, Steven Martini and Alexis Cruz) and - desperate for money - becomes a hustler himself.

"The Price of Love" takes a rather unflinching look at the horrors of this life - the violence, the disease, the trouble with the law. At the same time, it handles the situation of teenage boys selling their bodies without exploiting it.

There are no gay sex scenes in the movie and only one heterosexual scene, which is considerably tamer than those you'll find on your average daytime soap opera.

And, to its credit, there are no fairy-tale happy endings for the main characters. "The Price of Love" does not dilute its message about how tough life on the streets is by having everything work out great for Bret in the end.

There is some small degree of hope but no happy ending.

Which makes "The Price of Love" all the more powerful as a cautionary tale and one that should alert the public that kids like this need all the help they can get.

ANOTHER ONE GETS THE AX: NBC has canceled its inane Sunday sitcom "Minor Adjustments."

There's no immediate word on what the network will replace the show with.