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TV STUFF: Olympics? What Olympics?

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May 08, 2001 | 3:19am EDT

The 2000 Olympic Games from Sydney, Australia, will be the most thoroughly covered sporting event in history. NBC, CNBC and MSNBC will join to offer 441.5 hours (roughly three times what we saw from Atlanta in 1996) of synchronized swimming, archery and so many other events that you will need a raging case of "Olympic fever" to really enjoy the spectacle.

But, of course, these two weeks of primetime TV will feature all the good stuff: Our beloved World Champion U.S. women's soccer team, gymnastics -- and, of course, plenty of gracious NBA all-stars taunting and humiliating small, slow, unskilled players from around the world in basketball. "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

So, what are the other networks going to do to compete with all that? Well, the first thing they thought of was to delay the start of their fall lineups two weeks, to make sure someone would actually see them.

And the second thing they thought of?

Repackaging old stuff to try to make it seem exciting.

CBS fires the first shot today at 9 p.m. EDT, as a 13-night marathon of the biggest summer hit in history, "Survivor," kicks off against the Olympics opening ceremony. The good news: Reruns will include new interview footage with the castaways, inserted just before and after each commercial break. The bad news: We already know who wins (the flabby naked man). Ratings for this preseason stunt will either be the highest rated reruns in history, or maybe just an indicator of how quickly people can lose interest.

ABC is up next with a little stunt of their own. Fans have been voting online for weeks for their favorite episodes of a bunch of their comedy shows, including, among others, "Drew Carey," "Norm" and "Spin City," in the Viewer's Choice Sweepstakes. The winning episodes of each show will air Sept. 19-22. Ten lucky winners of the sweepstakes will receive a gift basket full of ABC merchandise. Um, so, in other words, ABC is countering the Olympics by showing reruns on their regular nights, and giving away T-shirts and coffee mugs to 10 people. Cool.

Fox is also offering a little token resistance while it keeps its new shows a safe distance from Sydney, running a full week of big theatrical comedies featuring the likes of Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy. Monday through Friday, you can see (in order) "Dumb and Dumber," "Jumanji," "The Nutty Professor," "Home Alone 2" and "Mo' Money."

Of all the networks, only the WB is putting its best foot forward, fearlessly premiering its recently acquired (from ABC) "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," on Friday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m. Then comes Darren Star's much-anticipated soapy satire "Grosse Point." The WB will also air the season premieres of its flagship tag-team combo of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" the following Tuesday, Sept. 26.

It'll be a few more weeks before we find out who got shot on "The West Wing." So until then, happy synchronized swimming, everybody!

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