The Single Guy aired from September 1995 until April 1997 on NBC.
This urban comedy centered around the last "single guy" in a circle of young friends. Johnny ( Jonathan Silverman) was a fledgling Manhattan novelist who had no trouble finding dates, but no luck at all when it came to finding the woman of his dreams. His married friends, who were constantly trying to fix him up, were Sam ( Joey Slotnick), a loony studio engineer, and Trudy ( Ming-Na Wen), his Asian wife, who ran a gallery; and Matt ( Mark Moses), a big , smiling lug who worked as a financial advisor, and his chatty wife Janeane( Jessica Hecht). The latter couple were discovering the joys of parenthood with their baby Sabastian. The voice of experience was provided by Manny ( Ernest Borgnine), the ebullient doorman at Johnny's apartment building, who had been married for fifty years.
In the second season Matt and Janeane left ( Matt got a job with the Dole campaign) and Johnny got a couple of single friends-Marie ( Olivia d'Abo), an English divorcee who moved into Johnny's apartment building , and Russell ( Shawn Michael Howard), a law student who worked at The Bagel Cafe, where the gang hung out.
Brad Hall was the creator and executive producer of this series.
An Article from Time Magazine on the new shows for 1995-1996
IT'S A FRIENDLY FALL
Monday, Sep. 11, 1995
By GINIA BELLAFANTE
They will be as hard to avoid this fall as TV's usual glut of precocious grade-schoolers. Soon to arrive in droves: wisecracking, style-conscious young men and women on perpetually unpromising blind dates. Within the next month, a macho cop will be fixed up with an earnest obituary writer; a messy-haired leftist will share a grueling meal with a money-obsessed adman; a skeptical guy who writes novels will not hit it off with a name-dropping magazine reporter; and a receptionist will dine uneasily with a balding editor afflicted with Tourette's syndrome.
Of the 42 new prime-time shows premiering in the next few weeks--on the Big Four networks as well as on two part-time newcomers launched last season by Paramount and Warner Bros.--nearly a dozen pay homage to the urban single life. Thank Friends, NBC's superhit of last season. The comedy about a group of young Manhattanites who spend their time drinking coffee and deconstructing their dating lives has spawned more copies than a Rolex diving watch. The networks' pursuit of sophisticated urban comedy mostly falls short, however. Even though sitcoms dominate in sheer numbers, the most interesting activity lies elsewhere. This season's best bets are a handful of intelligently conceived, suspenseful dramas.
But you have to find them amid the sitcoms. The Single Guy and Caroline in the City, two Friends-inspired shows on NBC, have received the most attention, largely because of their golden Thursday-night time slots. The Single Guy, which follows Friends at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, stars Jonathan Silverman, who never overdoes it as a New York City writer frustrated by his friends' efforts to find him a mate. The funniest of the matchmakers--and the show's greatest draw--is his friend Sam (Joey Slotnick), who scours the subways looking for women to introduce to his chum. Slotnick is one of the few comics who can appropriate Jerry Seinfeld's whiny inflections without making you want to hurl your TV set out a high window.
There is no such standout character on Caroline in the City, sandwiched between hits Seinfeld and ER at 9:30 p.m. E.T. Starring Lea Thompson as a flustered cartoonist with an oddball assistant and a promiscuous best friend, Caroline lacks the quirkiness and edge of its fellow NBC sitcoms. It also depends on the sort of hoary comedy devices that have made decades of TV sitcoms embarrassing to watch. When Caroline visits her handsome ex-beau at his office, she tries to cover up her attraction to him. "I'm going to go out and get some sex," she blurts out. "I mean lunch!"
