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TV STUFF: The Return of Dave (Really)!

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Roll out the red carpet, unleash the stupid pets and put Paul Shaffer back in his place -- for Dave's imminent return is here.

That's right, all you Letterman fanatics, the indefinite postponement of the convalescing late-night talker's return is finally over as CBS and the "Late Show" higher power announced today that Dave is (absolutely and definitely) coming back to the talk show.

Letterman will tape his first show in five weeks on Friday, the network said. It'll air next Monday.

But don't expect to see Letterman's facetious grin every single night of the week -- not yet, anyway. According to the official word, Letterman will only be holding the "Late Show" court at a part-time basis for now -- he's tentatively slated to go on for two to three days next week with guest hosts -- Bill Cosby and the ever-eager Regis Philbin -- filling in Feb. 22 and Feb. 24.

Unlike the specially modified "Late Show Backstage" reruns (featuring all-new celebrity cameos), next week's guest-host episodes will abide by the familiar late-night talk-show format -- just not Dave Letterman's format. Translation: Cosby and Philbin will do some funny opening bits but will not introduce Letterman-branded routines such as the nightly Top 10 thing, the pet-trick thing and certainly not the calling-Dave's-mom thing.

According to the network PR folks, one thing will certainly make the big Dave homecoming show Monday night: a Top 10 list that will take as its focus Dave and his health.

PLAYING COY: So, if you're Charlie Sheen and you're offered a chance to join a semi-hit series, you jump at the gig, right?

Wrong.

Trade-paper reports today say the comeback-minded Sheen is hesitating from signing onto ABC's "Spin City" as a sub for departing star Michael J. Fox next season.

One possible hang-up: If the aging show, soon-to-be five seasons old, fades in the ratings with Sheen as the star, his already tarnished rep could become, um, more tarnished.

GOING MAFIA: For those obsessed with wise guys and the life of la familia, HBO's no longer the only place to be.

CBS has decided to bombard the primetime airwaves with eight consecutive nights' worth of its midseason mob drama "Falcone."

The series, based on the double life of a real-life FBI undercover agent who inspired the 1997 film "Donnie Brasco," will debut as a two-hour TV movie April 4. And then, from April 5-12, it'll air in the 10-11 p.m. time slot -- until its ammo clip is expended.

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