General News

CHANNEL SURFER: Can 'Jesus' Save CBS?

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Sometimes all these special events during sweeps months just get in the way. They drive a wedge between you, the viewer, and your favorite shows. But, then again, if it wasn't for the May sweeps, there'd be no season finale cliffhangers. And if there were no season finale cliffhangers … Well, we'd rather not even think about a world that bleak. Instead, let's get ready for some quality time with our favorite shows before the summer reruns start… It's season finale week! But first, some special events:

-- After months of soul-searching and hard prayer seeking a solution to ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," CBS may have just found the answer in "Jesus" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, Sunday and Wednesday). Produced by Lorenzo Minoli, who has brought a slew of Old Testament-themed movies to TNT, "Jesus" promises not only a lavish production, but also a more-modern take on the subject, focusing more on Christ's humanity. Jeremy Sisto ("The '60s") stars along with Gary Oldman as Pilate, and Jacqueline Bisset as Mary. Meanwhile, believing that there may be a chance for a weekly series here if they could just rework the ending a little, a certain CBS executive has been negotiating with Jesus in the desert somewhere for the story rights.

-- Okay, one more special event … and it's a good one. Monday night at 8 p.m. (EDT/PDT), NBC brings you "25 Years of Hits: Arista Records Anniversary Celebration". Lots of "live" (the show was taped months ago) performances from cross-generational superstars such as Carlos Santana, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Sara McLachlan, Annie Lennox, Toni Braxton, and many more. Say no more? Okay then…

-- As for the season finales: Let's start with an inspired effort from "The Drew Carey Show" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, Wednesday, ABC). Hoping to draw attention to the fact that his show has never won an Emmy, Carey offers up a wheelbarrow load of the things that tend to catch the voters' attention in Very, Very, Very Special Episodes. Every cliché in the book is carted out and thoroughly spoofed. The concept alone is funny enough, as we'll see such time honored award-friendly subject matter as illiteracy, bulimia, and latchkey kids. The cast is truly exceptional, too. Just watch Ryan Stiles (also a standout performer on "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?") as he battles his inner demons.

-- Also on Wednesday, "The West Wing" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, NBC) wraps up its first season. The series already has been renewed for the fall, so creator/writer Aaron Sorkin uses his considerable powers to leave you wanting more for next season. Highest recommendation, here. It's our favorite show (after "Smackdown!" of course).

-- Knowing where the muscle is in their still-potent Thursday line up, NBC cuts the fat for the sweeps, and serves up a solid three-hour block of "Friends," "Frasier," and "ER."

This is NBC's proverbial kitchen sink, so look for the head-to-head with Regis Philbin to be a battle for the top of the ratings heap. In the lead-off spot, is a special one-hour "Friends" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, Thursday) brings us a serious pothole for the ongoing saga of Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler's (Matthew Perry) impending engagement as Richard (Tom Selleck) returns. It seems Richard is really in love with Monica and (even as Chandler fumbles for the engagement ring in his pocket) wants to offer her everything. That would make Chandler the one hanging from the cliff until next fall.

-- Shocking revelations and wacky misunderstandings abound (what else is new?) in an hour-long "Frasier" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, Thursday). On the night before her wedding, Daphne (Jane Leeves) longs to confess her love for Niles (David Hyde Pierce) to someone. Unfortunately, she picks Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) as her confessor and, well, you can just imagine the Shakespearean confusion and farcical antics that follow.

-- And finally, looking to regain its No. 1 overall rating one more time, "ER" pulls out the stops to conclude its sixth season. Benton (Eriq La Salle) and Kovac (Goran Visnjic) are flown in to render medical aid in the midst of an ongoing grade school shooting incident, while Carter (Noah Wyle) confronts the staff with a shocking ultimatum. The whopping 23.6 rating garnered for the May 2 "celebrity edition" of "Millionaire" is the number to beat for May. This "ER" might just pull it off.

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