CHANNEL SURFER: Cody Gifford vs. The Rock

You can just imagine the meeting of NBC executives as they contemplate making a dent in the game-show-fueled ABC juggernaut: “What can we do to really lay the ‘Smackdown’ in the ratings? Who or what is big enough, tough enough, ‘electrifying’ enough to send Regis Philbin into the kitchen to open up that fridge and pour himself a nice tall glass of SHUT-UP JUICE?!”

The answer? “Freaks and Geeks” is back Mondays! And The Rock is hosting “Saturday Night Live”! Who is The Rock, you ask? He is only the World Wrestling Federation’s “People’s Champion,” as well as the self-proclaimed “most-electrifying man in sports entertainment.” (Duh.)

Back to those guys in a second. But, first, in the action-packed TV week ahead, we also get: Cody Gifford! Yes, you’ve been hearing about him for years, and now is your chance to finally get to see little Cody struggle to entertain you (with an assist from mom Kathie Lee, of course). Cody co-stars with Mom and ‘N Sync heartthrob Justin Timberlake in ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney” TV movie “Model Behavior” (7 p.m. EST/PST on Sunday). Just to recap then: The stars of this film are (a) a singer/talk-show host; (b) her child; and (c) another singer. So at least the acting should be first rate. Kathie Lee, by the way, plays an overbearing stage mother. You know that’s so funny, and yet so disturbing at the same time, we’re just going give it a no comment.

All right, that’s it. We’ve had it with campy and/or insipid made-for-TV movies. This week the Channel Surfer goes highbrow. And it all starts at 8 p.m. EST/PST on Sunday, when the Discovery Channel premieres the intelligent and thought-provoking documentary “Raising the Mammoth,” which we have been repeatedly assured is in no way associated with the adult-film industry. The doc is about an amazing scientific discovery — the first-ever, fully intact Woolly Mammoth, found frozen in the ice of Siberia just a few months ago. They raise it up, thaw it out, and you can actually smell the musky scent of Mammoth fur. Well, you can’t smell it because it’s on TV, but the scientists could. Mmm … mammoth fur. …

Well, that was draining. OK, let’s get back to the campy and/or insipid made-for-TV movies. Aaron Spelling’s “Satan’s School For Girls” premieres (and not a minute too soon) Monday at 8 p.m. EST/PST)on ABC. Shannen Doherty (who is, coincidentally, an actual graduate of Satan’s School for Girls) stars along with former “Charlie’s Angel” Kate Jackson. This movie is a long overdue remake of the 1973 demi-classic. Jackson was in the original, which was also scripted by Spelling. Does this mean he’s finally run out of ideas?

NBC’s February ratings stunt of replacing one of the better shows on TV with a low-rated game show was a rousing un-success. But the sweeps are over and, “Freaks and Geeks” (8 p.m. EST/PST on Monday) is back, baby! We know this thing’s ratings were about as lousy as “Twenty One’s,” but we still like it and don’t want it to die, so let us fill you in. No show on TV captures its subject matter better than “Freaks and Geeks.” Each little moment seems to carry the weight of the world, but by the end of an episode, nothing has actually happened. In other words, it’s exactly like high school! The show has a fine pedigree, executive produced by Judd Apatow (“The Larry Sanders Show”), but it’s not quite like anything you’ve seen before (outside of real life). It’s funny, though not likely to make you fall off the couch from laughing, and it’s poignant, though not likely to make you cry. It’s a lot like just hanging out with friends in somebody’s basement. But in a good way.

How many times can we use the word “Smackdown” in one column? And can it ever really be enough? WWF femme fatale Chyna invades NBC’s “3rd Rock from the Sun” on Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST/PST. Another William Shatner guest spot last month did very little to change the sinking ratings of this still pretty funny show. Maybe a special guest appearance by a giant hot babe who frightens men will be the right formula. Question: Do they ever have just regular episodes of this show?

If anyone out there is interested in having ABC’s best sitcom, “Sports Night,” come back next season, now is the time to watch it. The cast recently grabbed the cover of TV Guide on account of they belong to “the best show you’re not watching.” That’s great publicity, but if a ton of people don’t get curious and tune in to watch this week’s new episode (9:30 p.m. EST/PST on Tuesday), it could also be the kiss of death. If you haven’t seen “Sports Night,” it’s funny and smart and different. That “smart and different” part is probably why critics love it, but it’s also probably why it’s taking audiences so long to figure out what to do with it. Which is strange because you never hear people saying, “Forget smart and different — give us dull and typical!” But then again, if nobody is saying that, then how can you explain …?

“Son of the Beach,” (10 p.m. EST/PST, on Tuesday on F/X). The idea here is to do “Baywatch” as a comedy by removing David Hasselhoff and putting a pasty white guy in his place. Two questions spring immediately to mind: (1) Isn’t David Hasselhoff already a “pasty white guy”? and (2) You mean “Baywatch” isn’t a comedy? “Son of a Beach” is a Howard Stern production, so expect to see a lot of surgically amplified girls in swimsuits (again, have you seen “Baywatch?”) and fart jokes. Stern can be really funny when he’s doing the comedy, but what is a show that has all of the Stern style but no Howard going to be like? “Son of the Beach.”

College basketball’s so-called March Madness explodes into your living room starting at noon EST on Thursday on CBS. This a good thing, if you like basketball. If you don’t, well, it’s going to “explode into your living room” anyway, so you’d better Scotch Guard the furniture.

One of television’s classiest news personalities classes things up a little more this week, as Barbara Walters squeezes extra mileage out of the JonBenet Ramsey murder case on “20/20,” with an exclusive interview with JonBenet’s parental units John and Patsy Ramsey (10 p.m. EST/PST on Friday on ABC). Not to undermine what will undoubtedly turn out to be a fine hunk of journalism, but shouldn’t that film clip of that poor little kid parading around in a pre-school beauty pageant be enough to lock up her parents?Just a thought.

And … “Finally, The Rock has come back … to New York City!” Look for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” to get a ratings boost as WWF superstar and best-selling author (really) and “People’s Champion” The Rock hosts the venerable sketch-comedy show (11:30 p.m. EST/PST on Saturday). Also of note on this broadcast, NBC reports that “rock legends AC/DC will make their network television debut as the musical guest.” Wasn’t it Confucius who said: “There will come a day for all people, when a band that was cool when they were in junior high school will be referred to as a ‘rock legend,’ and they will know that life is truly short.” Yeah. Life is short, people. Life is short.

Oh, and one more thing we almost forgot to say …