A season after "Seinfeld" retired, NBC survived. It's still No. 1 in network television. And that's nothing to sneeze it.
Indeed, NBC's new executive team of Scott Sassa and Garth Ancier painted a pretty rosy picture of the network in July. But some of their actions spoke louder than their words.
Take the renewal of the terminally ill sitcoms "Veronica's Closet," "Suddenly Susan" and "Jesse."
Rather than try something new, NBC is trying to fix all three of those comedies with new cast members and new writers. In the case of the shows starring Brooke Shields and Kirstie Alley, it will be tough to find any viewers willing to give them a second chance on Monday night, the burial ground of "Mad About You" and "Caroline in the City" last season.
"Jesse," the sitcom based in Buffalo, has a better chance because it will follow "Friends," has Christina Applegate in the lead and managed to be last season's highest-rated new comedy despite some rather routine writing.
Most of NBC's new shows will be coming from producers with a successful show on the air, who will try to maintain the quality of that show while working on their new baby.
"Third Watch" comes from "ER" producer John Wells. "The West Wing" comes from Wells and "Sports Night" creator Aaron Sorkin. "Stark Raving Mad" comes from "Just Shoot Me" writer-producer Steve Levitan. And "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is a spinoff from "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf.
NBC was fortunate last season with the surprising success of "Will & Grace" and "Providence," shows that lead off Tuesday and Friday nights this season. The lead-off position is the toughest to fill in network television.
Though most of its new pilots are solidly produced, NBC would be fortunate to get two winners out of the batch.
Let's take a look at the seven new series:
"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," 9 p.m. Monday: Christopher Meloni, best-known for causing Bobby Simone problems on "NYPD Blue" and for being featured in "Runaway Bride" this summer, and Mariska Hargitay are partnered on a sex crimes unit in New York City.
The pilot has extremely brutal subject matter dealing with rape, even before we learn that Hargitay's character was a product of a rape.
Of course, the series is produced well and some "Law & Order" characters will be involved. But one can't imagine a series with this dark subject matter becoming a weekly habit.
"The Mike O'Malley Show," 9:30 p.m. Tuesday: Actor-playwright Mike O'Malley -- best-known for playing "The Rick" in ESPN promos -- speaks to the audience in this comedy about a 30-year-old man trying to grow up after losing the woman in his life because he couldn't commit. This is a sweet, predictable, inoffensive series with nothing special to recommend it.
"The West Wing," 9 p.m. Wednesday: Fresh from the summer movie hit "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," Rob Lowe is in another fantasy of sorts.
In this drama from Sorkin, the American president has more principles than anyone on his staff -- especially Lowe's character, a deputy communications director who sleeps around.
Martin Sheen is the president, who arrives more than halfway through the pilot to save his deputy chief of staff's career and some Cuban boat people.
Of course, it's snappily written by Sorkin, who is obviously using material left over from his movie "The American President." And the cast is uniformly terrific.
"Stark Raving Mad," 9:30 p.m. Thursday: Tony Shalhoub is a crazy horror writer and Neil Patrick Harris is a book editor and neat freak in this farce from Levitan. The pilot has its moments of surprise and humor and the cast obviously is having a good time. But one can see the premise quickly getting as repetitive as a Stephen King novel.
"Cold Feet," 10 p.m. Friday: The series is a light, romantic comedy about a goofy-looking guy, Adam Williams (Buffalo Sabres fan David Sutcliffe), who finds the woman of his dreams (Jean Louisa Kelly of "Mr. Holland's Opus") and then has to overcome his fears of commitment.
Cliched? Of course it is. But it also has its adorable moments and is likely to appeal to the same female audience that made "Providence" a surprise hit last season.
Based on a hit British series, "Cold Feet" is reminiscent of the adorable series of a few seasons ago, "Relativity." Just older and sillier.
"Freaks and Geeks," 8 p.m. Saturday: NBC's smartest pilot is set in a 1980 suburban high school and follows the lives of brainy high school sophomore Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini of "Boy Meets World") and her 100-pound-weakling freshman brother, Sam (John Daley).
This coming-of-age series from Paul Feig and Judd Apatow ("The Larry Sanders Show") manages to have both a nostalgic and a contemporary beat as it documents the awkwardness and power plays of high school. The pilot's ending at a dance is so sweet that it made a hardened TV critic cry. Joe Flaherty is a stitch as Lindsay and Sam's dead-on dad, who lectures his children about the evils of experimentation.
Unfortunately, the title and the time slot could be more damaging to these freaks and geeks than any bully. This isn't really a kids' show, but a show that kids could enjoy with their parents.
"Third Watch," 8 p.m. Sunday: Really, it should be considered a spinoff of "ER" and "Trinity," because this routine show comes from Wells and stars actors you may have seen on both of his previous shows, including Michael Beach ("ER") and Kim Raver ("Trinity").
The pilot is perfectly passable and predictable, as our emergency medicine heroes team with cops and firefighters to roam the city to save young children and other people in jeopardy -- and still find time to have sex in their vans. Ideally for NBC, "Watch" would become a hit and eventually move to 10 p.m. Thursday, where it would be much cheaper to produce than "ER," the $13 million show.
But for now, NBC would just be satisfied to grab some of the "Touched by an Angel" crowd on Sunday night.