Such banality also plagues other Friends-influenced shows. CBS's Can't Hurry Love stars Nancy McKeon (The Facts of Life) as a bland job-placement coordinator who daydreams while feeding the pigeons outside her lower Manhattan office window. The WB network is offering Simon, about two goofball brothers sharing a New York tenement flat, and First Time Out, which depicts three equally unfunny housemates--women this time--who gripe about finding men in L.A. and missing Jerry Springer. From Fox comes Too Something, featuring slacker best friends who work in a mail room and aren't nearly as offbeat as the show's creators (who are also the stars) seem to believe, and Partners, in which Jon Cryer overacts as a young architect who can't cope with the fact that his closest friend is marrying.
The best new ensemble comedy of the season is at least something of a departure. ABC's The Drew Carey Show (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. E.T.), starring and co-created by stand-up comic Carey, is a working-class Friends--a hip sitcom in which the characters avoid coffee bars, congregating instead in beer joints and bare kitchens with no visible signs of a Williams-Sonoma shopping spree.
Unlike most of his sitcom contemporaries, Drew (as Carey's character is called on the show) is no wiry Manhattanite spewing caustic one-liners. He's a beefy Midwesterner who is sparing with his barbs. As a department-store personnel manager, he finds his travails are more mundane. In the pilot Drew is threatened with a lawsuit by an obese woman in mounds of blue eye shadow who cries sexual discrimination when he doesn't hire her to run the cosmetics counter. Carey is so buffoonish he can elicit laughs with a mere bobbing tilt of his head. Among his friends, Ryan Stiles is engaging as a janitor reminiscent of Christopher Lloyd's Reverend Jim on Taxi.
If only the higher-tax-bracket singles on the new CBS drama Central Park West (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. E.T.) were as amusing. The show, revolving around a wealthy New York publishing family, was developed by Darren Star, creator of Melrose Place. But it lacks that series' appealing campiness. On Melrose the characters are so unfailingly stupid that they remain dumbfounded every single time they are blackmailed or cheated on. In comparison, the CPW crowd is rather sharp and as a result less fun to watch. Still, there are snippets of irresistible dialogue. When a stockbroker dumps his girlfriend after squandering her fortune in bad investments, she screams, "Why wasn't I diversified? What kind of scum are you?"
The characters on this season's more intriguing dramas have weightier things to worry about than the fluctuating value of hedge funds. Inspired by the success of the Fox series The X-Files, several new one-hour dramas venture into the paranormal. Strange Luck, which will air on Fox just before The X -Files (Fridays, 8 p.m. E.T.), centers on a photojournalist (D.B. Sweeney) who as a child survived a plane crash. Now he keeps finding himself in life-threatening predicaments, from which he somehow always succeeds in escaping.
A psychically beleaguered photographer is also at the center of Nowhere Man, an unusually frightening and well-acted thriller on the UPN network (Mondays, 9 p.m. E.T.). Thomas Veil (Bruce Greenwood) returns to his table at a restaurant to discover that his wife has vanished and everyone in his life suddenly doesn't know him. His identity has been erased, and the show tracks his efforts to regain it.
The two best dramas of the season represent the range of TV's fascination with matters of good and evil, from the darkest recesses of the soul to the harsh light of the courtroom. American Gothic (Fridays, 10 p.m. E.T.), one of the eeriest shows to come along in years, revolves around Lucas Buck (Gary Cole), a sinister sheriff. Buck runs everything in the fictional Southern town of Trinity, where the weirdness is as oppressive as the humidity. He lies, rapes and murders while whistling the theme song of The Andy Griffith Show. To the locals he appears a kindly, caring lawman; he finds people jobs and gives peppy talks to grade-school classes. But his mission throughout the series is to gain control of a young boy (Lucas Black) whose sister Buck has killed and whose only weapon against the sheriff is the girl's otherworldly guidance. Cole plays Buck with just the right pathological gaze and, alternately, avuncular smile; he's chillingly convincing in both roles.
American Gothic never lets up on its creepy surrealism--it is Twin Peaks without the sardonic levity. The show was created and scripted, improbably, by former Hardy Boys star Shaun Cassidy, who says he "wanted to do a show set in the Cape Fear South, where there is still a rich sense of folklore--not the magnolia-and-lemonade South we're used to on TV." He has succeeded. "I always saw this not as a horror show," he says, "but as a show about moral struggles."
