Is ‘Must See TV’ still what it claims to be?

Anne Wrobel

“Joey,” “Will and Grace,” “The Apprentice,” “ER”… sound familiar? It should. The new fall lineup of NBC’s Thursday night “Must See TV” has created old familiar favorites along with new challenges for the world’s number one network.

Joey Tribianni, the fun loving and goofy actor from NBC’s long time sitcom “Friends” has thrown himself into another crazy situation: a spin-off comedy. “Joey” is the new series brought to NBC’s “Must See TV” to replace the 8 p.m. time slot vacated by “Friends.” The premise of “Joey” is simple, involving a middle-aged actor who moves to Los Angeles in hopes of starring in a new television series, but is disappointed when his life does not go as planned. Matt LeBlanc’s hopelessly flawed character ends up living with his nephew and hanging out with his hairdresser sister (played by former “Soprano’s” star Drea de Matteo), who is repeatedly made fun of because of her breast implants.

Published Nielsen Television ratings indicate “Joey” failed to make it as one of the top 20 programs, whereas his previous sitcom, “Friends” was a frequent mainstay at the top of the list. With “Friends” off the air, it is no surprise that “Joey” has a lot of hype to live up to, or else the sitcom will go under.

As the Thursday night line-up continues, the TV viewer moves from the sunny L.A. area seen on “Joey,” to New York City’s upper east side as “Will and Grace” enters its seventh season at NBC. Conquering the 8:30 p.m. timeslot, “Will and Grace” was the only NBC show from Thursday night to come within the top ten of Nielsen’s previously mentioned ratings. “Will and Grace” continues to dazzle audiences every week, with best friends Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) continuing to bicker and laugh over marriage, divorce and dating. This successful sitcom provides what every show needs; the sidekick characters of Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) who dwell in their own cattiness and provide the show with B-line stories ranging from Jack being a backup dancer for Janet Jackson to Karen writing a song for Jennifer Lopez. Both Jackson and Lopez guest starred in their own respective episodes at the opening of the fall season.

In its second season, “The Apprentice” returns to NBC for more business challenges as 16 new contestants crawl to the top for a chance to control one of Trump’s multi-million dollar companies. Though Trump’s “Apprentice” had much acclaim from critics last year, many ponder if the show can repeat the same success. NBC hopes to have the success of “The Apprentice” continue as opposing business teams create new toys for Mattel, sell a vanilla brand of Colgate toothpaste and hassle people in Times Square to buy inventive flavors of ice cream. In its second time around, “The Apprentice” promises more drama in the boardroom as contestants turn on each other for survival and a chance at fifteen minutes of fame, fortune, and becoming Trump’s right hand man or woman.

Rounding out NBC’s “Must See TV” Thursday is the return of the medical drama, “ER.” Now in its 10th season, “ER” has returning favorites (like Sherry Stringfield’s “Dr. Lewis”) and some new faces, as Shane West (from ABC’s “Once and Again”) joins the cast as a new medical intern.

“ER” continues to surprise television audiences with its shocking medical epidemics, heart-wrenching rescues, and intertwining personal lives of the staff. Though an ensemble cast is present, “ER” will lose one of its original 1994 characters when Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle) says goodbye to “ER” by season’s end.

NBC’s “Must See TV” Thursday has its hits and misses for this television year. As viewers sit on couches, chairs and futons, let us not forget what shows we want: comedies, reality and dramatic programs that not only stimulate our eyeballs for a few hours but actually entertain us. Will the NBC “Must See TV” Thursday night lineup provide this? Tune in to NBC Thursdays beginning at 8 p.m. and find out