EW looks at the new shows that will be battling 'Friends' and 'Frasier' on the Peacock's must-have night for big ratings

By Joe Flint
May 28, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Dave Bjerke

During the recent unveiling of the Big Six networks’ fall schedules, NBC West Coast president Scott Sassa had a message for the competition: ”We don’t have to hurt each other in order to succeed.”

Apparently, no one was listening. The Peacock’s five rival nets have all decided to take a whack at toppling NBC’s dominant Thursday-night lineup. It’s no wonder the other nets smell blood: Although ”Friends” is as strong as ever, ”Frasier”’s not delivering those ”Seinfeld” numbers, ”ER”’s ratings have slipped since George Clooney left, and ”Jesse” is still unproven.

”There’s an opportunity,” says ABC Entertainment president Jamie Tarses. ”NBC’s drops are going to be even further,” predicts CBS TV CEO Leslie Moonves.

The nets will be attacking the Must See monster from all angles. UPN and Fox are looking to lure away men, with the former airing two hours of wrestling and the latter fielding ”Manchester Prep” (a new drama about oversexed teens from ”Cruel Intentions” director Roger Kumble), ”Family Guy,” and Jay Mohr’s ribald new comedy ”Action.”

On the other hand, ABC and The WB have their sights set on young women, with the Alphabet offering the romantic comedy ”Then Came You” and ”Wasteland,” creator Kevin Williamson’s (”Dawson’s Creek”) take on twentysomething angst. The WB’s launching its Thursday nights with the new ”Heathers”-esque drama ”Popular” and the sophomore ”Charmed.”

CBS hopes a revamped ”Chicago Hope” (with creator David E. Kelley and star Mandy Patinkin returning and Lauren Holly joining) can lure some of NBC’s older audience to the Eye. ”NBC will still win,” Moonves sums up, ”but everybody will chip away some of its audience.”