The moral struggles are more intricately played out on ABC's Murder One (Thursdays, 10 p.m. E.T.), probably the season's most eagerly anticipated new show. Conceived by Steven Bochco, the creator of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, Murder One will spend its entire 23-episode season following the course of a single homicide case. And for viewers who find this suspiciously familiar, Bochco stresses that he came up with the idea years before the O.J. Simpson trial.
The story involves the murder of a 15-year-old girl found dead in her older sister's apartment. The accused is a socially prominent businessman with a sordid side, who police believe was having an affair with the teenager. Stanley Tucci exudes a quiet smarminess as the suspect, and despite the show's tawdry subject matter, it never feels cheap. If subsequent episodes prove as gripping as the first, audiences could get hooked on the unusual serial format.
Yet Murder One, scheduled opposite last season's hit ER, does have a tough road ahead. Bochco admits the format has pitfalls; though only seven scripts have been written, he knows how the case will be resolved--and there's little chance to make midcourse corrections. "The degree of difficulty of doing something like this is much higher than I thought," he says. "If you think you've made a wrong turn, you can't go back and fix it." For TV viewers, though, an hour with Murder One is the best blind date of the season.
A Review from Variety
The Single Guy
((Thurs. (21), 8:30-9 p.m., NBC))
By PHIL GALLO
Filmed in Studio City by Castle Rock Entertainment in association with NBC Prods. Exec producer, Brad Hall; co-exec producer, Jay Kogen; producers, Brian Medavoy & Erwin More, Max Mutchnick & David Kohan, Steve Paymer; director, Sam Weisman; writer, Hall.
Cast: Jonathan Silverman, Jessica Hecht, Mark Moses, Joey Slotnick, Ming-Na Wen, Ernest Borgnine.
No big yuks but engaging dialogue, a focused premise and Jonathan Silverman's star-in-the-making presence give "The Single Guy" a jump on the competition. Coveted slot between "Friends" and "Seinfeld" makes for a solid troika of Manhattan-based comedies; newcomer "Caroline in the City" could make that four in a row.
Silverman is personality-plus as novelist Jonathan Eliot, the single guy happy to find his own dates and wary of the intervention of his friends, all of whom are married. In premiere episode, buddy Sam (Joey Slotnick) -- who has just met the perfect girl for Jonathan on the subway -- and Jonathan plan to watch a heavyweight fight on pay-per-view when best friend Janeane Percy-Parker (Jessica Hecht) calls to remind Jonathan about dinner plans.
Janeane's guise is wanting Jonathan to get to like hubby Matt Parker (Mark Moses) and -- surprise -- Matt comes home withDelilah (Olivia d'Abo), an attractive blonde who turns out to be a name-dropping bore. Naturally, the guys devise a way to bolt to catch end of heavyweight fight and show wraps with assortment of pithy thoughts on marriage.
Silverman's role is developed enough to show he's not a hedonist on the loose but a caring individual who hasn't found "the one."
Couples show major comic and character potential: The Parkers lend the femme pal with the dweeby but committed husband and a newborn, while Sam and wife Trudy (Ming-Na Wen) supply an untethered testosterone level and a willing accomplice. Ernest Borgnine is doorman Manny, who watches the fight with the cable installer in Jonathan's apartment, and who offers the perspective of older family man.
Certainly a twist on its lead-in, show keeps subplots to a minimum and joke that starts the seg actually has a payoff. The characters appear to have careers and troupe isn't packed in for every get-together. "The Single Guy" could easily distance itself from the imitators by building on that singular focus and not getting into the plot-maze game played expertly by "Seinfeld" and "Friends."
Understated theme and opening panels set premise well.
