Let the Sweeps Begin!

White House scandal, suburban weirdness, murder. …

Nope, this isn’t a rundown of the hourly news. It’s some of the more juicy, ratings-grabbing tidbits the networks have masterminded for the famed (or infamous) February sweeps.

For the next 28 days — from today until March 1 — our TV nation will be bombarded with special programs concocted to induce ratings, the better to spike ad rates for the upcoming season.

From cameo appearances to splashy adventures to tabloid melodrama, the networks have pulled out all their stops to keep viewers complacently glued to the tube. Needless to say, the revolution will not be televised during the sweeps period.

Here are some of the sweeps hopefuls that caught our eyes:


“Sally Hemings: An American Scandal” (Feb. 13 and 16, CBS) — The four-hour “setting-the-record-straight” historical dramatization chronicles the “love story” between President Thomas Jefferson (Sam Neill) and his slave Sally Hemings (Carmen Ejogo).

“Perfect Murder, Perfect Town” (Feb. 27 and Mar. 1, CBS) — The four-hour mini-serialization of the disturbing murder mystery of kiddie beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in a moneyed Colorado town. Marg Helgenberger and Ronny Cox co-star.

“Mary and Rhoda” (Feb. 7, ABC) — Comeback kids Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper reprise their 1970s sitcom selves as Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern in this TV movie about two older women starting over in the Big Apple.

“The 10th Kingdom” (Feb 27-28, Mar. 1 and Mar. 5-6, NBC) — A mishmash of fairy tales, this 10-hour uber-fantasy finds a NYC waitress (Kimberly Williams) and her deadbeat father (John Laroquette) stumbling into an alternate dimension. There, they battle a wicked queen (Dianne Wiest), save a deposed prince (Daniel Lapaine) and tread through other similarly identifiable fairy tale scenarios.

“Flowers for Algernon” (Feb. 20, CBS) — In the adaptation of Daniel Keyes classic tale, Matthew Modine plays the mentally challenged lead character who becomes super intelligent as the result of a scientific experiment.


“Friends” (Feb. 3, NBC) Golden Globe nominee Reese Witherspoon (“Election”) becomes an honorary “Friend,” beginning a guest stint on the hit sitcom as Jennifer Aniston‘s little sister.

“Law & Order” (Feb. 9, NBC) — Michael C. Williams, aka the guy who played Mike in “The Blair Witch Project,” is slated for a guest appearance on the popular legal drama as the father of a dead baby in the episode titled “Mother’s Milk.”

“The Simpsons” (Feb. 13, Fox) — Marge Flanders, compulsively perky wife of the compulsively perky Ned Flanders, will reportedly be killed off for (what else?) higher ratings.


“Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2000” (Feb. 26, TNT) — In the vein of “Baywatch” minus the attempt at a narrative, this one-hour special promises to provide behind-the-scenes coverage of the sports mag’s annual swimsuit issue. Damon Wayans and a surprise guest will host.