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More Confessions From A TV Junkie

By Tom Danehy

FEBRUARY 1, 1999:  IT'S ONLY January 28, and already I'm getting around to making my resolutions for the year. I guess last year's promise to not be such a procrastinator really paid off.

This year, one of my biggies will be to cut back on the amount of television I watch. I watch a lot. In fact, I consider people who don't watch any to be creepy, quasi-intellectuals who don't allow razors and/or deodorant onto their armpits.

Still, I realize there is such a thing as too much TV, so I'm cutting back. I knew I had reached a point of turmoil when the thought involuntarily creeped into my head that two VCRs in the house just aren't enough.

Starting now, I'm cutting back to seven...no, 10 hours of prime-time viewing per week. You might think that's a lot, but when you stop and consider, there are three hours of prime time Monday through Saturday and a whopping four hours on Sunday. That's like, what, 22 hours per week? Then there are all those networks. We're talking a hundred-and-something prime-time shows to sift through.

We'll start with Sunday, since my friend Skippy, who recently became a Jehovah's Bystander or Seventh-Day Witness or something, tells me that Sunday is the first day of the week.

First, there's the old stalwart, 60 Minutes (CBS, 6 p.m.). I don't care how many Dateline or 20/20 clones there are, the original is still the best. Last week's segment about a black man who was exiled from America for the past 40 years because his Georgia draft board refused to address him as "Mr." was a classic.

Besides, I figure if I start off the TV week with 60 Minutes, I'm in a state of good TV grace.

Then comes The X-Files (Fox, 8 p.m.). We all know where this is going. In a year or two or three, it will culminate in a three- or four-part cataclysmic showdown between our heroes and the evil aliens. We'll find out that Henry Hyde and the other House managers were in on the conspiracy and that Monica Lewinsky is a chupacabra.

No really, we'll wait for the big showdown, and then get treated to some big surprise, like maybe Scully is Mulder's sister, which will send an involuntary shudder through all you people who've been waiting for the big sex scene. Or, better yet, maybe we'll find out that Mulder is really an alien himself, planted to see if anyone could uncover the mystery.

(I have to be careful here. This Internet thing is so big, I just know that some nerd-boy in Indiana is doing a search and just posted my theories on his Conspiracy Web Page.)

Finally, I end Sundays with The Practice, probably the best drama on TV. I love this show, especially the big-ass Eugene character, who is intellectually gifted, yet not averse to throwing his considerable bulk around to make a point through intimidation.

Dang, that's three hours already. I have to be careful here.

Fortunately, the only thing I watch on Monday is Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS, 8 p.m.). It's not great, but it's very good. My daughter is actually afraid of the guy who plays Raymond's brother, Robert. The guy sounds like he's the love-child of Barry White and whoever did the vocal effects for the possessed Linda Blair character in The Exorcist.

Tuesday is big. Start with Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (WB by way of WGN-Chicago, 6 p.m., or on the all-new local WB affiliate Channel 58 at 7 p.m. ). This show is hip, it's funny, it's smart, and it's often very scary. It's so well-written it makes your teeth hurt. Just make sure you don't stick around for Felicity afterwards.

Then comes 3rd Rock From The Sun (NBC, 7 p.m.--this week, anyway). NBC has all but killed this series by bouncing it around from one time slot to another. But it is still raucously funny, and John Lithgow deserves every award and nomination he gets. A couple weeks back, The Big Giant Head caused Dick and Sally to switch bodies and the physical comedy was spectacular. (And I just realized that I wrote a sentence including the phrase "Big Giant Head.")

Just Shoot Me (NBC, 8 p.m.) is probably the best comedy on TV, although George Segal's character could be scaled back a bit. Wendie Malick's burnt-out, razor-thin, ex-model Nina is one of the great TV characters of all time.

Finally, there's NYPD Blue, which went through (for me) an overly schmaltzy three-part death scene for Bobby Simone, but has bounced back greatly with the addition of Rick Schroeder. Everyone doubted that move, but boy, is he good.

On Wednesday we have The Drew Carey Show (ABC, 8 p.m.). It's getting rather weird these days with the Shirley Jones love story, but it's always very funny. His oddball collection of friends and enemies are among the best ever on TV.

Then comes Law & Order, an absolute television phenomenon which keeps shedding pivotal characters every year, all the while getting better and better. They use the Elmore Leonard technique of cutting out all the non-essential elements, and then manage to cram in more content and plot twists than most two-hour Columbo episodes used to have. Great show.

Thursday it's Friends and Frasier (NBC, 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively). The former is getting better with age, while the latter has deservedly won the past five Best Comedy Emmys. Oh sure, there are those who wail that it's no Seinfeld, but then, what is? Even Seinfeld wasn't Seinfeld that last season.

I also watch E.R., but not with the enthusiasm I once did.

Fridays are high-school football and basketball nights, so I only have to tape Homicide: Life On The Streets. Gritty, annoying, but always interesting.

I don't watch anything on Saturday. It all sucks.

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