An Article from The New York Times
Real Life Rates TV
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
Published: October 1, 1995
SINCE the days of Ralph Kramden's Brooklyn apartment and Latka's taxi rides through Manhattan, prime-time television has been fascinated with New York City. It has been less enchanted with journalists, dealing tentatively with the profession, from Lou Grant and his sidekick Mary Richards in their television newsroom in Minneapolis to, well, Lou Grant in his newspaper newsroom in Los Angeles.
But in the new fall season, journalists have finally arrived. Almost every network now offers a show about New York journalists, from fierce tabloid news hounds to well-groomed magazine editors who spend more time worrying about who wants to sleep with their husbands than about headlines.
Of course, for New Yorkers who really work in journalism, this is an opportunity to do what journalists do best -- grouse. The buzz about "Central Park West," for example, has lasted for several weeks now. The consensus? The producers got it all wrong.
Not that journalism should be portrayed any more authentically on television than, say, high school in "90210" or the oil business in "Dallas." But it may strike many journalists as odd that the "Central Park West" characters seem to have plenty of time to put together cute softball outfits. (Softball? Hello? What time is your deadline?)
In the real world, journalists, whose lunches might be dry turkey sandwiches in front of computer terminals while trying to block out the din of colleagues' interviews, would kill to witness instead a Merit-puffing subordinate tell off her boss and then stomp off for lunch in SoHo. Few journalists' lives, in fact, remotely resemble those of the televised world.
Or do they?
To compare their lives with Television Reality, some real-life inhabitants of those worlds sat down to watch five shows involving New Yorkers in the news media. Here are their reactions.
'Central Park West' CBS, Wednesdays, 9 to 10 P.M. THE PREMISE Stephanie Wells, a transplanted New Yorker, takes over a slick monthly magazine, Communique, and its mercurial staff, including a chain-smoking gossip columnist, Carrie Fairchild, who is plotting to seduce said editor's husband. The gossip columnist has a friend, Nikki Sheridan, who owns a gallery.
THE CRITICS Linda Wells, the editor in chief of Allure magazine and the prototype for the televised Ms. Wells, and Lisa Spellman, the owner of the 303 Gallery in SoHo.
THE BIG GIVEAWAY The fictional gallery owner flees at one point to "fax a stack of contracts to Munich." "They're not contracts, they're consignments," Ms. Spellman noted. Ms. Wells said she could not recall nor fathom a conversation with a publisher in which he would say, "I want that bitch gone," in reference to a subordinate.
REALITY CHECK Nikki Sheridan loses authenticity points for showing up at networking parties half dressed, which is not quite professional, Ms. Spellman said, and for dashing from her gallery at midday. "Whisking out for lunch with a friend, leaving the gallery unattended with no guilt or remorse," Ms. Spellman said. "Uh, no."
Ms. Wells was amused by the editor character's wardrobe. "Most magazine editors don't go for decorative dressing," she said. "They like to disappear in camouflage.
"The luxuriousness of the offices is quite fantastic," she added. "I have a nice office, but it's a mess. The desk is one huge firetrap. If you are working in journalism, you have to read a lot of stuff, and a lot of it doesn't find its way off your desk for many years."
WHERE THEY ALMOST GET IT RIGHT Ms. Spellman tipped her hat to the set directors and called the art in the fictional gallery "very realistic." Ms. Wells said of the other Ms. Wells's office: "I like the fact that behind her were flowers still in the cellophane. I would have them there until the water molded. That was kind of nice, a touch of sad reality."
'Ned and Stacey' Fox, Mondays, 9:30 to 10 P.M. THE PREMISE Stacey is a Village Voice writer who cannot find an apartment and thus agrees to marry a soulless advertising executive who needs a wife to advance in his agency. Her motive? She wants to live in his spacious digs.
THE CRITICS Leslie Savan, the advertising columnist at The Village Voice, and Jonathan Bond, a founder of Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, a New York advertising agency.
THE BIG GIVEAWAY Ned comes up with a story board that becomes a commercial overnight. "That's about eight weeks off," Mr. Bond scoffed. Ms. Savan pointed out that if Stacey really worked at The Voice, she would have early access to its real estate listings and thus would have no problem finding an apartment.
