Josh Wolk
May 19, 1998 AT 04:00 AM EDT

“Frasier” may have beaten out the rest of NBC’s hit sitcoms to take over “Seinfeld”‘s coveted Thursdays at 9 p.m. time slot in September. But now the show has another mighty challenge: to live up to its predecessor.

“Seinfeld” — which had a 20.2 average rating this season (not counting the finale) — was so powerful that other Thursday-night sitcoms depended on it to bring them viewers. (It even made “The Single Guy” a hit for a while.) “Frasier,” on the other hand, doesn’t have the same strength with audiences, topping out with a 14 rating. “‘Frasier’ certainly isn’t going to do as well as ‘Seinfeld’ did,” says Steve Sternberg, senior partner at TN media. “‘Frasier’ has an older audience, while ‘Seinfeld’ had a much broader following.”

NBC had good reasons, however, to choose “Frasier” for the coveted time slot. Not only did the show win an Emmy for best comedy series during each of its first four years, but it now has other advantages. According to Entertainment Weekly television critic Bruce Fretts, “‘Just Shoot Me,’ in its second year, is too young to have proved itself; ‘Friends’ is past its peak of popularity; and ‘Mad About You’ and ‘3rd Rock From the Sun’ are both in ratings decline. It really came down to ‘Frasier.’ It was the best and safest choice.”

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