Credit NBC's peacock prowess for keeping Thursdays relatively pristine. Only two new series dare to debut on the original "Must-See TV" night _ and one of them (the surprisingly mediocre comedy Suddenly Susan with Brooke Shields) is on NBC. The other, CBS' positively unoriginal detective show Moloney, will surely go the way of Charlie Grace last year: Cancellation.
What's left is a hodgepodge of kamikaze victims awaiting their turn to be shot down by the Seinfelds and Friends of the airwaves. ABC sticks with the all-drama motif that failed last year: High Incident, the suburban cop drama in dire need of a breakthrough, moves to the brutal 8 p.m. timeslot, bolstered by the addition of L.A. Law star Blair Underwood. Murder One _ barely staving off cancellation _ returns with a less-strident format and a new leading man (Anthony LaPaglia) at 9 p.m.
Aside from Fox _ which smartly left its all-urban themed lineup intact _ CBS makes the most calculated move of the night, adding Diagnosis Murder, the underrated, older-demographic-skewing Dick Van Dyke drama at 8 p.m. For a network that seemed to purposefully alienate its core audience last year, CBS seems back on track. Diagnosis Murder will likely draw all the non-Friends-watching grown-ups who are tired of cop shows.
Sadly, Thursdays remain a touchy subject for families. Sexual storylines and adult humor make Martin and Friends risky fare at 8 p.m., even if kids argue otherwise. With nowhere else to go on the networks, look for families to seek refuge on cable.
Comedy: Seinfeld (NBC) _ After all these years, still the funniest half-hour on TV.
Drama: ER (NBC) _ No longer the new show on the block , here's hoping ER delves even deeper this season into the troubled lives of its troubled heroes.
For families: Nothing. Thursdays may be "Must-See TV," but not for kids. The comedies are too adult-themed (Friends at 8 p.m.? Please.), the dramas too heavy. Try cable instead.
VCR alert: Murder One (ABC) _ Once again, this excellent Steven Bochco legal drama gets a raw scheduling deal. Last year, the series went head-to-head against ER and Chicago Hope. Now, it's up against Seinfeld. Time to learn how to program the VCR.
Moloney (premieres Thursday, CBS, WTSP-Ch. 10): Tired old detective drama stars the otherwise interesting Peter Strauss as a police psychiatrist with a requisite ex-wife and cute daughter. Can you say Nash Bridges?
Suddenly Susan (premieres Thursday, NBC, WFLA-Ch. 8): Model/actor Brooke Shields shines in this mediocre comedy as a formerly coupled 30-year-old facing singlehood again. Former Brat Packer Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club) co-stars as her boss at an upscale magazine.