It's a whole new year. And NBC comedy takes two steps forward and one giant step backward. The relatively innovative "My Name is Earl" (9 p.m., NBC) and "The Office" (9:30 p.m., NBC) take their place as "must-see" comedies in the tradition of "Seinfeld" and "Cheers."
But on the same night, NBC introduces "Four Kings" (8:30 p.m., NBC), a thoroughly derivative, unfunny sitcom in the tradition of "The Single Guy."
Produced by the creators of "Will & Grace," "Kings" concerns four friends from childhood who move into the palatial New York apartment that Ben (Josh Cooke) inherits from his grandmother. Ben is a sympathetic guy given to long relationships and friendships with women. But it seems that the frat house atmosphere of his new surroundings is about to change all that.
For those keeping score, the folks behind "Will & Grace" whipped up a show that was supposed to be based on their lives. But it seems like its laden with elements borrowed from "Friends," "Men Behaving Badly" and snippets of any number of Olsen-twins vehicles. The writing has little of the quick wit or cultural references that made the first few seasons of "Will & Grace" so special. And this band of four single guys has nothing on comedic chemistry of Jack, Karen, Will and Grace. Look for "Four Kings" to be forgotten quickly. Or at most remembered as the first major failure of 2006.
NBC is seriously delusional if they think their revamped comedy schedule is going to challenge the "CSI"- fortified CBS lineup. But a second helping of "Dancing with the Stars" (8 p.m., ABC) just might.
This addictive talent show was the surprise hit of the summer and made America sit down, watch and wonder whether Evander Holyfield could tango. This year's batch of dancing fools is a similar crazy quilt of has-beens, never-weres and I-thought-they-were-deads. Or at least their careers.
Tonight's other highlights:
¢ On back-to-back episodes of "CSI" (8 p.m.), death by camping (8 p.m.), where the werewolves roam (9 p.m.).
¢ Feeling Von Trapped on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ An ancient spell makes a spoiled teen (Rachel McAdams) and a slob (Rob Schneider) switch bodies in the 2002 comedy "The Hot Chick" (8 p.m., Fox).
¢ Pride, prejudice and food stamps on "Everybody Hates Chris" (8 p.m., UPN).
¢ Earl's past misdeeds deny Joy's kids their summer camp experience on "My Name is Earl" (9 p.m., NBC).
¢ An ill-timed motivational cruise on "The Office" (9:30 p.m., NBC).
l A paramedic vanishes after treating a participant in a gang-related scuffle on "Without a Trace" (10 p.m., CBS).
¢ Abby mulls maternity on "ER" (10 p.m., NBC).
¢ Good guys get the bad guys with the help of some heavy, military-style weaponry and armor on "Dallas SWAT" (10 p.m., A&E).