REALITY CHECK Ms. Savan bristled at the ethnically insensitive points of the show (a mother is described as having the voice of a "Jewish car alarm,"), and Mr. Bond said that he likes his employees to "share the values of the clients." But Ms. Savan found it absurd that a leftist journalist would get involved in such a preposterous real estate scheme, and Mr. Bond said he would have been more offended by Ned's grating personality than by his lack of a wife.
WHERE THEY ALMOST GET IT RIGHT "I think the fact that New York life is so brutal that it forces you to confront your values is true," Mr. Bond said. 'The Preston Episodes' Fox, Saturdays, 8:30 to 9 P.M. THE PREMISE A college professor quits his job to become a writer in New York and has to work at a soft celebrity-driven magazine to support himself.
THE CRITIC Nisid Hajari, a Ph.D. candidate in English literature at Columbia University who was until recently a staff writer at Entertainment Weekly.
THE BIG GIVEAWAY "No magazine editor would tolerate Venetian blinds," Mr. Hajari said.
REALITY CHECK David Preston lands his job by demonstrating his vast off-the-cuff knowledge of grammar, which sends Mr. Hajari into a fit. "He's not an intellectual at all," he said. "He sounds like a nit-picking third-grade teacher. A real intellectual would discuss the bourgeois homogeneity of the declining narrative of capital or something, not dangling participles."
WHERE THEY ALMOST GET IT RIGHT Mr. Hajari sadly agreed that the British editor would discourage the use of monosyllabic words. 'The Single Guy' NBC, Thursdays, 8:30 to 9 P.M. THE PREMISE A cynical freelance writer, a bachelor, is set up on dates by his married friends, who want him to be just like them.
THE CRITIC Chip Brown, a freelance magazine writer who lives on the Upper West Side.
THE BIG GIVEAWAY No signs of work, no signs of procrastination. "If they filmed me in my apartment, I would be seen trying to rehabilitate my jade plant," Mr. Brown said.
REALITY CHECK Mr. Brown was aghast at the notions of an overfriendly doorman who regularly strolls in with paella and of the pushy friends the single guy pals around with. "People go freelance to get away from corporate offices populated by people like that," he said.
WHERE THEY ALMOST GET IT RIGHT Mr. Brown was reticent in this category. "Even the most tragic freelancer's life would be more interesting," he said. 'New York News' CBS, Thursdays, 9 to 10 P.M. THE PREMISE Life in the gritty world of a New York City tabloid, with Mary Tyler Moore as the hard-as-nails editor, Madeline Kahn as the larger-than-life gossip columnist and lots of grumpy tough guys and gals chasing stories.
THE CRITIC Joanna Molloy, a gossip columnist for The Daily News.
THE BIG GIVEAWAY A writer stops interviewing prostitutes in the park to help a child who has fallen down. "I don't think so," Ms. Molloy said.
REALITY CHECK This show got high reality ratings from the critic, who said she recognized several characters from her own newsroom, including Victor, the mail-room employee with a heart, who won the lottery but inexplicably keeps coming to work, and a few editors with health problems related to stress. A point against the set: the desk lamps are too nice, she said.
WHERE THEY ALMOST GET IT RIGHT "One thing I really liked was the fact that Mary Tyler Moore and Madeline Kahn had their little bonding session in the powder room," Ms. Molloy said. "There aren't that many older women in the newspaper business, and I was touched by that. Mary Tyler Moore said, 'You're a survivor,' and I liked that because there are a lot of survival tactics that women in this business have to use."
An Article from The New York Times
EARNING IT;In TV Land, Work Involves a Lot of Play
By DANA ANDREW JENNINGS
Published: October 1, 1995
IF this fall's new shows are any indication, American productivity is in trouble.
The more than 40 new prime-time television shows teem with the leech professions (journalists and lawyers lurk everywhere) and young, urban singles who have no apparent means of support other than what can be called "The Friend Factor."
