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Highlights | TURN ON, TUNE IN OR MISS OUT

A week to remember Vietnam, revisit 'Crime and Punishment' and learn the ropes of Janet Jackson's tour.

October 11, 1998|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sunday

"Vietnam: The Soldiers' Story" / 6 p.m., repeated at 9 p.m. TLC

First-person accounts from those on the battlefields and in the trenches illuminate this six-part documentary detailing the controversial conflict. Soldiers, officers and journalists are interviewed about their vivid experiences, which continue in two-hour installments Monday and Tuesday. Jack Smith, an ABC News correspondent wounded as a soldier in the war's first major battle, is host of the miniseries, which commemorates the 15th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

****

"Crime and Punishment" / 9 p.m. NBC

An unsatisfying version of Dostoevsky's novel again grapples with timeless questions involving morality and conscience, centering on Rodya (Patrick Dempsey), the penniless young student wracked with guilt after murdering a greedy pawnbroker and her sister in 19th century St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, Dempsey never convinces us of his purported brilliance, and Ben Kingsley, as the probing magistrate Porfiry, echoes a poor man's Columbo. Julie Delpy gives the most heartfelt performance as the prostitute Sonia. But, oh, those thick Russian accents. Nyet, comrades.

****

"Janet: The Velvet Rope" / 9 p.m. HBO

What has she done for us lately? Well, when Janet Jackson played the Great Western Forum in August, Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn lauded the festive house party atmosphere and a production "so lavish that Broadway comparisons are inevitable." Now viewers can see the concert for themselves as the pop star performs at Madison Square Garden. Aired on a tape delay for the West Coast, the show features songs from Jackson's double-platinum album "The Velvet Rope" in addition to earlier hits such as "Escapade," "Runaway" and "Rhythm Nation."

Monday

"Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story" / 9 p.m. Lifetime

We hate to be a "Party" pooper, but there's little life in this film. Occasionally campy and not very insightful, the standard-issue bio-pic stars Ann-Margret (in a starchy, one-note performance, sadly) as the former U.S. ambassador to France. Harriman's story is told in flashbacks during the course of an interview with a journalist who asks about the elegant, opportunistic official's "liaisons" with some of the world's wealthiest men, including Broadway producer Leland Hayward (David Dukes) and New York Gov. Averell Harriman (Mitchell Ryan).

****

"Margaret Sanger" / 9 p.m. KCET

Criticized by the press and condemned by the church, the famed feminist made her mark on history by opening the first birth control clinic in America. Narrated by Blair Brown, this 90-minute documentary profiles the bold, outspoken pioneer who was jailed by the courts over a refusal to compromise her beliefs. Amy Irving, Matthew Broderick and Derek Jacobi supply voice-overs for the documentary, which includes an interview with Alexander Sanger, who, as president of New York Planned Parenthood, is carrying on his grandmother's work.

Wednesday

"Star Trek: Voyager" / 9 p.m. UPN

When last seen, Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) thought Earth--and home--was finally within reach. But had they zoomed to terra firma, the series would come to an abrupt end, thereby disappointing millions of fans. No worries, Trekkers: The fifth season is launched with the crew spending time in a new holodeck that resembles sci-fi films of the past. It's a location that will be explored throughout the year as Lt. Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) takes on the alter ego of a character named Capt. Proton.

Friday

"Trinity" / 9 p.m. NBC

A new religious show about the holy triumvirate, perhaps? Not a chance. This new ensemble drama confronts the somber, secular relationships of an Irish working-class family in New York. Hard to believe, but the McAllister siblings include a cop (Justin Louis), a priest (Tate Donovan), a shady labor leader (Sam Trammell), a Wall Street bond trader (Charlotte Ross) and a pregnant alcoholic (Bonnie Root). Their collective angst makes life interesting for father (John Spencer) and mother (Jill Clayburgh), but the contrived scenarios may test the patience of viewers seeking shows far more believable.

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