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TURN ON, TUNE IN OR MISS OUT : Fox catches John Woo's 'Thief'; NBC's 'Lottery' stars Dan Cortese; PBS airs Sondheim's 'Passion'


Sunday / "Once a Thief" 8 p.m. Fox

John Woo ("Broken Arrow") directs this misfired TV movie, an unsold pilot for a series. Initially set in Hong Kong, the story centers on two lovers (Ivan Sergei and Sandrine Holt) separated while fleeing the crime lord (Robert Ito) who trained them as thieves. Reunited in Vancouver, Sergei and Holt are teamed with a former cop (Nicholas Lea, the treacherous Krycek of "The X-Files") by the head (Jennifer Dale) of an international crime-fighting unit. "Thief" is punctuated with perfunctory action sequences, and awful acting sinks it long before the phony fade-out.


"The Lottery" 9 p.m. NBC

No, this is not a movie about winners of a jackpot. In fact, as readers of the acclaimed Shirley Jackson short story already know, it is anything but. Dan Cortese plays Jason Smith, the aimless protagonist who learns the barbaric secret of a small New England town where he was born. A number of questions are raised during Jason's stay, the foremost of which involves a strange device being built in the town square. Keri Russell, of the defunct "Malibu Shores," co-stars.


"American Playhouse" 9 p.m. KCET

"Passion," the Tony Award-winning story of obsessive love from Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, comes to PBS. A critical favorite, the two-hour musical features Donna Murphy reprising her role as Fosca, a woman in love with an army captain (Jere Shea) in 19th century Italy. The musical earned honors for best score and best book. Quoting Sondheim, "the show is about how the force of someone's feelings for you can crack you open."

Tuesday / Baseball Playoffs. NBC, Fox, ESPN

The postseason action leads off at 10 a.m. on ESPN as the cable channel covers its first divisional playoff. NBC and Fox also will share live coverage of the National and American League showdowns, ensuring that every game will be seen in its entirety. Last year, baseball struck out with an ill-advised regional arrangement that angered fans across the country. On Tuesday, NBC goes to bat at 5 p.m., while Fox follows Wednesday at 5 p.m. Please turn to the sports lineup on Page 4 for additional games.


"Larry King Live" 6 p.m. CNN

The talk-show host covers the presidential campaign in various cities over the next six Tuesdays. Local residents, community leaders and key political figures will join King for an analysis of the issues. The first stop is Ocala, Fla., where King interviewed then Gov. Bill Clinton and Sen. Al Gore in 1992.


"The People Next Door" 9 p.m. CBS

Beware of neighbors. That seems to be the moral of this TV movie starring "Knots Landing" alum Nicollette Sheridan as Anna Morse, a single mother whose children are kidnapped. Michael O'Keefe ("Life's Work") and Tracey Ellis play a childless couple all too eager to care for Anna's three daughters. Caught up in a prickly relationship with Mom (Faye Dunaway), Anna fails to notice that the neighbors want to start a family with her youngsters.

Wednesday / "The 30th Annual CMA Awards" 8 p.m. CBS

Host Vince Gill leads the field with seven nominations at the Country Music Assn. ceremony in Nashville. This is the fifth such assignment for Gill, whose nominations include entertainer of the year and top male vocalist. Buck Owens, Ray Price and the late Patsy Montana will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the three-hour telecast, which features scheduled performances by Wynonna, Michael Bolton, George Strait, Alan Jackson and Dolly Parton.

Thursday / "Mystery!" 9 p.m. KCET

The venerable PBS series embarks upon a new season with "Oliver's Travels," a four-part drama starring Alan Bates as a pink-slipped college professor. After losing his job, Oliver sets out to find Aristotle, a famous compiler of crossword puzzles. The real puzzle involves the disappearance of Aristotle, which sends Oliver and a police detective (Sinead Cusack) on a cross-country trek to find him.

Friday / "The X-Files" 9 p.m. Fox

The importance of this series to Fox was never more evident than at the recent Emmy Awards, where creator Chris Carter's cool, enigmatic hit earned five statuettes, including best writing for a drama. As the fourth season begins, relentless FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) resume their pursuit of the truth involving the existence of aliens and government cover-up. Yes, that's the identical premise of NBC's "Dark Skies," but as any X-phile will tell you, no one does it better than Carter & Co.

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