In the most memorable shows of the past, jobs helped shape and define the characters. Ralph Kramden, bus driver and Everyman on "The Honeymooners," still makes us laugh and squirm with recognition. In "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Mary Richards lives out her crises in her Minneapolis newsroom. And in "Hill Street Blues," the work of policing is the medium in which its eccentric ensemble is portrayed.
But in a lot of the new shows ("The Single Guy" on NBC, "Can't Hurry Love" on CBS, "Partners" on Fox) jobs are mere accessories, just part of the wardrobe. Earning a living isn't an issue, it's a given. What matters most to these characters are their personal lives. Hanging out is an art.
"The Single Guy," for example, is Jonathan, a thirtyish novelist whose friends have nothing better to do than set him up with dates. His book hasn't sold many copies, but he has a nice Manhattan apartment. (Where do these characters find their apartments?) He goes out. He orders pay-per-view boxing. Does he have a trust fund? An N.E.A. grant? His biggest worry is his next date.
And one assumes that Jonathan and his dates don't talk much about universal health coverage or saving for retirement.
"The Single Guy" and its siblings are the spawn of the NBC hits "Seinfeld" and "Friends," in which the characters hang out in Manhattan and spend most of their time getting off witty lines. The entire city is their Algonquin Round Table, and they're on a first-name basis with the U.P.S. guy.
If the 1970's was "The Me Decade," then, according to these shows, the 1990's is "The Us Decade."
"I suppose these shows satisfy some strange sense of community," says Neal Gabler, a cultural historian. "Maybe they're a reaction to the 1980's, when the job was everything. These characters have no lives. But maybe they offer their viewers some kind of television support system."
Great, virtual friends.
In the television workplace, the cops and lawyers and doctors have always been with us, waxing and waning from season to season. But some jobs have nearly disappeared: game wardens and farmers, spies and superheroes, soldiers and cowboys. And that suburban fantasy class, represented by such shows as "Leave It to Beaver," "Father Knows Best" and "The Donna Reed Show," has, mercifully, vanished, too.
This season, neurotic singles aside, characters are trying out new occupations to fill the void. They include a child psychologist ("Minor Adjustments," NBC), an assistant personnel director ("The Drew Carey Show," ABC), a cartoonist ("Caroline in the City," NBC), an air-conditioner repairman ("The Jeff Foxworthy Show," ABC) and millionaire cyber-nerds ("Dweebs" CBS).
Will these careers outlast the game wardens and spies of yesterday? Who knows. But in light of all the young, lazy urban whiners on many of the season's new shows, one entry -- "Dweebs" -- feels like Balzac. Or, at least, Bill Gates telling a good joke.
Now, these four guys are doing their part for the gross domestic product. They're the millionaire founders of Cyberbyte Inc. -- recently moved from a windowless garage -- but they all brown-bag it for lunch. And "Dweebs" has the right techie-Trekkie feel for TV's first Silicon Valley sitcom.
Then comes that perennial TV career, journalism. The scoop here, from the ink-stained wretches ("Central Park West" and "New York News" on CBS, "The Preston Episodes" on Fox), to the photojournalists ("The Naked Truth" on ABC and "Strange Luck" on Fox) to the TV reporters ("The Bonnie Hunt Show" CBS) seems to be: not much work and lots of money.
Personally, I'm angling for a job at Communique, that slick, Manhattan glossy at the epicenter of "Central Park West." Its editor, Stephanie Wells as played by Mariel Hemingway, can afford a $3,000-a-month penthouse ("Hello, sweetheart, get me a drink") with a park view; most magazine editors would be happy to take the rent money as their salary and move to Hoboken. Then there's the columnist, pulling down $200,000 a year, who says, "My column gets published every month, as written." For $200,000 a year, you can shred my column and feed it to your ferret.
