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CHANNEL SURFER: 'If These Walls Could Talk,' What Would Howard Stern Say?

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Well, the February sweeps are finally over.

Once the remainder of NBC's "10th Kingdom" is flushed from the system, it will all be just a distant memory. Regis Philbin won, if you were scoring along at home. If the February sweeps were like network TV's playoffs, Regis was Michael Jordan -- only shorter and dressed like a bootlegger from the 1920s.

The good news? Now that the quarter-hour numbers don't mean as much to the bean counters, you might find a few higher-quality shows on the air -- not that Fox's "Robbie Knievel: Head On Train Jump" wasn't "high quality" as head on train jumps go. ... But, um ... Hey, everybody, let's get ready for those mid-season replacements!

-- Right after HBO's "The Sopranos" airs today at 8 p.m. (this is old news, but yes, the series really is as good as everybody says it is), stay tuned for "If These Walls Could Talk 2" (9 p.m. EST/PST). It's a long overdue look at changing lesbian lifestyles from the 1960s through 1990s. Vanessa Redgrave, Sharon Stone, Ellen DeGeneres, Michelle Williams ("Dawson's Creek") and Oscar-nominee Chloe Sevigny ("Boys Don't Cry") star in the kind of film that portrays lesbianism in a more positive light than we are used to seeing on TV -- you know, minus the laugh track and drooling men. It's sort of "lesbianism for women," if that makes any sense. Howard Stern spoke the truth when he said "lesbians equal ratings." But we're not sure this is what he had in mind.

-- No longer afraid of losing good shows in the crush of all those February network "specials," cable's USA network premieres two pretty good "based on actual events" originals this week. Producer Shaun Cassidy, a former teen "heartthrob" who will never live down his past if we have anything to say about it and the creator of the intensely spooky but short-lived "American Gothic," is the scribe behind the first episode of "Cover Me" (8 p.m. EST/PST today). It's an hour-long drama about an FBI agent who feels that the best way to keep his family safe from the bad guys is to put the wife and kiddies to work on his cases -- so, um, they can be more directly in the line of fire. You know, that doesn't sound like the greatest plan in the world, but it might make a good TV show. ... Hey wait a minute! Oh, nevermind.

-- And Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST/PST, USA offers the made-for-cable movie "The Huntress." If the title alone hasn't sold you, it also stars Annette O'Toole! And if, like us, you're not sure who that is (actually she's very famous and was in "Nash Bridges"), it's also based on the true story of Dottie Thorson! And if, again, you're not sure who that is, either, you'll just have to take our word that this movie is pretty cool. When a (based-on-a-real-person) professional bounty hunter (Craig T. Nelson) explodes in his driveway, his (based-on-real-people) wife (O'Toole) and daughter (Aleksa Palladino) decide to press on with the family business. It's smart and funny in a seedy Quentin Tarantino kind of way ... the good Tarantino, before "Destiny Turns on the Radio" and that vampire movie.

-- Kevin Spacey takes the chair on Bravo's always interesting interview show "Inside the Actor's Studio" (8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST today). Count on the intrepidly probing host, James Lipton, to get a lot out of the Best Actor Oscar nominee (for "American Beauty") in this hour.

-- And an hour later (at 9 p.m. EST/PST), E! premieres another installment of its stately "True Hollywood Story" doc series. This time the subject is Burt Reynolds. From his days as a No. 1 box-office attraction (long before "Stroker Ace," and "Cop and a Half," if you're trying to remember) to Loni Anderson to Dinah Shore to ... You know, if Burt Reynolds hasn't actually done it all, he's certainly done most of it. This should be pretty good.

-- Fox reanimates "Family Guy" for another run Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. EST/PST. It's a funny toon and certainly deserves a regular spot in its struggling line-up (not that worth ever stopped a network from canceling anything before). Meanwhile, NBC finally moves into the 1990s (in the year 2000, no less) and joins the animation revolution by giving a prime spot (right behind "Friends") to the mid-season replacement "God, the Devil and Bob" (8:30 p.m. EST/PST Thursday). When all creation seems to have lost its luster, God (voiced by James Garner) gambles with the devil (Tony-winner Alan Cumming) that a guy named Bob ("3rd Rock from the Sun" co-star French Stewart) can restore his faith in humanity. If Bob isn't up to the task, then basically the universe becomes a "do-over." Don't knock "Bob," yet. It's got to be better than "Jesse."

-- Hoping to capitalize on the ratings success CBS had with the Grammys last month, VH-1 will televise the "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony" (9 p.m. EST/PST Wednesday). Inductees include Eric Clapton, the Lovin' Spoonful, and Earth, Wind and Fire. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lopez is busy (picking up boyfriend Puff Daddy at court is like a full-time job now), so Clapton has volunteered to "take one for the team" and wear the thin-strips-of-delicate-fabric-taped-to-the-breasts outfit.

-- And finally, the Sci-Fi Channel will be running the entire "Indiana Jones" trilogy on consecutive nights this week. If you don't know what we're talking about, the "Indiana Jones" movies are about an archeologist who travels around and digs for ancient artifacts. (They're a lot better than they sound). Anyway, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. (EST/PST), followed by "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (8 p.m. EST/PST Wednesday) and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (8 p.m. EST/PST Thursday). As an extra-special treat, Sci-Fi is presenting the flicks in extra-special widescreen format. Sounds like hunkering down time in front of the television.

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