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Highlights | TURN ON, TUNE IN OR MISS OUT

'Twilight of the Golds' gleams on Showtime; ABC gets Oscar night shift; HBO dissects talk shows

March 23, 1997|BEN ELDER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sunday

"Disaster Sunday" / 4 p.m. TBS

We humans may think we can control science (as in cloning), but Mother Nature surely will have the last word ... perhaps "asteroid" or "tsunami," as detailed in two new documentaries. "Fire in the Sky" (6 and 9:05 p.m.) stars this season's trendiest global menace, and just when you're looking out for Comet Hale-Bopp debris, surf's up with "The Killer Wave" (4 and 8 p.m.), 100 vertical feet of 600-mph aquatic destruction. Cowabunga, man.

****

"The Twilight of the Golds" / 8 p.m. Showtime

Speaking of humans trying to control science, here's a theoretical but dramatic scenario: A doctor (Jon Tenney) researching prenatal genetics and his wife (Jennifer Beals) learn that their unborn child has the genetic profile for homosexuality--the "gay gene." Decoding DNA is child's play compared to sorting out family feelings in light of this news, especially since the bride's brother (Brendan Fraser) is gay. Faye Dunaway and Garry Marshall play the parents in this movie based on the play by Jonathan Tolins.

****

"Judy Garland: Beyond the Rainbow" / 5 and 9 p.m. A&E

This special two-hour edition of "Biography" (which is celebrating its 10th year and more than 500 individuals profiled) is a straightforward look at the beloved--and troubled--entertainer, seen in performance clips from her career as well as in interviews with 40 insiders, including Mickey Rooney, June Allyson, Robert Stack, Jackie Cooper and Ann Miller.

Monday

"The 69th Annual Academy Awards" / 6 p.m. ABC

In 1996, the news at the box office was "Independence Day." The Oscar ceremony honoring the films of that year is shaping up as "Independents' Night." While ratings-minded network execs might have preferred higher-profile nominees and blockbuster films, the results should prove interesting nonetheless. And with Billy Crystal returning as host, what could be awful? (For an in-depth preview of the Oscars, please see today's Sunday Calendar.)

****

"The Barbara Walters Special" / 9 p.m. ABC

Three of Hollywood's most acclaimed actors comprise a diverse guest list as the esteemed interviewer gets inside the lives and careers of Lauren Bacall (a best supporting actress nominee for "The Mirror Has Two Faces"); Harrison Ford (starring in the upcoming feature "The Devil's Own" and the blockbuster "Star Wars Trilogy" re-release); and Woody Harrelson (best actor nominee for "The People vs. Larry Flynt").

Tuesday

"Talked to Death" / 10:15 p.m. HBO

The television genre that rode to popularity on issues now is one. The cutthroat competition among TV talk shows is marked by dubious ethics, bitter rivalries, broken promises and, in one extreme instance, death. Phil Donahue, Morton Downey Jr., Maury Povich and Geraldo Rivera offer candid, behind-the-scenes accounts of how these shows create "noise" to get channel surfers to put down the remote.

Wednesday

"Live From Lincoln Center" / 8 p.m. KCET

Opera is enjoying a renewed popularity, notably among younger adults. One similarity between the late 19th and 20th centuries is dueling projects. Just as producers today dream the same boffo dream (erupting volcanoes), two authors in the 1890s competed to stage the superior opera based on the same novel. Smash-cut to 1997, and it's Puccini we associate with "La Boheme," while Leoncavallo is found in the fine print of old text books. Hugh Downs is host for the New York City Opera production of the tragic love story featuring Cassandra Riddle and Raymond Very.

Thursday

"Mystery!" / 9 p.m. KCET

The medieval master sleuth Brother Cadfael (Derek Jacobi) returns in "The Devil's Novice," which refers to a ward (Christien Anholt) of the abbey who's implicated in, and confesses to, the murder of a cleric, though Cadfael isn't convinced, refuses to believe him and sets out to piece together the truth.

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