Must See?

Wherefore art thou, Seinfeld?

Remember the good old days? Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer. Friends and ER. It didn't much matter what filled the holes (Caroline in the City, Veronica's Closet-the duds go on). NBC Thursdays earned their Must-See moniker.

Since the departure of that wicked Manhattan quartet, TV hasn't been the same. And its biggest night hasn't either. This fall, recent Emmy phenom Will & Grace inherits NBC's enviable 9PM time slot, with veteran Frasier moving to Tuesdays. But for some reason, "Must-See" sounds like hyperbole.

Now in its seventh season, Friends might just be funnier than ever. Forget the Ross and Rachel arc-Monica and Chandler's romance is fueling a hotbed of comedic mayhem. With a string of new episodes centered on the couple's upcoming wedding, there's plenty to joke about, from reception plans to awkward run-ins with the in-laws.

Pushing the Frasier to Tuesdays, Will & Grace arrives on its new night fresh off its Best Comedy Emmy win and a flurry of positive press. But can it do the job? In the beginning, over-the-top supporting stars Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullaly) stole every scene, but the titular twosome have caught the funny bug and things are looking up.

As NBC promos tout, "It's a new day in the ER." Still, it seems this power-drama's best days are behind it. Like Friends, the hour-long series is chugging through its seventh season, and it's beginning to show some signs of aging. Nurse Hathaway (Juliana Margulies) departed in the spring, on the tails of on-screen love interest Dr. Ross (George Clooney). As with Law & Order, cast additions have worked successfully in this ensemble effort, but keeping older favorites fresh is proving challenging.

And what of the missing links? The aptly titled Cursed, a gimmicky vehicle for Wings alum Steven Webber, follows Friends, but perhaps not for long. This uninspired take on a "doomed dater" smells like The Thirtysomething Single Guy. And Just Shoot Me, the once-was-almost-funny working sitcom starring the nauseating David Spade, has out-stayed its primetime welcome.

The verdict? The more things change, the more you wish they didn't. While Friends and Will are among the cream of the crop, NBC's Thursday glory pales beside memories of seasons past.


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