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In a way, "Jesse" belongs in Buffalo. Despite a Top 10 finish last year, the comedy was the victim of the type of cheap shots every Western New Yorker hears when going out of town.

The success of the series was entirely attributed to its time slot after "Friends" and the chemistry between the two stars, Christina Applegate and Bruno Campos.

NBC's renewal of it was a minor surprise to those who don't understand how much business relationships matter to show survival. "Jesse" is produced by the same people who brought "Friends" to NBC.

The same powerful people.

How powerful?

So powerful that Kevin Bright, David Crane and Marta Kauffman have even been able to keep the laugh-deprived "Veronica's Closet" on NBC's schedule for three seasons.

To save "Jesse," they had to agree to make more changes for Thursday's premiere (8:30 p.m., Channel 2) than the Bills or the Sabres make in the off-season.

The core relationship between single mother Jesse (Applegate) and the foreigner next door, Diego (Campos), is intact. And Jesse's 11-year-old son, John (Eric Lloyd), and two best friends, Linda (Lisa Snyder) and Carrie (Jennifer Milmore), are back.

But according to Campos, the rest of the show is undergoing more alterations than Ralph Wilson Stadium.

On camera, Jesse's two brothers and their father were cut.

"The audience ultimately decided that it was kind of a dead end," said Campos, the 25-year-old son of a Brazilian diplomat and an international banker. "The writers are going to diversify the show."

In more ways than one.

"There's no more bar," Campos explained in Los Angeles. "Jesse is going to work at the university hospital and I (Diego) work at the university as an art professor. That way you create a natural environment for us to bang into each other. Before, why was Diego always running into a bar? There was no real reason. It was kind of contrived. This way we're at work."

A doctor (Kevin Rahm of the short-lived spring series "Everything Relative") and a male nurse (Darryl Theirse) join the series.

"There you have people who aren't family-related and have two different lives," said Campos. "So that should be interesting."

Now that the bar is history, Jesse's two best friends are no longer waitresses.

"Jen Milmore, who was the cheerier, sort of dumber waitress -- and I don't think she minds me saying that -- will be working at the zoo, which I think is a great idea because her character is not so smart and she loves animals."

It also means that Buffalo may be part of the show beyond the opening credits.

"You have different environments," agreed Campos. "Buffalo is becoming a landscape as opposed to one bar and one back yard."

Campos wasn't sure where Snyder's character is working but it sounds like she should be at a fitness factory.

"She lost 20 pounds. She looks like a million bucks," he said.

In last season's finale, Diego proposed to Jesse. What's up, marriage?

"I don't know," he said.

Competition for Jesse's heart?

"You've been around," said Campos, who speculates that could be why Rahm has been brought in.

Theirse was brought in for a different reason.

"He was in the second episode last season when Jesse went to the hospital after she shoved something up her nose. He played the nurse there and he is very dry and funny. He hates her and he likes me."

Which is sort of what the reviews for "Jesse" were last season. Many critics loved Applegate and Campos and hated the series.

Fair criticism?

"I think it was mediocrely received, it wasn't harshly received," Campos said. "The average reception was, 'It's all right.' Some people were mean to it, some people were very nice to it."

His opinion?

"I think the changes were rightly made. I think the show had a conceptual problem but I think Christina and I worked well together."

Of course, he should have no complaints. He was originally just cast as a guest star in the pilot. While Campos is from Brazil, his character is from Chile.

"It was written that way before I signed on," said Campos. "Why make it from Brazil? Why make it autobiographical? Who cares? The point is that he is a fish out of water."

At age 25, Campos' biography is in its early stages.

Born in Rio de Janiero of German and Portuguese descent, Campos left his native country at age 5, following his diplomat father and the family to Toronto, Houston, Michigan, Chicago and the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain.

He attended Northwestern University, where he studied acting. Why did he become an actor?

"I wish I had a specific answer," said Campos. "I was always very artistic, and I got scouted at 9 for an arts school where I was drawing and painting, and I started taking theater classes. I was an artist at first. Ultimately I had more fun as an actor."

His first professional job was as the lead in a Brazilian film about Italian immigrants in the south of Brazil, "O Quatrilho," which was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 1996.

"I went to the Academy Awards with my first job," said Campos. "I played an Italian guy who went off with my partner's wife in 1910. It was a true story."

He later starred as Bertram in the Goodman Theater of Chicago's production of "All's Well That Ends Well."

"I was one of their youngest Shakespearean leads ever in the play," Campos said proudly.

Soon he was off to Hollywood, where it took him eight months to get an agent and then a deal with Warner Brothers. After a guest shot on "Suddenly Susan" (playing a gay Cuban) and being strangled by Joe Mantegna in the CBS miniseries "The Last Don," Campos got an offer from "Jesse" that he couldn't refuse.

He was recently named one of TV's sexiest actors by two national magazines, and his work as Diego captured him an ALMA award from a Hispanic-American group.

And if this season's changes on "Jesse" work, he'll have something more to be "talkin' proud" about.

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