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Friends

An ideal slot between "Mad About You" and "Seinfeld" should shore up the prospects for "Friends," new sitgiggle about six pals' lives and fortunes in Manhattan. Spirited ensemble playing, directed aptly by James Burrows, should help ease the show through its early days, but if the series is to have legs, funnier writing is needed.

With:
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, John Allen Nelson, Clea Lewis, Cynthia Mann.

An ideal slot between “Mad About You” and “Seinfeld” should shore up the prospects for “Friends,” new sitgiggle about six pals’ lives and fortunes in Manhattan. Spirited ensemble playing, directed aptly by James Burrows, should help ease the show through its early days, but if the series is to have legs, funnier writing is needed.

Storyline revolves around Monica (Courteney Cox), who’s sharing her apartment with spoiled Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), who just walked out on her own wedding; Rachel fights with her rich father and doesn’t know how to get a job.

Monica’s older brother Ross (David Schwimmer) is in the dumps because his wife has just ankled after four years. Blonde Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Monica’s college roommate and dealer in psychic-related matters, offers bubblehead advice; roommates Joey (Matt LeBlanc), an actor, and Chandler (Matthew Perry) so far act as a chorus to the action.

Concept is OK, but the humor’s less sophisticated than expected from the exec producers of HBO’s comedy series “Dream On,” and the dialogue is not exactly snappy. Ross: “I honestly don’t know if I’m hungry or horny!” Chandler: “Stay out of my freezer.”

Moral and health issues are sidestepped altogether: “Friends” touts promiscuity and offers liberal samples of an openness that borders on empty-headedness. It’s not much of a positive example for juves, though.

Pilot centers around Monica’s bad luck with previous dates and what happens when she welcomes a new man to her bed. An embarrassing situation seems to be the worst that comes of the encounter — at least, for the time being.

All six of the principals, especially Cox and Schwimmer, appear resourceful and display sharp sitcom skills. But even the best tightrope walkers need dependable rigging, and the pilot, a getting-to-know-you script, offers little support. Maybe the timeslot will give everyone a break.

Friends

Thurs. (22), 8:30-9 p.m., NBC

Production: Filmed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Prods. and Warner Bros. TV. Executive producers, Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, David Crane; supervising producers, Jeff Greenstein, Jeff Strauss; producer, Todd Stevens; director, James Burrows; writers/creators, Crane, Kauffman.

Crew: Camera, Ken Lamkin; editor, Andy Zall; art director, John Shaffner; sound, Bill Stevens; music, Michael Skloss.

Cast: Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, John Allen Nelson, Clea Lewis, Cynthia Mann.

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