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Surf Past Fox’s Temptations To Better TV

John Martin New York Times Syndicate

It’s a night of mayhem and mishaps on FOX.

The network scraps its Tuesday-night movie for back-to-back specials that turn real-life violence and tragedy into prime-time entertainment.

At 8, the network repeats “The World’s Scariest Police Chases,” a special that, thanks to a few promos during its Super Bowl broadcast, scored one of FOX’s highest ratings ever last month.

Taped footage from police vehicles and helicopter cameras, combined with local news coverage, turn these high-speed chases and subsequent apprehensions into high drama. FOX is putting up a special disclaimer warning that the hour contains graphic images.

Similarly, “When Disasters Strike II” at 9 incorporates news footage, home video and eyewitness accounts to document harrowing man-made disasters.

A natural gas explosion, an oil tanker fire, a plane crash in Ethiopia and an Alabama train wreck are among the disasters covered.

This kind of television has no socially redeeming value, but at the same time is hard to resist. In the end it’s cheap thrills distracting people from far better viewing on an excellent night of television. I urge you to read on and choose from the following highlights.

Highlights

“Roseanne,” ABC at 8: Dan and Roseanne, back together again, face a dramatic challenge as Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) premature newborn fights for survival. Perhaps this is the payoff for those who have suffered through weeks of uninspired episodes.

The family is united, confronted with a crisis their newfound wealth can’t avert.

“Nova,” KSPS at 7: “The Curse of T.rex” could just as easily be a hard-hitting “Frontline.” It’s the story of competing interests among the government, scientists and commercial fossil dealers who all want control of a near-perfect T.rex fossil discovered in the South Dakota badlands.

“Something So Right,” NBC at 8:30: Sarah (Emily Ann Lloyd) volunteers her family for an appearance on “Leeza.” But the host (Leeza Gibbons guest-stars) has to talk Carly (Mel Harris) into the idea.

“Night Sins” (1997), CBS at 9: The two-part movie’s conclusion includes more twists and surprises. The identities of the child abductors aren’t revealed until, literally, the final seconds of the movie.

This is one of Valerie Bertinelli’s best performances.

“Frontline,” KSPS at 9: “What Jennifer Saw” details a 1984 rape that proved to be a lesson for law-enforcement agencies. DNA evidence proved Jennifer wrong - 11 years after the man she identified was convicted.

“Home Improvement,” ABC at 9: Al (Richard Karn) is ready for the altar until “Tool Time” remarks by Tim (Tim Allen) give him second thoughts about marrying Ilene (Sherry Hursey).

“Frasier,” NBC at 9: An absolutely hilarious outing finds Niles (David Hyde Pierce) hosting a dinner party in his new apartment. Just keep your eye on the birdie - Niles’ pet parrot Baby.

“Dateline NBC,” NBC at 10: Scheduled for an interview is Victoria Gotti, daughter of convicted mobster John Gotti.

Cable Calls

“Golf,” TBS at 4:05: Taped earlier in the day, it’s the final round of the Senior Slam. Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Dave Stockton and Jack Nicklaus compete for a $250,000 first prize.

“Burt Lancaster,” AMC at 5 and 8: Film highlights and interviews are featured in this superior bio of Oscar-winner Lancaster.

“Larry King Live,” CNN at 6, repeated at 11: Henry Kissinger, Dale Evans and Sid Caesar discuss personal experiences with heart disease.

Talk Time

“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35: Brooke Shields (“Suddenly Susan”) and chef Emeril Lagasse (“The Essence of Emeril”).

“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actress Mia Farrow and singer Elvis Costello.

“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” ABC at 12:35 a.m.: Little Richard, trend forecaster John Naisbitt.

“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 12:35 a.m.: Musical guest Smashing Pumpkins.

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