Of the 50 live-action sitcoms on the broadcast networks' fall schedules, there are six or seven that stand out from the crowd, that are considerably better than the rest of the pack.
Shows like "Dharma & Greg," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Frasier," "Friends," "Just Shoot Me," "NewsRadio" and "Spin City."Only three of those - "Frasier," "Friends" and "NewsRadio" - are now in syndication. And all three will air on KJZZ-Ch. 14.
That's quite a coup. And these three shows may well provide the station with its strongest syndication lineup ever.
"NewsRadio" joins the Ch. 14 weekday lineup on Monday, Sept. 14, and will air at both 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. "Frasier," which came aboard last season, remains at 6:30 p.m. and will also be seen at 10:30 p.m. beginning on that date.
Then, on Monday, Sept. 21, syndicated reruns of "Friends" will be added at both 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Not only will that give Ch. 14 three consecutive shows worth watching from 5:30-7 p.m., but it will provide strong counterprogramming in late night. "Friends" and "Frasier" are, after all, shows that NBC is building its Thursday-night lineup around this fall.
There is an audience out there that would rather laugh than watch the news (or "Star Trek" or "Jerry Springer") at 10 p.m. - that would rather see a sitcom than watch Leno, Letterman or Koppel at 10:30 p.m.
The Salt Lake television market has some history of successful sitcoms in late-night. Way back when, "Cheers" did very well for Ch. 13 at 10 p.m. And, of course, "M*A*S*H" was a blockbuster for Ch. 5 at 10:35 p.m.
KJZZ has attempted to build a late-night sitcom alternative for some time, but it didn't have proper building blocks. "The Cosby Show," somewhat surprisingly, never did particularly well in syndication locally. "Empty Nest" was never going to do it. "Grace Under Fire" just isn't a particularly good show. And "Roseanne" was never a big favorite even in first-run here in Utah.
But "Friends" and "Frasier" are big hits locally. And actually quite well suited to late-night time slots.
Not only are these shows worth watching, but it's worth keeping an eye on the ratings to see how the shows do on KJZZ.
PARENTAL GUIDANCE: "Friends," "Frasier" and "NewsRadio" are all aimed at adult audiences in prime time - an important point to remember when your kids want to watch them in the early evening.
Ch. 14 certainly isn't alone in airing adult TV fare in early time slots. Over the years, all the local commercial stations have done it.
Looking around the current schedule, "Seinfeld" on Ch. 13 is a show that was designed for adult viewing. "The Simpsons" has its adult moments. Heck, so does "Home Improvement" from time to time.
"Entertainment Tonight" on Ch. 2 can be rather sleazy - particularly in the midst of a sweeps month.
Even KSL has "Murphy Brown" in the morning and "Mad About You" in the afternoon - and both those shows have crossed over into adult themes from time to time.
That's not even mentioning the various sleazy talk shows - including Ch. 30's indefensible airing of that tawdry freak show "Jerry Springer" at noon.
The point is that all television should be rated at least PG. Parents ought to be making decisions about what they do and do not want their children watching.
Is "Friends" a funny show? Absolutely.
Is it appropriate viewing for a 7-year-old? Not at my house. Not even for the 11-year-old who recently expressed some interest in it for the first time.
Of course, that's a decision all parents need to make for their own children. That and a hundred other decisions a week about what does and does not constitute appropriate programming.
I can only hope that parents out there are actually making those decisions and not just assuming that whatever comes over a local station in the early evening - or any channel at any time - is OK for kids to watch.