Not that much editing or writing goes on. Lots of bedding and conniving, though, played out against the backdrop of Manhattan as a theme park. Besides the journalists, there's also the young Kennedyesque prosecutor, the too-chic art gallery owner, the scummy stockbroker and Ms. Hemingway's whiny novelist-husband: "I should be supporting myself writing," he sniffles. (Papa Hemingway would have punched him out.) None of them work too hard, either.
This soft-handed bunch even plays softball in Central Park -- on a weekday. Not one character knows how to swing a softball bat, but darned if the ball doesn't go far. It's probably just as juiced as their salaries.
Those other mainstay TV characters -- judges and lawyers -- pop up this year in "JAG" and "The Home Court" on NBC, and, on CBS, "John Grisham's 'The Client' t" and "Courthouse." Some of these legal types are funny, some are serious and some are military, but they all pale before ABC's "Murder One" and its main character, Theodore Hoffman, a lawyer played by Daniel Benzali, the one arrival on television this season who's truly earning his salary.
There is not a false note in "Murder One," which will follow a single murder case the entire season. The lawyers are cynical, funny, relentless. The characters feel lived in, and live in their jobs. One look at Hoffman's face and you know he isn't paid enough, no matter how much he makes. He arrives at the office early and comes home late to his family and a glass of wine.
Sometimes we treat our TV's as mirrors. We peer into the pixel panoramas and hope to see ourselves. Maybe our neighbors.
In the first episode of "Murder One," Hoffman says to a client, "The whole truth is a pretty ambitious goal, Richard. Just tell me the truth I need to know."
And that's all we can ask of the very best television. We want the truth we need to know: about our lives, about our jobs.
An Article from The New York Times
Alone but Not Necessarily Lonely
By ANITA GATES
Published: October 8, 1995
Jonathan, the title character of NBC's new series "The Single Guy," does not seem to have an enviable life. All of his close friends got married in the last few years, and he didn't. Now they're determined to save him from bachelorhood. ("You married people have this bizarre need to turn everyone else into married people," he says to one woman. "You're like vampires. Or Mormons.") He's a novelist, but from the looks of his East Village apartment, not a wildly successful one. When he gets pay-per-view to watch a fight, the cable installer insults his television set and raids his refrigerator. Then he misses the fight because he's forced into a blind date with a name-dropping blond magazine editor who oinks when she laughs.
But Jonathan (played by Jonathan Silverman) shouldn't feel alone at all. Prime time is crawling with young, urban single people. They are the central characters in at least eight new sitcoms this season, and the casts of "Seinfeld," "Ellen" and "Friends" are all back for another year of dating angst and wacky but unwavering friendship in the big city in the 90's.
So what's the big deal about being unmarried? Yes, "Friends" was a huge hit for NBC last year, but the new shows can't all be clones. Can they? Brad Hall, the executive producer of "The Single Guy" (and best known for his stint on "Saturday Night Live"), considers the phenomenon just the latest variation on the theme of the need to belong. He sees it this way: the 60's, "all those rural shows, belonging in a small town" ("The Andy Griffith Show," "Petticoat Junction"); the 70's, the workplace as family ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Bob Newhart Show," "Taxi"); the 80's, real families again ("The Cosby Show," "Family Ties"); the 90's, a loving network of friends. (Mr. Hall's wife, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, happens to appear on one of those 90's shows, as Elaine on "Seinfeld.") "People are always looking for a family unit of some kind, and TV is very cyclical," says Mr. Hall. "It's just a need to be in a tribe and to look for support from your peers. And there's tons of comedy in that, because nobody is the same."
The networks certainly hope that's true. Even the fledgling WB network has an entry, "First Time Out," about young singles trying to make it in Los Angeles. The question is, who's watching all these shows? When the producers of "Friends" were trying to sell it to NBC in the spring of 1994, the target audience was no secret. "It skews very young," said Leslie Moonves, then the president of Warner Brothers Television, which produces the series. And Kevin Bright, an executive producer, said the show was about "the time of everyone's life when they're at the beginning of everything."
