Looking for New Thursday Night 'Friends'

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You know those corpses they show at the beginning of "CSI"? Thursday night they belonged to the cast of "Coupling."

Controversy didn't help push the new British import into the No. 1 slot. NBC calls the show's second place showing to "CSI" "encouraging." About 15.3 million people tuned in. It should have been a homerun on a night that also premiered the season openers for "Friends" and "Will & Grace."

The "Friends" reference is particularly troubling because NBC was hoping its audience would movie easily from "Central Perk" to the tawdrier pubs and apartments of the new show.

Critics were tough on "Coupling" -- both here and in it's birth place, Britain. This all-American version is a toned down clone of a wildly successful British version. And curiously BBC America ran the same storylined episode. BBC News says none of the American cast punch their lines homes.

"There are times when you do not realize something was a joke until you see it in the British one and laugh." Uh, that's not jolly good.

The NBC version pushes the sexual references squarely into "Sex and The City" territory. Characters having sex in bathrooms sounds like a storyline more suited to Sarah Jessica Parker or Kim Cattrall.

One thing is clear, "Coupling" has a long way to go to become our new Thursday night friends. Audiences must see something funnier fast.