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.

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.

The Single Guy

(Thurs. (21), 8:30-9 p.m., NBC)

Production

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.

Crew

Camera, Wayne Kennan; editor, Noel Rogers; sound, Peter San Filipo; music, Robert Kraft; production designer, Tho. E. Azzari.

Cast

Cast: Jonathan Silverman, Jessica Hecht, Mark Moses, Joey Slotnick, Ming-Na Wen, Ernest Borgnine.
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