General News

CHANNEL SURFER: Live With George Clooney

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Dec 31, 1899 | 7:00pm EST

This week in TV offers something for everybody. Unfortunately it's offering it up all at the same time, so get your VCRs ready. But before we get to the actual column, we have an important fashion update. Last week, ABC's "Good Morning America" declared that dark solid shirts worn with dark solid ties underneath dark solid suits will now be officially known as the "Regis Look." So for every guy out there who just dropped a week's salary on a new suit … tough break, man. It's just not cool anymore.

George Clooney -- In his continuing efforts to apologize for "Batman & Robin," Clooney brings us another cool idea for "live" television (the "live" episode of "ER" a couple years ago was his idea, too). "Fail Safe" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, tonight, CBS), billed as a faithful remake of the 1964 big-screen classic "Fail-Safe," is scheduled to air live (on the East Coast, anyway) in glorious, retro black-and-white. The original film was a stark nail-biter -- about what happens when an American bomber gets the wrong code and heads off to nuke Moscow. Now, today's audience undoubtedly includes a percentage of folks who don't even know where Moscow is, much less why we might want to bomb it. But the fact that the show is "live" (meaning any swear words that might slip out or accidental nudity will be broadcast) ought to add to the tension.

-- On this programming-heavy night, TNT gets a one-hour head start to win an audience for "Don Quixote" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT). John Lithgow ("3rd Rock From the Sun") seems perfectly cast as the eternal, wacky, heroic dreamer. And TNT continues its tradition of bringing real star power to its made-for-cable efforts. The first name in television fantasy epics over the past few years, Robert Halmi Sr. ("Merlin," "Gulliver's Travels," and to be kind we won't mention "The 10th Kingdom" ... oh, oops) produced and Bob Hoskins ("Noriega: God's Favorite") co-stars, along with talented beauties Isabella Rosselini and Vanessa Williams.

-- For those of you who like your televised sports viewing to be as grueling an experience as you can possible, you might try the Discovery Channel's multi-night presentation of "Eco-Challenge -- Argentina" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, today and Monday). Fifty-two international teams of adrenaline-junkies attempt to navigate a 197-mile course designed to keep Argentinean Search and Rescue crews on their toes.

-- A&E's sometimes dull, sometimes fascinating "Biography" sounds like it's got a good one this week -- a two-hour episode profiling the cerebrally silly British comedy troupe Monty Python. If you don't know who they are, you don't need to watch and should skip down to the next paragraph. But if you are a fan: Today at 8 p.m. (EDT/PDT). (Nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more.)

-- If there's an opposite end of the documentary spectrum to Monty Python, it might be "American President," a cerebral but less-silly 10-part series profiling all 41 commanders-in-chief. PBS will air two one-hour episodes a night, starting today at 9 p.m. EDT/PDT and continuing through Thursday.

-- Somehow, that PBS documentary failed to mention the most exciting president of all -- the one who single-handedly thwarted a terrorist attempt to take over his plane, a la "Air Force One." Fortunately, CBS will cover this ground for us when they present "The American Film Institute Salute to Harrison Ford" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, Wednesday). Expect comments and anecdotes from Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, a bunch of Hollywood stars and clips from many of the biggest films ever made crammed into this one-hour special.

-- And one other thing happening today (at 9 p.m. EDT/PDT), HBO presents the season finale of the most creative and clever show on television to fully embrace the "Regis Look," "The Sopranos."

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