The summer lull — just after May sweeps mania and before the fall TV season — is when networks like testing out iffy new material. Case in point: Come to Papa, an NBC sitcom starring stand-up comic Tom Papa. Basically, he plays a suburban New Jersey newspaper reporter who dreams of a life less ordinary as a comedy writer. How'd this unknown land such a plum gig? Well, his showbiz connections — particularly ex-NBC golden boy Jerry Seinfeld — didn't exactly hurt.

"I'm friends with Jerry. He kind of discovered me in the [comedy] clubs about five years ago, and I have been on tour with him," Papa explains, adding hopefully, "Seinfeld also debuted in the summer, so maybe that's a good omen. It's kind of strange how we've mirrored the same route he's taken. He had a pilot and it took a while to get up on its feet. Once it did, it was supposed to [debut] in the spring and they moved it to the summer, the same way that we did. It was also four episodes, which is exactly what we have.

"I just keep hoping that we keep mirroring each other," he chuckles, "and I can end up as big a star as he is."

Papa has big hopes that his little show — which kicks off June 3 at 8:30 pm/ET — can go the distance. Though he's clearly feeling the pressure of joining the Peacock's Must See Thursday night lineup, especially in the oft-deadly 8:30 pm timeslot previously held by duds like Veronica's Closet. "I just thought I was making a TV show; I didn't realize I was going to have to save the sitcom as we know it," he admits. "I am going to save the sitcom! That's my mission right now. People are just waiting for something really funny to come along."