As "Friends" enters its second year, almost everybody seems to be watching. "It has a very broad demographic appeal," says Janine Jones, NBC's director of prime-time series publicity. "The core audience is 18 to 54, but it does branch out and pull in teen viewers."
NBC hasn't checked into how many of the show's fans are single and how many are married. "My feeling is that it offers something for everyone: people who are excited to get to that point in life, people who are at that point, and people who can look back and reflect on it," says Ms. Jones. "It's an exciting time in someone's life. It's really all about finding yourself and learning about yourself." Sounds great. But none of the new series seem to show the single life as particularly appealing.
On CBS's "Can't Hurry Love," Nancy McKeon's character, Annie, a 28-year-old personnel placement interviewer, is described as earning "under $20,000 a year" (but somehow living alone in Manhattan) and not having "slept with anyone in over seven months." She meets a handsome young police officer on the subway but on their first date, the restaurant fireplace burns up her sweater and she loses interest when she learns he goes bird hunting.
Annie also has the bad luck to live across the hall from Jayne Mansfield's daughter, literally. The neighbor, Didi, who answers her apartment door with a supply of condoms in hand, is played by Mariska Hargitay, Mansfield's child by the body builder Mickey Hargitay. Annie's best male friend, Roger (Louis Mandylor), claims to take his dates to the mattress department at Bloomingdale's.
There is some hope for love on Fox's "Too Something," but the characters' living conditions don't look any better. Eric and Donny (Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward) work in a corporate mail room while dreaming about other careers and take turns sleeping on the living room sofa because they've rented their second bedroom to a dog walker. Luckily, Eric and a very pretty M.B.A. at the office have eyes for each other. The two men's friend Evelyn (Lisa Gerstein), however, is a typical lovelorn single; her boyfriend breaks up with her because he's moving to Budapest, but she soon learns that he only went as far away as Little Budapest ("York Avenue and 79th").
Fox's other new series about single people, "The Crew," focuses on a group of flight attendants based in Miami. Its uniqueness may lie in the fact that one of the attractive young singles is a black woman and one is a gay man.
On the first episode of "The Drew Carey Show," none of the central characters comes close to having a date. Drew (played by the show's namesake), a personnel interviewer at a Cleveland department store, is even dumped by his car pool. His female neighbor, Kate (Christa Miller), has just broken up with her live-in boyfriend. At a press conference this summer, Mr. Carey, a stand-up comedian, was asked about the similarities between his show and last year's big sitcom hit. "Well, 'Friends' is a show about young, good-looking people in their 20's," he said. "And I'm in my 30's and I'm overweight and I'm not that good-looking. And I appreciate the comparison."
Peter Noah, the creator and executive producer of CBS's "Dweebs," has a stronger reaction when his new show is compared to "Friends."
"I feel as if we're being shoehorned into this year's premise," he says. "Our characters are single and unattached, but this is not a show about dating or about the adventures of single people."
The lead characters of "Dweebs" are brilliant nerds, partners in a high-tech firm, "self-imposed exiles" whose marital status, Mr. Noah adds, is "reflective of their social isolation more than any particular trend." These are men with bad posture who have allergies and wear clothes "the color of mulch."
"It's more of a traditional workplace show," says Mr. Noah, comparing "Dweebs" to the series "Taxi." "And there's a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs quality to it." Snow White would be Carey (Farrah Forke), the small company's new computer-illiterate but socially normal office manager. The hip, beautiful characters on "Friends" might not even speak to the pitiful people on some of this year's new series. But the great thing about all the television singles is their constant availability. The gang on "Friends" seem never to spend an evening with anyone else, and they're always taking on projects as a group, like learning to play poker or stuffing envelopes with Rachel's (Jennifer Aniston's) resume. And it's clear, from early episodes of several of the new shows, that today's single people stop off at one another's apartments on their way home from dates. Considering the extra subway ride or taxi fare -- and many of these shows are set in New York -- that is true friendship.
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